Women like Lin, who teaches on a university campus where it is illegal to spread the gospel. She meets in secret with college students to talk about the claims of Christ, though she could lose her livelihood for doing so.

Teenagers like Shan and Ling, who have been sent out from house churches in their villages to undergo intensive study and preparation for taking the gospel to parts of Asia where there are no churches.

Ling said to me, "I have told my family that I will likely never come back home. I am going to hard places to make the gospel known, and it is possible that I will lose my life in the process."

Shan added, "But our families understand. Our moms and dads have been in prison for their faith, and they have taught us that Jesus is worthy of all our devotion."

A Different Scene

Three weeks after my third trip to underground house churches in Asia, I beganmy first Sunday as the pastor of a church in America. The scene was much different. Dimly lit rooms were now replaced by an auditorium with theater-style lights. Instead of traveling formiles by foot or bike to gather for worship, we had arrived in millions of dollars' worth of vehicles. Dressed in our fine clothes, we sat down in our cushioned chairs.

To be honest, there was not much at stake. Many had come because this was their normal routine. Some had come simply to check out the new pastor. But none had come at the risk of their lives.

That afternoon, crowds filled the parking lot of our sprawling multimillion-dollar church campus. Moms, dads, and their kids jumped on inflatable games. Plans were being discussed for using the adjacent open land to build state-of-the-art recreation fields and facilities to support more events like this.

Please don'tmisunderstand this scene. It was filled with wonderful, well-meaning, Bible-believing Christians who wanted to welcome me and enjoy one another. People like you and people like me, who simply desire community, who want to be involved in church, and who believe God is important in their lives. But as a new pastor comparing the images around me that day with the pictures still fresh in my mind of brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we hadmissed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.

Talking People Out of Following Christ

At the end of Luke 9, we find a story about three men who approached Jesus, eager to follow him. In surprising fashion, though, Jesus seems to have tried to talk them out of doing so.

The first guy said, "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus responded, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son ofMan has no place to lay his head."3 In other words, Jesus told this man that he could expect homelessness on the journey ahead. Followers of Christ are not guaranteed that even their basic need of shelter will be met.

The second man told Jesus that his father had just died. The man wanted to go back, bury his father, and then follow Jesus.

Jesus replied, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."4

I remember distinctly the moment when my own dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Amid the immense heaviness of the days that followed and the deep desire of my heart to honor my dad at his funeral, I cannot imagine hearing these words from Jesus: "Don't even go to your dad's funeral.There aremore important things to do."

A third man approached Jesus and told him that he wanted to follow him, but before he did, he wanted to say good-bye to his family.

Jesus wouldn't let him. He told the man, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."5 Plainly put, a relationship with Jesus requires total, superior, and exclusive devotion.