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Recently I was reading a challenge I thought was so good I had to pass it along. The challenge was to think of all the ways you attend church on auto-pilot. Most tend to park in the same spot, sit in the same seat, and talk to the same people. We don’t even think about it. So, what could you do differently next week to step out of your comfort zone and do something you have to think about rather than coast on auto-pilot?

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What if you reached out to someone you’ve never met and struck up a conversation? What if you gave up your favorite parking spot so someone else could have the shade? Most of all, what if we made the point of our worship all about Jesus?

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It is said what has your attention has you. My experience has proven this to be true. If God has your attention, then God has you. You are a servant of the King. What if God doesn’t have your attention? What if your attention is split between many things or worse yet, anywhere but God? Is anything other than God worth your attention? Regardless of the circumstances, I can’t think of anything more important than God… ever!

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Begin with God and everything else tends to fall into place one way or another. If we want to be disciples of Jesus though, I think we must go beyond attention. We need to be consumed with God to the point we struggle to think of anything or anyone else. So, let me ask the question, what consumes you?

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The local church has changed a lot in my lifetime. As the son of a pastor, I’ve had a front-row seat to many of these changes. I’ve seen pews replaced by theater-style seats, platforms transformed into performance stages, pulpits disappear, and suits replaced with jeans and leather jackets. Worship styles have gone from centuries of tradition to modern and contemporary. Sunday School is fast becoming a relic of the past. Vacation Bible School has transitioned from flannelgraphs to all-out adventure camps.

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There’s no doubt the local church is far cooler than it’s ever been. I’ve been a fan of many of the changes. Certainly, some have led to some coming into a church who wouldn’t have dared before. Still, I can’t help to ask, at what cost have we become cooler? I’m convinced what we have lost and what we need today is one and the same: it’s more Jesus.

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Laurie Cole makes a great distinction between Christians and disciples. The first is a believer, the latter a follower. I want to be a follower. I choose to be a follower. Indeed, there is no other way to become a disciple of Jesus. If you too want to be a disciple, you must choose to be one. This goes beyond mere belief. Anyone can believe in Christ. It takes but a moment, no effort, and need not have any demonstrable proof of our decision.

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Discipleship, on the other hand, takes a lifetime. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment on our part. There will be evidence of a dramatically changed life whose sole purpose becomes dramatically changing the lives of others. So, you must choose; will you be a believer or follower of Jesus?

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Dorothy Day once said, “The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each of us.” This is the challenge for disciples of Jesus. Christ Himself was a revolutionary. The things He taught were unlike anything His listeners had heard before. His compassion dwarfed all who had come before Him. The wisdom of Jesus was unrivaled, and He demanded obedience and devotion to Himself and the good news He brought.

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Fast-forward to today, and we find churches full of so-called Christians content to live their lives in complacency and mediocrity. Instead of committing ourselves to the One who makes all things new, who brings new mercies to bear every morning, we succumb to the philosophy of “there is nothing new under the sun”. We need a revolution of the heart, and we need it today.

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Mahatma Gandhi had a famous quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s great advice. I believe we as followers of Jesus can subscribe to a similar quote: “Be the church you are praying for”. When I pray for the body of Christ in the world, I pray we will always act in love. I pray we show grace and mercy to everyone we encounter.  Perhaps most of all, I pray for unity among believers.

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We are an incredibly diverse bunch, and there are as many opinions as there are Christians. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is we look like Jesus to the world around us. We can’t be the church until we demonstrate his love and beauty to everyone we meet, regardless of their ethnicity, background, or social standing.

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No one is off the hook when it comes to serving Jesus. In our American culture, church has become a place we go to on a certain day of the week. It’s a place where we sit attentively and interact minimally. We watch a select few lead in worship and a single individual deliver a message. Then we get up and shuffle orderly out the door and back into our lives.

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We might have some coffee, donuts, and shallow conversation on our way in or out of the building, but that’s about it. For many, this is the extent of their church-going experience. We’re not involved or invested. It’s become a selfish and borderline narcissistic exercise.

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This is a topic I revisit every so often, but probably not often enough. We need to remember the persecuted around the world. Every day while we enjoy the comforts and freedom of our lives, our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing unspeakable torture and persecution. Throughout the New Testament, Paul urged all believers to be united as one (Ephesians 4:1-16). Jesus prayed His followers would be as close as He and His Father are (John 17:21).

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To be united, to stand as one, we must continuously pray for and identify with our fellow believers around the world. Allow me to throw down a challenge to you in the form of a question: how much time are you spending in prayer for our brothers and sisters in chains?

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Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.

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Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.

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I’ve been attending church almost my entire life. Being a preacher’s kid will do that to you. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the local church has played, and will continue to play, a critical role in the advancement of the gospel. Still, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the direction the modern Western Church seems to be heading. Maybe it’s me. Perhaps I’m just on a rant. But it seems the church (and I realize I’m painting with an incredibly broad stroke here) has fallen into a formulaic approach devoid of passion and urgency.

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Our mission is to take the message of Jesus into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20), but we seem determined instead to preach a gospel of self-improvement and feel-good adherence to a script Jesus never embraced.

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