In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard writes, “We must make no mistake about it. In sending out his [disciples], he set afoot a perpetual world revolution: one that is still in process and will continue until God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.” As Christ’s disciples, we are more than just residents in this world; we are revolutionaries. We have been sent, as Bonhoeffer says, into the “world come of age.” We live in a world where science, philosophy, psychology, technology, and transportation have shrunk the world into a global village. This world is topsy-turvy, for light has been declared darkness and darkness declared light. In this environment, it is vital that we are not conflicted or confused about our mission, because we will receive a great deal of pushback (John 16:33).
In reading this book, you may have picked up my affinity for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was intellectual and aristocratic, and his understanding of revolution was elitist. He advocated for a completely free and trained pastoral nobility who could preach the Word of God and discern the spirits of the age. He wrote, “They would be a phalanx of the intellectual elite suitable to match wits with the ‘spirit of the age.’ They would form an aristocracy of responsibility—a nobility of righteous doers and prayerful pilgrims.”
While I love Bonhoeffer’s idea and would have loved to have been included in his plans, I believe his ideas just did not go deep enough. These pastors would only have sparked a revolution among the intellectually gifted, and Bonhoeffer assumed that the masses would simply follow their intellectual leaders. The German masses had followed their Führer, Bonhoeffer reasoned, so why wouldn’t they follow a righteous leader if Hitler was out of the way? We’ll never know if Bonhoeffer’s plans would have borne fruit, for his dream was cut short when the Gestapo closed his grand experiment, and most of his intellectual elite were drafted into the German army and sent to the Russian front to die.
Peter Drucker once quipped, “Culture will eat strategy’s lunch every time.”Bonhoeffer’s plan was halted because the devilish Aryan heresy had a death grip on Germany. But Jesus’ commission—his disciple-making plan to change the world—is far broader and more powerful. His vision is for a perpetual revolution that will continue, unabated, until God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Jesus’ plan is flexible, able to adapt to different cultures and times and designed to grow, multiply, and spread across the earth. It is sustainable, able to last for centuries. Jesus’ plan takes into consideration that to sustain a movement like this, the objective—the end goal—must be very clear.
Jesus warned his disciples to keep this clear goal in mind to guard against competing loyalties, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. . . . Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matt. 6:24, 33 NLT).
With foresight into some of our current challenges, Bonhoeffer spoke approvingly of the development of what he called “religionless Christianity,” meaning serious discipleship stripped of all the hypocritical and disabling baggage of institutional churches. The German Evangelical Church of the 1930s was a model of capitulation, compromise, and hypocrisy. By contrast, a flood of Christ’s disciples sent into the morass that is society is a cure for its ills. But those disciples, above all else, must know God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. They must also know God’s Word and have their minds and hearts stripped and freed from anything other than Christ himself.
 (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002), 14–15. “[Disciples]” is trainees in the original.
 Quoted in Charles Marsh, Strange Glory (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), 378.
This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.
Image credit: Shutterstock.