I recently heard a sermon from a young evangelist. He repeated a well know refrain in many churches, calling the crowd to be willing to "go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything." He strengthened the call by proclaiming, "If you're not willing to go anywhere, you aren't a disciple of Jesus." Though I have striven to follow Jesus for several decades, there have been seasons in my life when I have not been willing to go anywhere. Those seasons included raising a special needs child with life-threatening health issues and allowing my dad to live with us in his final three years of life. Have I missed the call of discipleship during these seasons? I certainly do not want to be guilty of watering down Jesus' standard for His followers, but what is the biblical support for the call to "go anywhere," and how do you reconcile it with other passages about taking care of one's family -- in particular, aging parents? - Jim M.
You are correct that the call of discipleship is a high calling, and very challenging. See especially Luke 9:23-25, Luke 9:57-62, Luke 13:31-34, and Luke 14:25-33. A follower of Jesus is called to deny himself, give up everything, and follow Jesus -- counting the cost of a lifetime commitment. Additionally, Galatians 2:19-20 makes it clear that we are not to live for ourselves, but for Christ. An effective evangelist will call the crowd to Jesus' standard of discipleship.
The call to "go anywhere," however, is not so straightforward. We do need disciples to make sacrifices and move to mission churches. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the call to meet the needs of our immediate family -- especially aging parents. 1 Timothy 5:8 states that we are worse than an unbeliever if we fail to take care of our relatives and our own household. Additionally, in Mark 7:1-16 Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for teaching that a gift to the church exempts one from honoring his father and mother (which was very much a relational and financial responsibility).
As is often the case, wisdom is needed. Don't water down Jesus call to discipleship. Be careful, however, not to disenfranchise followers of Jesus who have chosen to deny themselves and meet the needs of special needs children or aging and dying parents. There may be less glory in "staying at home" than in moving to Zimbabwe, yet often the first choice requires more courage and endurance, and so is at least equally admirable.
Moreover, it is obvious that if everyone moves overseas to engage in "mission work" (I put that in quotes since wherever we live we are supposed to be about our mission), then no one would be left in the sending church. It would end up being just one big global shuffle. (Then would the villagers of Zimbabwe be called to relocate to Connecticut, or Germany?)
While a disciple should be willing to listen to God without hesitation, listening involves wisdom. Preachers are called to proclaim the truth without apology, and yet sometimes unqualified slogans may undermine the will of God. It's not about finding the right "balance"; it's about obeying the voice of God.