Counting the Cost

In one of His sermons on discipleship, Jesus tells those who would follow Him that they must count the cost of making such a decision:

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him

This is a missing principle today. Too often, modern evangelism has produced many “converts” who were “not able to finish.” We have to ask, was it a result of not counting the cost?

Of course, there could be many factors as to why people fall away from the faith. But it seems here in Luke 14, Jesus gives us one way to avoid such a tragedy. He plainly declares that the builder’s inability to finish his tower is a result of his neglecting to count the cost. All of this is in the context of discipleship:

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple

Now I know the temptation is for us to separate believers from disciples. Anyone who confuses the two is touching on the Lordship heresy. At least this is the notion some people have. But the Bible knows of no such thing. How could someone believe on Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9) yet choose not to follow Him? How can the disciples be called Christians (Acts 11:26) – meaning “Christlike”, “Christ-follower”, or “little Christ – and yet we say some Christians are not disciples? Is not a major part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) making disciples?

Rather than contradict the Bible and separate a believer from a disciple, we should accept the fact that modern evangelism has watered down the gospel so much that, as James MacDonald quipped, “the non-elect can’t even reject it!”

So we establish that one who “calls upon the name of the Lord” and who “confesses with (his) mouth the Lord Jesus” is, in a sense, signing up to be a disciple and follow the Lord. I think, then, it is our responsibility to allow him to count the cost.

The cults take advantage of people by not letting them count the cost.

Scientology is a rapidly growing religious movement. Hollywood’s brightest are jumping on couches to accept membership in the Church of Scientology. At first, Scientology’s “auditing” and psychological analyses of the mind can seem intriguing to some. But if its potential convert became aware of the whole body of doctrine, would he join? Scientology basically teaches the the universe was created by the minds of humans, or “thetans”, who have become so disillusioned after years of reincarnation that they forgot the meaning of life. Even worse, the entire system is based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer.

The Mormons surely get their share of converts. In my few dealings with them, I’ve noticed that they don’t like to provide too much information about their religion that contradicts traditional Christianity. Typically, the speak on our terms: of God, of Creation, of Jesus Christ, of the Bible. The only difference is their insistence to take the Book of Mormon and go home and read it until you feel a “burning in the bosom” – then you’ll know it’s true. As strange as that sounds, it isn’t nearly as strange as what they don’t tell you: that God the Father (Elohim) is one of many, and Himself a former human being, residing from the planet Kolob; that Jesus and Satan are brothers; and that polygamy is actually a fundamental tenet of Mormonism, according to Joseph Smith. If they tell people all of this when they ride their bikes to them, those people would have the chance to count the cost, to consider what it would be like to follow a mainstream religion that seems as fictitious as Scientology, and as a result, Mormonism wouldn’t have as many converts.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses remain a constant task force of outreach even in these perilous times. To many mature Christians, their faithfulness to evangelism is convicting. Unfortunately, to many immature Christians, they seem just like us. When they knock on the door, the conversation mainly consists of human suffering and the kingdom to come, God, and the Bible. Unsuspecting Christians who are concerned about world affairs and always wanted to know more about the Bible don’t seem so concerned with letting them in to have a Bible study. As a result, the local Kingdom Halls receive a steady flow of converts. But what if Jehovah’s Witnesses let their potential proselytes count the cost? What if they made sure to tell the person at the door about the numerous false prophecies made by the Watchtower over the last century or so? How about the blunder that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would resurrect and live in a mansion in California? Or their beliefs that are not compatible with Christianity, such as Jesus being a created being (yet still a god, making them polytheists), a denial of the cross, and a strange conclusion about the 144,000? The potential convert should also be aware that he can no longer celebrate holidays or birthdays, and that he better hope to never be in need of a blood transfusion.

The cults wouldn’t be as successful if people were able to count the cost before joining them. But the outreach tactics of the cults ignore most of the things that would turn people off, and as a result, they accumulate more members.

I believe we Christians have followed in the same fashion. We don’t want to tell someone that he should be willing to forsake all (Luke 14:33) to follow Christ. We’d rather not talk about the division that might occur in his family (Luke 14:26), the persecution that will ensue (Matthew 5:10, Luke 21:12), the hatred from the world (Mark 13:13), or the hardships of life that come by following Christ (II Corinthians 11:23). If the potential convert knew that his decision would bring about a changed life (II Corinthians 5:17), in which he would be holy (I Peter 1:16), and have to submit to the Lord (Luke 6:46), he might not “make a decision for Christ.” Therefore, we skip all of that and go right to getting him to pray a prayer and wonder afterwards why there’s no change in his life. It’s because he didn’t count the cost. And why didn’t he? Because we didn’t tell him what the cost would be.


2 comments so far

  1. cindyinsd on

    Good point about counting the cost. People get in for the “fire insurance” and feel that as long as they’re paid up, they’ve done what’s necessary. But let’s not forget the other half of the discipleship equation. I was blessed to move in next door to a wonderful woman of God who spent many hours teaching me. Discipula means student. One cannot be a discipula without a magestra or teacher. While it is true that Christ and the word are our teachers, God has given teachers to the church to help the body to mature.

    Do we birth babies and then tell them, “Well, get with it–go, be warmed and filled” but fail to give them those things that are needful for them to mature? At my previous church, discipleship class consisted of four optional classes spread out over a year or more in which one sat for most of Saturday morning listening to a lesson. It’s a good lesson, but it’s not discipleship. Sure, sometimes new believers haven’t counted the cost and sometimes they didn’t really mean it, but isn’t it possible the real fault lies in the realm of neglect–not only neglect to tell them what they’re getting into, but also neglect to teach them how to become the people God intends them to be?

    God bless,


  2. Readmore on

    DT, you and I seem to be thinking about the same things at the same times… I recently read through the gospels to see exactly what Jesus’ evangelistic methods were. Did He have people bow and pray “the prayer”? Did he lead them down the Romans road? I am coming to some of the same conclusions you are coming to. Becoming a Christian is becoming a disciple.

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