The last two weeks I’d been having different conversations about following Jesus. Most of the time we ended on a very hopeful and inspiring note, but in almost all of the conversations there was a moment when we felt stuck, as if we have reached a dead end in terms of what it means to be a “disciple” aka a follower of Jesus. As I am writing these words, I again feel the slight frustration I felt during the conversations.
Why do I struggle to follow Jesus?
Because it is hard, tough, tricky and dangerous? Sure.
But the above were not the reasons for the dead end feeling during the conversations. In fact the above stuff did more to spice up the conversation than to discourage it.
The dead end was created by something else: Our Christian imagination. The way we think, dream, hope, talk, pray and listen to/about the calling of Christ.
It has been high jacked by years of church.
When we hear: “Follow me” we immediately think: Church, bible, outreach programmes and worship services. We hear the words “full time ministry” and we tend to think that priests and pastors are “called” in a more special way than people with “working jobs”. Eventually we end up with a very fuzzy imagination about what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century.
A friend of mine is part of a faith community in the suburbs of Cape Town. A year ago a theology student volunteered to work full time the community, helping out with day to day stuff. The first conversation that my friend had with the student was about his Christian imagination. At the end he told him: “Before we give you any responsibilities, we first have to detox your imagination, because it has been contaminated by too much church.”
Sometimes we need to "unchurch" or faith journey so that we can reimagine the way of Jesus.