It is an extremely daunting task for a church to figure out how to apply or pursue the vision that they agree upon as their mission. When you try to put this into words and develop a framework in a church it can be quite challenging.
We are guilty at times when it comes to the task or mission of the church. We like to think and reason about it, and what it might look like, like we are having a business meeting for a business. Yes, we have to think and reason about it, but we have to base our reasoning on scripture.
Matthew 18:18-20 – In these three verses we have three missions.
- Go and make disciples
- Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- Teach them all the things that Jesus commanded.
Go and Make Disciples
The idea here is that we make disciples as we go. Every disciple of Christ is “going” where we are. As we go, we are called to make disciples.
So, the question is, how do you do that? Are we doing it?
Everything that we do and say comes out of who we are. Are we a disciple? If so, out of that we “make disciples” of those around us.
All nations, all ethnic groups, all disciples belong to Jesus, and they belong to Abraham’s family and family of faith.
John 17:20-26 – All of these people belong to each other as well.
What is the basis for a person to become a part of the family of God? A person becomes a disciple by trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord. When this happens they become a spiritual descendant of Abraham.
How does a church, or believer be unique in their time and place, and not dechristianize other people who are doing the same thing? It is a tremendous challenge for us as conservative Christians.
A disciple is an “apprentice,” a learner… this person is a follower, someone who is learning from a teacher, a follower of Jesus is someone who in a very basic sense is learning to do the things that Jesus says to do.
The regeneration that happens when someone is born again is from above, it is the work of Christ. To trust Jesus and have our sins forgiven isn’t the only that being a disciple means, in Matthew 16 Jesus says that we need to take up our cross and follow Him. We are to give up control of and maintaining our life apart from Jesus.
Surrender includes our sins, our desires, our aspirations, our selves. Surrendering one’s life to Jesus isn’t giving up and falling into a lifeless space, it is letting go of being one’s own god and master and lord and instead, doing whatever Jesus wants to be done.
Mark 10 – The rich young ruler is an example of what surrender doesn’t look like. He couldn’t let go of his riches and his control.
Being a disciple is also about being conformed to the character of Christ. This is not something that happens once and we are done with it, it is a lifelong process.
This commitment to making disciples goes beyond just getting people to say “Jesus is my Savior” it is about walking with them as they surrender and become more like Christ.
Baptize Them in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
While this verse is connected to water baptism, it is about bringing people into a deep immersion into the presence and power of God. As a congregation, this means that we congregate to worship God. We congregate to listen to God’s word, fellowship in the Spirit, to talk with each other about who God is and what that means in our life.
We immerse ourselves in God together when we immerse ourselves in God’s Word and are talking about what God is doing, or where we’ve failed, where we have needs, where we are growing.
Some of these things are particularly difficult these days because of covid and circumstances that we find ourselves in.
To immerse ourselves into God as a congregation means that we need to be immersed in our personal lives.
This requires that people are able to be together without pretense. It is incredibly difficult when people feel like they need to perform and act like their life is a certain way when it really isn’t.
This requires honesty and humility and care for each other even when we admit that things are not ok. It requires that we don’t demand perfection of people when people aren’t perfect. It requires extending grace and mercy for where a person is, even when we’re helping them to move, or walking with them as they move to a different and better place.
To immerse in God’s presence means we have to give up on “having everything figured out.” It can be a tendency to think that we need to know exactly how everything is or should be. The “one right way” mentality can make it very difficult for people to express themselves, their needs, or state what God is doing in their lives.
Teaching Them to Observe all that I Have Commanded You
Most believers hear this and immediately think about the most prominent things that their denomination or local church views as things that you need to obey. It is very easy to get focused on one or two or three external things that make us “who we are” and forget that there are many other areas of obedience that Christ wants to teach us about.
Whatever change God is calling us to requires scripture and truth. People cannot learn to obey apart from learning what is true, and what it is that God wants. We need the truth in love, but we do need truth.
People will not experience inner transformation and external obedience unless they give up on the notion that people simply have to decide to feel, believe, different. You have to want to, but it isn’t true that the decision to change is all that matters. There needs to be a learning to think a different way, how to cooperate with God and other factors. It is more than just a strong will, it is a will that moves us to surrender and to cooperate with God. This involves feelings, desires, commitments, etc.
Jesus said that we need to go in His power. He has all authority, and we can only go in His power, His strength, and with His leadership. This isn’t something that we can do ourselves.
Jesus says that we are working in tandem with Jesus, He is with us, we are not alone. Jesus bore to the cross everything that is opposed to the Kingdom of God.
Acts 2 and Acts 4 – Immediately after Pentecost, the early church experienced a large influx of new believers. Peter said that to be saved the people needed to “repent, believe, and be baptized.” The picture of this group of people is one that is very dynamic. Were they being that way just because it was fresh and new and they were carried away with what was going on? What was going on for them that they were so enthused and dynamic?
What is it that produces a group of people that are so dynamic about what Jesus has done for them, and that is so alive when they are together, and so in love with each other? They did have their problems and challenges there in Acts.
Jesus’ mission is an invigorating vision and mission for the Church. The early church experienced it, and lived in it, and walked with each other in it.
Let us together commit ourselves to this vision and mission and to understand it and live in it.
Other text mentioned – Romans 4:7-12, 2 Corinthians, Joel