Discipleship Oxymora

Oxymora is the plural of oxymoron. The English language comes with some very interesting combination of words. Here are some of my favorite oxymoron words, which are words that contradict each other but are used together to express our thoughts. Here are some examples:

“Perfect mistake”…how can that be since all of my mistakes were a disaster? Have you ever bought an “authentic replica?” Here are some more…empty load, retired worker, random order, limited lifetime guarantee (I think those come with the Ginsu knives as advertised on TV), almost always, huge shortage, partially completed (this is where I am right now in our move to a new house, I just keep telling my wife that everything is partially completed!), almost pregnant, adult children, genuine fake watches, pretty ugly, and real phony. We use these expressions without hesitation and we understand what they mean.

In our culture we have developed some discipleship oxymora too.

For instance, how many times have you heard someone say… he is a “committed Christian?” Can you be a follower of Christ, wear His name, and not be committed? Can you be an uncommitted Christian or partially committed Christian?

Or have you heard someone say… she is a “serious disciple.” Does that mean a person can follow Jesus and not be serious about discipleship?

Or one we often use in mission statements… “fully devoted disciple” as if one can be a “half fully devoted disciple” or is that another discipleship oxymoron?

Have we moved so far from the New Testament pattern for disciples that we have to qualify the term “Christian?”

One huge problem churches face today is with immature believers who are often in key leadership positions making important decisions. Can spiritual decisions be made by unspiritual people? Can immature believers make mature decisions? Is that why many (most) of our churches are stuck and plateaued? We spend so much energy on distractions, arguing about carpet colors, worship styles, and whether the youth minister should be wearing jeans in the pulpit.

Maybe we are partly responsible for the low commitment level of many church members. Maybe all the discipleship oxymora happened on our watch while we preached and taught in our churches?

Did we preach a watered down Gospel that was too easily presented… pray the prayer, walk the aisle, sign the card?

Did we fail to preach radical obedience to Jesus? Did we not clearly communicate that this love relationship with Christ is above and beyond every other relationship? Not just fire insurance or pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye, but a relationship that demands all we are and all we have forever?

Did we just inoculate people with a small dose of the Gospel and not the real thing?

On the front end of evangelism we must preach and teach the Gospel for what it really is…a radical, total, sold out commitment to Jesus!

We must have a resurgence of preaching and teaching and living out authentic New Testament discipleship. It is the only resurgence that will change our people, our churches, our denomination, our world.

This blog has mainly been a series of questions and not many answers. I would say that what I have written is “unbelievably true” but then that would be another oxymoron.

I would love to hear from you, your thoughts and ideas.


  1. That’s a great word James. We must raise the bar and challenge people to be transformed because they have been conformed to the image of Christ.

  2. I get chill bumps as I read this blog! We preach too often transaction when God calls for transformation. We preach too often come down the aisle, take the pastor’s hand, and make a profession of your faith as if that is the goal of life. It is not the goal, although it can be a sacred moment, a turning point, a new beginning. Living life as if we have access to the the resurrected life of Christ will help us reunite the “Savior” and “Lord” parts of our relationship to Jesus that we Americans seem to have lost over the past couple of decades.

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