My wife and I just completed a trip that we wanted to do since we were kids.  We went to Alaska, land of 10,000 blogs (BTW – Alaska has 3 million lakes; sorry Minnesota).

The first part of the trip was a cruise up the inside passage.  There’s a reason that you are told to bring layers, even in the summer time.  It’s cold!  I took the photo associated with this blog on a typical morning – intermittent rain, mid-40’s, cold wind from the ocean.

I marveled at this couple who decided they were going to don their parkas and lounge by the pool on the top deck.  It made several statements to me.  First, I cannot connect with these people.  There are good views in the interior of the ship.  That’s where you’ll find me.

Then, as a pastor and church consultant, I thought deeper about why these folks would endure the elements.  It came to me that they had invested a lot of money in this trip, and a part of that included lounging by the pool.  So whatever the reality, they were committed to doing just that.

All of a sudden, I was at church.  Think of Jesus calling those who would follow to take up a cross.  That’s a choice we make.  Evidently, the cross is an option we can pick up or just leave where it is.

I’m a harsh critic of the 20th century church in America.  At our peak of attendance, we left our crosses laying on the ground.  We talked about faith community.  We talked about doing good things.  We talked about how God loves everybody.

Those are all true and essential.  But they are meaningless without the sacrificial call of the cross.  They lead us away from the vitality of an authentic, committed faith where our time, talents, and treasures are invested in our best discerning of God’s desires.

So the people were right to go away from that church.  It wasn’t really church.  It certainly didn’t sound like the book of Acts.  I lament the lack of numbers as much as the next person as I worry about the salvation of people.  But, in the mysteries of God, now is the greatest moment of opportunity in our lifetimes.

We have the call to be authentic.  We look for meaning and purpose if we are going to follow Jesus.  We won’t settle for hypocrisy.  If we’re really encountering Jesus, then life is increasingly awesome.

At The Effective Church Group, we (as many others) have come to the conclusion that the primary need of our time is a path of discipleship – to help people journey ever deeper in faith.  It’s interesting how relatively few books there are on this.

Oh, there are many books about discipleship.  But most don’t really help a person engage everyday life in a way that’s realistic for contemporary people.

If you agree, then I commend Bill Tenny-Brittian’s book, High-Voltage Spirituality.  It might help you.  It might help people you are called to equip for ministry.

Got other suggestions?  How are you helping those around you to be invested and committed to Jesus?