Jesus Doesn’t Want To Be A Part Of Your Life

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(Image By Ralph Burns)

In our seemingly desperate bid to “win souls for Jesus,” we often implore our potential converts with the classic evangelical sales pitch, “Jesus just wants to be a part of your life! Wont you let him?”

But as heartfelt and passionate as our plea might be, it simply isn’t true.

Jesus doesn’t want to be a part of anybody’s life.

He wants all of it.

But somewhere between Paul’s call to die to self and the modern age we’ve giving up on the radical call of the Christian faith. Apparently conceding the fact that most people don’t want to literally give up everything to follow Jesus, we’ve scaled things back…a lot. While the New Testament describes following Jesus as an all consuming endeavor that requires our own death so that we may become slaves to God, we’ve replaced that radical call with an invitation for people to simply make a little space so that Jesus can squeeze in and become a part of their life, alongside work, family, hobbies, (fill in the blank).

Obviously, we don’t phrase it that literally. After all, our goal is to “get sinners to the altar”. We can explain the details later. The problem, however, is that when we aren’t careful with the way we present the gospel, we inevitably end up participating in “bait and switch” ministry.

Nobody, at least very few of us, wants to give up everything, literally everything we have. We worked hard for the stuff we own. Our relationships our important to us. We’re comfortable right where we are. And we realize that the odds that many other people would respond to a radical call like “drop your nets,” “sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” or “die to self” just aren’t that high. So, in our numbers = success culture, we’ve made our evangelism pitch more palatable to the uninitiated.

We tell them on the front end that Jesus only wants to be a part of their life, with the thought being that later on we will explain to them that Jesus actually wants all of their life.

That is called bait and switch ministry.

We may not realize we’re doing it, but it happens all the time. There are lots of forms of bait and switch ministry (it’s an epidemic in youth ministry), but this particular form has become incredibly problematic for the church.

Spend any time amongst church leaders, both clergy and lay, and you’re likely to hear them vent their frustrations over not being able to get people more involved in the life of the church. As someone who was in ministry for the better part of the last decade I can tell that it seems like the church is fighting a never ending battle against layity schedules that are being increasingly consumed by school, work, sports, and family activities while time for church gets more and more squeezed out of the picture.

Those other things aren’t bad, but if it’s a tighter, more devoted community of faith we’re seeking, I don’t think we have anyone but ourselves to blame for the compartmentalization and subsequent apathy that plagues so many of our churches.

When we tell people that Jesus just wants to be a part of their lives, we shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus ends up only being a part of their lives.

The words we choose to use matter. They have meaning and that meaning shapes our response. So, for example, when we tell people that Jesus loves them just the way they are, we shouldn’t be surprise when their lives change very little after coming to Christ because if Jesus loves them just the way they are, why do they need to change anything?

Likewise, if Jesus just wants to be a part of their life, we shouldn’t be so upset or surprised to find that the church and their faith is something they participate in only when they have the extra time. After all, didn’t we tell them that Jesus only wants to be a part of their life?

I know this critique may be difficult, if not impossible to hear for some. Those of us who have grown up in the church know that the call of the gospel is a life of total devotion to Jesus. So, when we say something like “Jesus just wants to be a part of your life”, we “really mean” that he wants your entire life. The problem, however, is that others don’t hear what we’re thinking, they hear what we are saying.

The words we speak really do matter. When we get so desperate to have more butts in the pews at church that we tweak our words so they become less offensive, it’s the entire world that suffers.

The truth is that Jesus doesn’t want to be a part of your life. He wants to be your entire life because discipleship and the work of transforming the world for the kingdom of God isn’t a part time endeavor, it’s a 24/7 way of life. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t something that can be relegated to an hour on Sunday mornings. He must be pursued and the kingdom embodied every moment of every day. When we do otherwise, when we lead others to believe otherwise, even if unintentionally, we aren’t just confusing them, we’re preaching a false gospel, the result of which is a church defined by compartmentalization and apathy and the result of that is the inability to answer our call to bring the kingdom of God to earth just as it is in heaven.

I’ll say it one last time – the words we use matter. If we tell people on the front end that Jesus demands everything from them, that simple intellectual assent and part time Christianity are not acceptable, we will certainly see fewer people run down to the altars. But as Jesus said, the path of discipleship is narrow and difficult and few find it.

As the church, the success of our mission is not based on how many butts are in the pews on Sunday morning or how names we can count on our membership rolls. The success of our mission as disciples of Christ is based on whether or not we truthfully proclaim and authentically live out the gospel.

Which is why as a church we must be honest with ourselves and with those outside our doors.

Jesus doesn’t want to be a part of anybody’s life.

He wants all of it.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 

FROM THE VAULT: As I’m always welcoming new people to the blog I sometimes like to revisit an old post or two that sparked a good conversation, but may have been missed by those who weren’t around when it was originally posted. This post originally appeared back in 2012.

 

  • Jake

    Another great post! This is something I’ve wondered about personally for a while. Where is the line between living wholeheartedly for God and taking care of your obligations? I mean, I would love to give money to every homeless person I see, but I also need to make my car payment, so where is the balance? I’m sure it differs from person to person so maybe I just haven’t found it yet. I guess I wonder how far you take it. I really liked the book, The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, it’s very challenging and inspirational to see where he was to where he is now. Is that what all Christians are supposed to be? I don’t want to put the guy on a pedestal, just curious. Let me know what you think!

    • Tonance

      I really appreciate this post and this response. While I agree that there are important differences between “Jesus wants to be a part of your life” and “Jesus wants your whole life,” both phrases (I won’t go so far as calling them platitudes) are still so general that it’s really hard to figure out what I am specifically to do. The what-not-to-dos are so much more obvious.

      What does living every minute, 24/7, for Jesus specifically mean?

    • http://whatischurch.org/ Gene Aptaker

      In the early church, people who were slaves worked from sunup to sundown, then came to the fellowship of the saints… others sold themselves into debtor’s prison to help people in debt… believers went into leper colonies to reach those poor, destitute souls… Christians suffered great persecution and martyrdom and went to their death singing.

      Why?

      Because the body of Christ was a living, breathing reality. JESUS, the Christ was living in and through them. They had GOD and each other. They didn’t need or want all the trivial nonsense we find so essential.

      In our time, we know NOTHING of these realities. Instead, we “go to church”, do nice pleasant “Christian” activities, and listen to Pastor Feelgood’s dry, lifeless sermons. And in the midst of all that, we seek for balance.

  • Dawn A

    I feel like I was reading about myself in your description as a part-time Christian. My first experience being a member of a Church as a young adult. I went to the member meetings, got baptized, and after the first few weeks was asked to help out in the nursery, choir, church bazars, potlucks, Christmas plays, etc., etc., etc. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and quit going. I really wanted to shout out to someone to just let me get my butt into that pew for a little while and get comfy. Your message here, at that time of my life, would of meant a lot to me.

  • Mike Jones

    I was having a discussion with a friend in ministry just the other day, talking about such things as this. Refreshing, Zack. Thanks.

  • Tim

    I agree that we need to be careful about the words we choose in presenting the gospel (or as you say, it becomes no gospel at all), including threatening people with “hell”. The alternative that I would suggest for “God loves you just the way you are”, would be something like: God loves you where you are at right now, but he also wants to transform you into something new. That makes both sides of the truth of the quoted statement above more clear; God loves you as you are, but because of that he won’t leave you there. He is about making all things new.

  • patrick

    A tip to all you christian believers, your religion/faith might stand a chance if you banded together and rid yourself of all your bigots, kid raping priests, abortion doctor killers, and people who can’t tell the difference between the bible and the constitution/bill of rights. Us atheists wouldn’t be so against religion if you could keep your people under control, not deter society, and not cause the suffering of millions. Get your act together, and your religion would be treated with the same respect we give to Buddhism. Best of luck!

    • Tonance

      There are no atheist bigots, kid rapists, murderers, or any who are ignorant of the relationship between religion and government? Do atheists harm society and cause the suffering of millions?

      Do atheists stereotype and chastise a whole group for the transgressions of the few? Do atheists act as if the transgressions of the few completely negate the good that has been done by the many?

    • Justin Mitchell

      As a Christian, I agree with you. If all Christians were perfect, or at least better people in general, we would likely get more respect from others. That’s true about any group or organization. However, since Christianity is a personal decision not dictated by any outside entity, “we” as a whole have no control over who is, or who claims to be a Christian. That’s probably a good thing, since we are all flawed people and would likely get it wrong half the time.

      There is no central committee or head of the church other than Christ, who, as best as I understand it, has decided to hold off on separating his followers from his non-followers until a future date.

  • Pam

    Isn’t there a difference, though, between Jesus having all of our life, and our church “owning” all of our life? Our life at work and play and home belong to Jesus too. I’m not saying participation in a local body of Christ isn’t important — but it’s not the same thing as giving our whole selves to Jesus.

  • daryl carpenter

    You kind of make Jesus out to be a leader of a creepy cult who wants nothing less than to be sychophantically fawned upon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the rest of eternity Perhaps then it’s not surprising that today there are an increasing number of human beings who don’t want anything to do with such an unreasonable and borderline fanatical request and are instead finding alternative ways to help people and make this a better world to live in rather than associating such deeds to the worship of an individual who demands utter obedience and threatens with perdition those who do not cater to his every whim.

  • Andy Hall

    The big question of my generation (20-30 year olds) is does Jesus’s call to our ‘whole lives’ even require ‘the church?’ I think that we have been desensitized by pot lucks and sermons and happy go lucky ‘Christians’ that we grew up with and the horrors of the world, some of which the church has committed.

    To answer to Jesus’s call do I need to regularly attend a church? What if I can’t? I’m currently a deployed soldier and to be completely honest I just don’t have the faith in out chaplain and that’s pretty much the only choice. I think a lot of people my age move around a lot and are much more accepting of the world and non-believers.

    From a lot of your other posts I know that you are against a lot of the ‘fox news Christians’ and preach more about loving people in the name of Christ. But my question is do we have to be apart of a church to do that?

    • 2TrakMind

      Andy, you’re not alone. I’m in my mid 40′s, and have wrestled with that big question for decades. I continued doing the “church thing,” because it was what was expected. Was raised “in the church.” Got married “in the church.” Had kids “in the church.” Served “the church” every week, etc., etc.. I finally came to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. The more I did what I was “supposed to,” the more I hated it. I finally told God that I didn’t want any more to do with a program where everyone got together, put on their liar masks, and pretended all was well in the world, except for how we were all falling short of God’s expectations. I wanted to know HIM!

      Having been away from the institutional expression of church for a year now, I can say it’s been the best thing for me. It has caused me to rediscover myself, and God. I’m learning that my journey with Him does have corporate expressions, in that I am part of the body of Christ, but even more, it is an individual journey; a journey that the institution is not compatible with. On this journey, God is giving me a heart of love and compassion for the hurting, rather than serving a corporate-self that speaks about the hurting and lost, but does little, if anything about it, and only if they come to us for help. Someone made a point on Facebook about when Jesus said, “as you go; declare this message…” The main point being, “as you GO;” not “as you gather.” We were called to go out into the world (individually & corporately); not hide ourselves away in sterile corporate solitude.

      Before I go, I want to thank you for your service! My son just joined the Marine Corps. I have always respected those who serve, but now, it means something different!