This past week I was on Twitter and read this quote from the authors of a new book called Transformational Church: “Regrettably, it has become acceptable to sit in church week after week, and do nothing, but call yourself a follower of Christ.” Let’s be honest, much of what we peddle in American Christianity is not a New Testament, gospel-centered, servant-hearted, kingdom-minded vision of Jesus and discipleship. Much of what we do in American Christianity is a Christianized spin on the American Dream where the church is all about serving our consumer needs vs. serving the King and the kingdom. Our churches have regrettably often become a place where we somehow believe that it’s okay to sit in church week after week and do nothing, yet still call ourselves followers of Jesus. What does Jesus have to say about this? What is does it mean to really follow Him.
In Mark 3:13-35, we see what Jesus has to say about the reality of following Him.
Formation. When Jesus appointed the Twelve, their first “task” was simply to be with Him. As a disciple of Jesus, they would begin by sharing life with Him. At the core of following Jesus is the desire to be with Him… to share life with Him. When Jesus forms us, we are conformed into His image, not Him conformed into ours. This is crucial to realize because when we conform Jesus into our image and change Him to meet our needs and desires, then when we “worship” Him, we’re really not worshiping Him, we’re worshiping ourselves. Jesus has first and foremost come to change us and conform us into His image and that happens as we are with Him and spiritually formed and transformed by Him.
Proclamation. The next thing these newly chosen disciples would do is be “sent out to preach.” Followers of Jesus go out and proclaim who He is and what His ministry and mission is all about. If there is formation, there will be proclamation. And if there is no proclamation, there is no formation. People who are being formed and transformed by Jesus proclaim Him to their world. And if we separate ourselves so far from the world that we have no real relationships with people who don’t know Jesus, then it’s difficult to proclaim Jesus. Following Jesus means proclamation.
Liberation. The next thing we find in following Jesus is “liberation.” The disciples (and us) were chosen to be with Him, sent out to preach and proclaim, and to cast out the demons. This very well might mean that we are to be on the lookout for those possessed by demons, but I also think it has a wider application to help free people from the oppression of spiritual darkness. Jesus clearly tells us in our passage that He has come to “plunder Satan’s domain.” He has come to liberate people from the presence and forces of evil. And when we follow Jesus and join His revolution, we are all about liberation. Remember, this is a war!
Rejection. The bulk of Mark 3:13-35 is about rejection. Jesus’ family rejects Him. The Jewish religious leaders rejects Him. And here’s what this means for us… if Jesus experienced rejection, so will we. Be prepared for rejection by your family, with your friends, in your neighborhoods, in your schools, in your workplaces. Sometimes that rejection is overt, and sometimes the rejection is covert. If following Jesus means formation, proclamation, and liberation, then we can’t be quiet about Him… and it’s going to mean rejection.
This is what it really means to follow Jesus.