Apprentice or Attender?

This post is personal. It is in response to all that I see around me, and to believers that have chosen to join the culture, and its system, as opposed to live as an Apprentice of Jesus.

It is interesting to note that Jesus lived during a time of power politics. Rome dominated and demanded that the people live life under the reign of the authority of a Ceasar, who declared truth and right, regardless of truth and right. It was all based around position and power. It called for men and women to choose a different path, not join the cause.

Discipleship never stops. Its lifelong. It involves living out the life Christ. Still. For those who grew older and cynical, it involved staying the course, or those who saw the error of their ways like Nicodemius.

Most of the following words are not mine but are excerpts from Henri Nouwen and his book, The Road to Daybreak.

“The Gospel reveals that Jesus not only had good, faithful friends willing to follow Him wherever he went, but also fierce enemies who couldn’t wait to get rid of him. But, there were also many sympathizers who were attracted yet afraid at the same time.

There was the rich young man who loved Jesus, but couldn’t give up his wealth to follow him. There was also Nicodemus who admired Jesus but was afraid to lose the respect of his own friends and colleagues.

I (Nowuen) am becoming more and more aware of the my tendency to fall back into the sympathizers because that is the group I find myself mostly gravitating toward.

  • I love Jesus but want to hold onto my friends, even when they do not lead me closer to Jesus.
  • I love Jesus but want to hold onto my own independence, even when that independence yields no real freedom.
  • I love Jesus but do not want to lose the respect of my professional colleagues, even though I know there respect has little to do with what grows me spiritually.
  • I love Jesus but I do not want to give up my life, my travel plans, writing plans, speaking plans, even when these plans are often about my glory, than his.
  • I love Jesus but I don’t want to sacrifice my time or wealth, even though it is clear I am a rich man when I look at the world.
  • I love Jesus but I don’t want to see my church and expression of the faith change in order to see the faith move off the stage and back into the streets.

So if truth be known… more and more… I am Nicodemus, who came by night, said safe things about Jesus to his colleagues, and expressed his guilt by bringing to the grave more myrrh and aloes that was needed…

Jesus did not seek to cater to Nicodemius. His call was for him to start over. The Messiah he said he sought was in full view. But he saw Him not.

The difference

The  young reject the Church today because they encounter church attenders and sympathizers of Christ. Older believers that are more passionate about the doors remaining open as opposed they themselves living out the life of Christ.

Rather than passionate apprentices of Jesus, who choose to steward life, the land and one another differently, they have become impotent church attenders who seek to change the culture by winning a political agrument. It is reminicant of Ghandi who said…

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Mahatma Gandhi

And as Christ-followers get older, it becomes easier and easier to fall back, refuse to sacrifice, live for need not passion, step away from the challenges and back off from the risky. All around us are boomers who are misintepreting the real battle or walking away from the fight.

I (Terry) am in the  third stage of my development… having walk through the finishing transition I now experience the “convergent stage” of life and ministry. will I (and many of you) become sympathizers and faithful attenders, be one those who are “done” with the Church readying to “retire?” Or will we be part of the new, genuine expressions of the Gospel in their local context that is beginning to emerge?

Christ told Nicodemus that the way to experience new life was full surrender, back to the basics in a deeper way. It involves full surrender and the ongoing of starting again. It is confronting ourselves and asking the honest questions… “Will I remain an apprentice and follower of Christ, or just remember how the church use to be? In the end, it is not about attending a service but worshipping Christ with our lives.

My prayer…

Lord Jesus… I desire more. I choose not to be an attender but to remain an apprentice. I desire for who you are and your life of love to be in me… not just be something I tell others about.

Holy Spirit… by your power, allot to me the courage to stay the course and to live the surrendered life, even more at this stage in my journey, that when I first began.

Father, help me to be named as one loved you well, to the end, and played my part to influence others for your Kingdom, as long as you give me days.

Will you join me?


Terry coaches and mentors breakthrough for entrepreneurial, risk-taking leaders. He has authored several books on leadership and pioneered a variety of leadership development resources and processes with his organization, Leader Breakthru. Terry also serves as adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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