Hot Mess Discipleship

Part II of our series on Preparation

There are three phrases that describe how discipleship might look in any given church today:

Specialist. Generalist. Hot mess.

Let’s start with hot mess.  The highly esteemed urban dictionary defines hot mess as “a derogatory term describing a situation, behavior, appearance, etc. that is disastrously bad.”

Hot mess discipleship means no discipleship.

Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s the idea of church as a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous gathering—like a Sinners Anonymous. At AA people stand up and say, “Hi, my name is Such-And-Such and I’m an alcoholic.” In hot mess discipleship, the Christian shows up at church and it’s as if they say, “Hi, my name is Such-And-Such, and I’m a sinner. I was born a sinner, I’m a sinner now, and I’ll be a sinner when I die. Christ being in my life means I’m no different, but I am forgiven.”

It’s absolutely true that we’re sinners, but the Scripture’s identity of choice for us is saints. It’s how we get addressed in all the letters in the New Testament. “To the saints.” It doesn’t say “To the sinners” and that’s because it does make a difference that Christ lives in us.

We’re more than forgiven; we’re being transformed.

And the Scriptures lay out soldier imagery for us:

  • The Word of God is a two edged sword.
  • We put on the armor of God.
  • We take captive every thought.
  • We have work to do.

We don’t have time to wallow in our sin. Our calling is not to sin and then get forgiven. It’s to carry out the vocation of redeemed humanity: Mirroring the image of Christ to the world.  We’ll fall short and sin along the way, and when we do, we repent of it, confess it, receive his pardon, and get back in the fight.

We’re not just trophies of grace, old drunk uncles always needing to be picked up out of the gutter by our good nephew Jesus. We’re his mighty warriors. He has work for us to do. Grace-empowered work.  Supernatural work. But change is underway in us, and we’re not who we were yesterday.

In our next post, we’ll look at the very popular discipleship method of training specialists…and why we shouldn’t.

What other negative results does “hot mess discipleship” produce in the Church?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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6 Responses to Hot Mess Discipleship

  1. Excellent post. What other negative results does “hot mess discipleship” produce in the church? When discipleship is non-existent, it leads to cheap grace and religious consumerism. In other words, it leads to easy-believism and shopping for a good “worship experience” or programs to plug your kids into on Sunday morning. In short, it leads to a “what’s in it for me?” mentality rather than the discipleship mentality of being a servant of Christ.

    To build upon your soldier analogy, here is part of a prayer from Paul Nowak’s “The Way of the Christian Samurai”:
    “Lord Jesus, I pledge myself wholly to Your service as a loyal Christian samurai. You alone will I serve, with no other master before You. Daily I will live as dead to the world so that I may live only in You. May Your Will always come before my own.”–Nowak, Paul (2009-07-14). The Way of the Christian Samurai: Reflections for Servant-Warriors of Christ (p. 109). Eternal Revolution. Kindle Edition.

    Compare this warrior attitude with the usual invites to coffee hour or decorating parties and the contrast is complete.

  2. Jim Lewis says:

    Spot on! Jesus takes the label “sinner” off when He gives us a new heart. Learnng to live from our “new heart” is a life-long process…an adventure! When we embrace our new ID, we can fight the good fight of faith with great confidence in Him who began a good work in us.

  3. Damaris says:

    God call us Saints, because our separation from the World, to live only and only to please Him.
    Death equals sin, and all of us will die. That is why The Last Adam (Christ) is a life-giving Spirit. This flesh and blood will not go to Heaven. Now our bodies are like Adam’s body. When we move to Heaven our bodies will be like the body of Christ. Until we die we are exposed and vulnerable to sin. If we sin we repent and will be forgiven. I am not talking about making a habit to sin, no, no…But as long we are alive in this fleshy state it can happen. Paul said: “I do, what I do not want to do and I do not do, what i suppose to do.” We have to fight all the time againt our enemy(the devil).

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