Toxic Discipleship

Scripture Reading: St. Luke 19:1-10


Change in me should always elicit change in others. If we’re not careful, discipleship can become toxic. Toxic discipleship transpires when our spiritual formation is entirely self-absorbed, disconnected from those in need nearby. There is a stark difference between revival and retreat; revival is the desperate need of our day. 

One wonderful example of how simple individual renewal can lead to sweeping revival is the revival that transformed Wales in 1904-1905. At the turn of the twentieth century a little over one million people lived in Wales, a principality of Great Britain about the size of Massachusetts.   Many worked in the coal mines there, and most attended church services regularly, but something essential was missing. Form supplanted substance; they had lost the passion for their profession. In February of 1904, Joseph Jenkins saw a breakthrough while speaking to the young people of his church. They weren’t delinquents; in fact, they were good, moral kids. Jenkins asked them, “What does Jesus mean to you?” There was a long, awkward silence and one young boy spoke up and said, “Jesus is the Light of the World.” Jenkins replied, “No, that’s not what I mean. What does Jesus mean to you?” An awkward silence followed.

Jenkins turned to a fourteen year old girl named Florie Evans, who had come to visit him the week before, troubled about her soul. He asked: “How are you on the Lordship of Christ?” Florie stood and said: “I don’t know what I can say this morning, but I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart. He died for me.” 

According to historian J. Edwin Orr, a hush of God spread across that little meeting. Young people were overcome as they realized how far their hearts were from God, and intense conviction led to sincere repentance. Jenkins seized this momentum, these stirrings of God, and organized his young people into groups as he went out to preach. They would come and pray for his preaching, and they would sing for him. Over the next few weeks, this confession by a young girl became the fuse that lit the Welsh Revival. Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote, “In the life of faith in London, a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand had arisen in the west – The Hope of Revival.”

How am I on the lordship of Christ, and what difference does my response to that question make on someone else?

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