Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Cheap grace (or Easy Discipleship)

Many years ago, our professor in New Testament urged us to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, The Cost of Discipleship. It was amazing to see how he explained the consequences of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) for today. That book had a profound influence on my own life, even though I know that I continually fail to live up to God’s standards. One concept which he introduced in the book was the term, Cheap Grace, by which he meant that Jesus had to pay the highest price in order for us to be saved, but that we sometimes seem to think that, even though we receive grace free of charge, it also cost God nothing.
I’m presently busy reading Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways, (and when I’m through I’ll definitely write more about it). On page 104 he makes an important remark: “…many of our church practices seem to be the wrong way around … we seem to make church complex and discipleship too easy.” The context of this remark is that he is discussing the reason for the growth in the early church, in which, he says, church was simple and discipleship was hard – so hard, in fact, that people who became active followers of Christ often paid with their life for this decision.
I’m convinced that there is a lot of truth in this remark. We have a certain way of doing things in church. We have a certain vocabulary (which I’ve named “Christianese”), things are done in a certain orderly way (and this is true regardless of whether we attend an Orthodox, mainline or charismatic church) and in general for the non church attendee, I have a feeling that it is not easy for such a person to feel comfortable in the church. And then there’s classes and training and Bible Study and catechism – all aimed at making this person a better church attenders. But in my experience little is being done to make church attenders better disciples. In fact, in most cases I know of, if a person’s name is on the register (and we have a rightful claim on their tithe), then we are happy.
I’m not against training and Bible Study and catechism, but let this not be an indication of the commitment of a believer towards God. When we are selling cheap grace, then we say to people that God expects nothing from you in return for being saved. When we proclaim the message of Jesus, then we are offering God’s grace free of charge but also telling people that God asks everything in return. This is what Jesus tried to tell us when he said in Luke 14:28, that we need to calculate the cost before building a tower. This has nothing to do with earning salvation. But it has everything to do with informing people beforehand about the cost of discipleship.
I don’t think I have the answer yet, but I do believe that what Hirsch is saying is true for most churches today. And then we don’t need to be surprised that Christianity in general doesn’t have a very good image in the world.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Evangelism, Grace, Mission, Worship |

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