"Secret discipleship” is an oxymoron. In the words of William Barclay, “There can be no such thing as secret discipleship, for either the secrecy destroys the discipleship, or the discipleship destroys the secrecy.” 1
If you really understand the Good News, you can’t keep it to yourself. Good news is like that. It’s like the TV commercial where someone reports at the most inappropriate times, “I just lowered my cholesterol!”
I can relate to that commercial because I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing. I heard of a study that claimed blueberries were just as effective as medicine for lowering cholesterol. This caught my attention as I had recently been informed that my total cholesterol was 212—way too high.
So I started eating blueberries. A big bowl of blueberries every morning and evening. Six months later my cholesterol had dropped to 156! Since then I have been an evangelist for “da berry of blue.” I can’t help myself.
Such is the nature of good news. You can’t hide it. Jesus said as much in Matthew 5:14–16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Light has so much potential for good. On the other hand, light has great potential for evil. As Sheldon Vanauken puts it: “The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians—when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.” 2
Think about light that glares. For example, I heard about an evangelism kit that instructed Christians on how to attach a loudspeaker to their car so they could drive around and preach on the road.
The instruction booklet offered this advice: “If you see a car pulled over at a stoplight, shout, ‘Pull over right now so Jesus can save your soul.’” I’m sure these folk have good motives, but the method feels glaring to me.
Then there is light that glows. Another example: Some years ago our church organized a community event where people could drive through the Christmas story. We did a mass mailing to 20,000 area homes, but on opening night only a few people came.
The next night one of our members rented a four-beam search light. We parked it at the entrance and that evening, we enjoyed bumper-to-bumper business.
Some guests said to me, “We didn’t even know what this was but we saw the light and we got in line.” In that four-beam search light we discovered a marketing plan that worked.
It’s the same marketing strategy that Jesus calls for in His church. “You are the light in a world of darkness.” So don’t be a secret disciple. Let your light shine. And glow with God.
1 William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 123.
2 Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy (New York: Harper & Row, 1977, 85) as quoted from http://www.swd.lcms.org/schools/prnews/prnews02-04.htm.