“Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them…”
–Luke 14:25, ESV
Casual disciples. People who say they follow Jesus but in truth, they may not be fully doing so. They follow Jesus when it’s easy or when it’s convenient or when they simply feel like it. They follow Jesus casually as if it were an on-and-off hobby. It’s fun to engage in it once in a while but they may not be serious enough to go deeper or take it further. Here are a few marks of a casual disciple.
Casual disciples follow Jesus for the wrong reasons.
People may profess to follow Jesus but at the same time, do so for the wrong reasons. They’re like the large crowds found in the Bible who followed Christ literally from place to place and yet did not consider the real implications of doing so (see Luke 14:25-33). It’s still the same today. People can follow Jesus for the wrong reasons. It’s not uncommon to find people who follow Christ just because they want salvation for their souls. Jesus certainly grants eternal life to those who believe in Him. We don’t want to diminish that. But Jesus offers more than just salvation. Jesus offers transformation. He offers every believer transformation to be more like Him in every area of their lives. Casual disciples want salvation but they may not necessarily want transformation. When Jesus starts to infringe upon sensitive portions of their lives, they quickly abandon following Christ in those areas.
Casual disciples follow Jesus only when it’s convenient.
In the gospels, Jesus often spoke about taking up our crosses (i.e. Mark 8:34). Jesus was vividly describing the difficulty believers will no doubt face if they choose to follow after Him. Will we be willing to follow Christ even in the midst of difficulty and inconvenience? Casual disciples follow Jesus only up to a certain point. When following Jesus because difficult, uncomfortable, or inconvenient, they simply stop following for a period of time. Perhaps there’s a command that’s just too hard to obey. Or perhaps family and friends have begun to question their sanity for believing in Jesus. Or perhaps God is calling them to set aside certain things so that they can embark more fully in the Great Commission. Casual disciples choose to follow Jesus only when it’s convenient for them. But when the going gets tough, they quickly abandon following Christ.
Casual disciples don’t take God’s Word seriously enough.
Believers in Jesus have been given a precious gift: divine revelation as found in the Holy Scriptures. The author of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). The Word of God, when taken seriously and practiced faithfully in the power of the Spirit, has the capacity to convict us and really shape our lives. But casual disciples don’t necessarily want their lives to change. They like where they are right now and following Jesus seriously—His ways, His values, and His commands—threatens to change all of that. Casual disciples don’t take God’s Word seriously enough. They may give it respect and a cursory glance. But there may not be any resolve to actually put God’s Word into real practice. They’re like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. Jesus likens that to a person who hears God’s Word but does not put it into practice (see Matthew 7:24-27). Casual disciples may hear God’s Word but they may not be seriously conforming to it.
So, do you happen to be a casual disciple? Are you following Jesus only for salvation but not transformation? Are you following Jesus only when it’s convenient? Are you not taking God’s Word seriously enough by really putting it into practice? True followers of Christ really can’t follow Jesus casually as if it we’re an on-and-off hobby. Jesus calls us to follow Him anytime, anywhere, and anyhow and a casual type of discipleship really doesn't cut it.