Coffee versus…Discipleship?

I suppose I’ve needed to confess this to you for a time now.


This revelation will likely get me canceled by some of you, as you read about this thing in my life. Others will shake their heads and think “I always knew this about him, deep down, right? You could just tell, by looking at him – one of those types.”


A few of you, far more charitable than these others, will stand by me. After all, it isn’t my fault, it’s just my identity – it’s who I am – it’s the real me.


It’s coffee. I am a coffee antipathist. As in, seeing you drinking it brings to my mind phrases like boiled dirt, hurling, voluntary waterboarding or even “tastes like weasel poop”.


Oh, wait. That last phrase actually IS what kopi luwak is made from! (My wife told me I have to apologize to you for the poop comment. So, I’m sorry…)


This, this, coffee aversion has been the source of difficulties for years with people passionate about their morning dose of varnish remov….err, coffee. I try to explain my profound truths to people in the nicest way: “Look, your wakie-juice is quite messy – you have to whip this stuff up every day – often multiple times a day, flavor it up (boiled dirt requires that…), gulp it down, trash your breath, staining – then brushing your teeth only to start the craving cycle all over again. And all the while you lose so much time talking to people while you do that….imagine, talking to people while you drink coffee! And it’s costly too. Last I checked, the local barista gets two to five bucks for one of these, right?” So I have it all sorted out” I tell people, using only a slight screech in my voice for persuasive effect. “What I do is take half a caffeine pill, a few times each week. That’s right, a pill instead of vile sludge! No muss, no fuss, no teeth brush, no time loss with people, just a little caffeine lift and back at it. And by the way – two cents apiece. The pinnacle of efficiency. An engineered substitute for a time-consuming and messy recurring part of life. Savings daily – maybe even hourly! How could you possibly deny all my logic?” People often leave the room at this point, no doubt to spare their feelings as they realize how wrong they’ve been about coffee. Something like that…


Do you wonder where this is headed? Coffee becomes a metaphor about discipleship. Stay with me!


Most of us were raised to avoid the messy, time-consuming, personally expensive aspects of biblical discipleship. Instead, we have been exposed to an upgraded, more efficient model. It’s institutional discipling – one where we simply gather in groups of tens or thousands, get saved, learn stuff, do some things and talk to people like us – then we are bona fide Christians. That’s modern Western discipleship. Not biblical, but very modern. These next few lines are not an attack on any church or Pastor. We need worship, gatherings, terrific pastors, small groups, missions and ministries. Yet we have been bequeathed an 1,800-year-old diversion away from Christ’s discipleship. That diversion really took off in the time of Constantine, and today we’re so immersed in its legacy that we often don’t notice the diversion. Oh, and by the way, we ride the diversion to unfairly foist the entire load of discipling on the Pastors and leaders to “make us disciples” – a complete reversal of what was expected of each and every individual Christian in the New Testament.


And mass-production discipling does efficiency really well – but personal relations really badly. Mass production gatherings that substitute out the individual discipleship of one life with another life going through life is not the complete life of a disciple. Now of course we are all commanded to gather and worship the Most-High God. But that gathering is not the full life Christ gave disciples. Learning? Yes, some of that learning naturally comes from small groups and worship and good sermons. Prayer? Check. Missions and ministries? Check-check. But we are missing the bigger picture – that in bigger discipling we shrink relationships out. Just like taking a caffeine pill cannot replace a coffee experience, larger discipling ventures (think > 4) cannot fill the close-up relationships, the fuller, richer development of the follower of Christ laying down their own self-agenda to serve and love people as Christ laid out discipling. And the chance to be known by someone else? It’s foundational to Christianity. The idea of being known by God, and still loved, fully known and loved and encouraged by other believers? That is the call. Fully connected to go out into life with one or two others to discuss this amazing gift with outsiders? It’s irreplaceable, unadulterated discipleship.


The discipleship of believers, walking alongside one or two people (people not always like us), in a messy and real-life relationship is biblical discipleship (See for example, Luke 10). A long-term walk with someone else coming to know Christ personally is biblical discipleship (For example 1st Peter 3.15 and beyond). Living life as a believer, by always developing in, and pursuing Christ (For example 2nd Timothy 2.2), and introducing other people to the amazing experience of encountering, following and being transformed by Christ as we help others become disciples – that is biblical discipleship (For example Acts 8.26, 2nd Peter 1, and the end of 2nd Peter 3).


There are no pills or institutional java that can give you coffee hounds what you desire. Nor would you want that. It seems to me that for you, in real coffee it’s the flavor, the experience, your relationships with friends, the mess, the cost, the time – all are the price of admission to a fuller, richer encounter with….a beautiful beverage of life.

So it is in discipleship. Not simply being fed a knowledge pill, not designing mass-produced institutional gatherings, not pretending to be a disciple living inside the walls of a church, at arm’s length from other people outdoors. Discipleship is an individual, coming each day, personal relationship with God who desires time with you, a disciple living in a real-life walk with one or two (non-believers and believers), and seeing the cost and troubles and time and maybe even the “kopi luwak” that arises, all that as worthy of the calling. I could so get into a cup of that any day. How about you?

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Philippians 1:27-30 (NASB)

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