Read Matt. 28:16-20
Imagine what it must have been like for the eleven as they met Jesus on that mountain and worshipped him and heard what we often call the Great Commission. The moment may be more profound than we realize. Not only for the majesty of it but also for the humility. Noticed that they worshipped but some doubted. This group is still fresh from their betrayal and denial of Jesus. They were only hours earlier headed back to Galilee with broken dreams ready to pick up the pieces of the lives they left behind. This is still very new to them. They are uncertain what this means. This is the group that Jesus "entrusts" with the mission?
Of course we know that they did become his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. We are here today because they did indeed go and make disciples. What enables this group to carry out that commission? How did they do it? Is there any hope for us that we might also be like them and make disciples?
Motivation: Why did they evangelize? Why so much energy and effort? What changed them from hopelessness to hope? They didnt simply meditate on the great commission and decide they needed to act. They didnt preach a few sermons on the topic to fire the church up. They didnt have to give statistics about a lost and dying world to make comfy Christians feel guilty about pagans. They didnt have to implement a new technique or program to do missions. So what did they do? How did they make disciples? If we are going to be true to our mission statement and the commission of Jesus to his disciples including us then I think there are two things important to us ...
1. Notice that the core of the commission is to "Make Disciples"
Making Disciples is a complex set of intentional activities and habits that is more akin to farming or education or running a government than it is to making a phone call, brushing your teeth, or preparing lunch. Making disciples involves whole persons and a community of faith in process and growing throughout generation to generation.
If the work of making disciples were as simple as we often reduce it to then: 1) We would be doing it every day, and 2) the Bible would be much thinner. Pauls letters are testaments to the work of making disciples. He is doing what Jesus instructed.
Looking again at the text, notice that in this brief sentence we call the Great Commission, Jesus involves much more that some of our simple reductions (witness, proclamation, recruitment, mass media communication). Just follow the verbs ...
Make disciples thats the imperative or command. The going is incidental. "As you go on your way ... make disciples." Of course it can be intentional and it should be but the nature of the going reminds us that this is what we do and there isnt a time we set aside for evangelism and then turn it off later. Our presence in the world is always redemptive and evangelistic. We are more than just those entrusted with Gods mission we are the result of it too. In us people see the emerging Kingdom of God and being a disciple means being initiated into the kingdom (like citizenship process you live in the land and are initiated into it)
a) Baptizing This verb is a participle. Heres the initiation into the kingdom. Baptism is the new birth into the new way of kingdom life. But making a disciples doesnt end with baptism ...
b) Teaching - Now how long does that take? Is this question even valid?
Doesnt it become clear that disciple-making calls us to reorder our lives and our common life together? Evangelism is not a wing or department of the church it is the orientation of the church - it is our mission or rather it is Gods mission to continue the establishment of his kingdom and we are caught up in it. This brings us to the second important item ...
2. We make disciples for Jesus but most importantly we do it with him!
[A scene from the end of Schindlers List ... "How many more could I have saved?"] Lets be honest. Talking about evangelism can make us nervous or guilty. We are always aware of how we are not doing enough. We might be concerned that God will be displeased because we didnt do enough to save others. Often we get discouraged and we avoid the topic or turn evangelism over to a few specialized "evangelists" or missionaries and we say "Its not my gift and I have to focus on other works."
If anything should discourage us it is our short-sighted efforts to attempt evangelism ourselves. We either make evangelism the responsibility of a few individuals or every individual and that denies the role of community. Or if we regard it as the work of the church as a whole, we assume that disciple-making is a project Jesus left for us.
But there is a part of the Great Commission that we have neglected. The Great Commission is bracketed by two all important statement that Jesus proclaims about himself. If we ignore them then the Great Commission becomes just another church program or it becomes mere church growth justification or member recruitment.
First, Jesus claims all authority. This leads to the therefore that establishes the commission. Jesus isnt passing the buck. Hes not delegating responsibility. He is taking responsibility and he is doing the work in us and through us.
The early church never claimed that anything they did was by their own effort. They were witnesses to the work of God among them as it oozed out into the world. When they healed, it was Jesus healing. When they preached, it was Christs message.
Second, Christ makes it clear that hes not leaving this commission "up to us." "And behold (lo!) I am with you always even to the end of the age." That should fill us with joy, hope, and awe! Its a good thing he threw the "Lo" in. We hardly use that word, but our equivalent would be "hey" or "look here." Its an attention grabber.
The disciples of Jesus do not make their own disciples they make disciples for Jesus. (You cant be a disciple of someone who is dead or gone). When it comes to making disciples we too often leave Jesus out of the process. When we think in terms of "US" and "THEM" and assume that our mission is to make more of "THEM" into some of "US." How then does Jesus factor into that?
Now pay careful attention to this statement: We werent saved when we were added to the church; we were added to the church when Jesus saved us. The church is made up of the recipients of Gods grace and salvation. It grows because Jesus continues to save those who submit to his Lord ship. They are part of the church because we all continue in our journey of growing as disciples.
US-THEM is a 2-dimensional view of making disciples. We are going to need a 3-dimensional view. Lets illustrate:
The two-dimensional view that neglects Jesus promise to be with us is a sort of "Kick Start" view of Evangelism ... We need to get rid of this.
There is God and there is the World. God "kicks" off the mission be forming the church and then the church is left with the commission. Now the church which is somewhere between God and the world has to go out into the world and bring people in and as it does it grows larger. Notice that all God did was get the engine started.
If we take Christs promise that he is always with us seriously and we should then we get a three-dimensional view of evangelism and disciple-making that participates in Gods continuing mission to save a lost world ...
There is God and the World all of it including us. God has a mission to save this fallen world corrupted by sin and rebellion. He called Abraham. He sent the prophets to Israel and the other nations. He sent Jesus, his son, to save the world. Those who respond to Gods missional effort to draw near are gathered up into a relationship with him. It involves worship and discipleship. The relationship is a theme throughout the Bible Jesus is God coming to us. We want to become more like him. We are his disciples. Those who live in worship and discipleship of the God who has a mission to save us become a visible expression of Gods Kingdom breaking into this world God gathers them together and makes them one. They are sent to others to extend the welcome into the kingdom that they themselves have received. This sending from and gathering into the presence of Jesus is central to evangelism, mission, and disciple-making. It started with the eleven and continues to this day. For Christ is with us always even to the end of the age!
Being a Disciple
The implications of all of this are greater than we are going to discuss this morning. And thats a given when we consider that making disciples and being a disciple is a life-long, generation to generation process. But if we consider how the early church made disciples as an outgrowth of their identity as disciples and most importantly because of the active power of God among them, then we see how important it is to be disciples if we are to make disciples.
I dont think we have to despair or grow nervous and guilty about making disciples if we have a sense like the early church that Jesus is among us. The early church experienced Jesus presence among them and it radically changed them ...
Jesus is still with us and it ought to change who we are. Through us, let him change others so that as we commit to being disciples we naturally as an outgrowth make other disciples as we are empowered to do so by his power and presence.
The goals we have set out for West-Ark as a church are more than just growth indicators. They are qualitative goals that flow from characteristics of living with Jesus in our midst as Lord. Thats what we will keep in mind over the next twelve weeks as we are ...
Conclusion: I love our mission statement. I think it expresses well the biblical sort of purpose that should drive our life together as a church and as individuals. Of course, if this missional purpose is going to be emblazoned on our character and community and not just our banner then we need to develop and dwell in the Holy Spirit and the disciplines of Christ. We need to organize our life (not consumer-oriented church programs) around values that keep the evangelistic purpose of our life together living, vital and meaningful.
Do we act as if Jesus is with us? Or are we presumptuous? Do we think evangelism is all up to us? Are we self-centered? Are we lazy and inattentive? Hey, the Lord is here!
I heard a story recently about a Russian Monastery that was dying and declining. The brothers were growing old, many had died. The villagers had stopped coming to visit the monastery. Young men were no longer interested in dedicated themselves to the monastic order. This decline led to worry and the loss of hope led to bitterness. In desperation the abbot went to visit an old hermit we had heard about. He hoped that the old man might have some wisdom. The abbot arrived after a long journey and explained their problem to the hermit. The hermit prayed for the abbot but said nothing more. The two men sat in silence for a very long time and the abbot patiently waited to hear some word of hope a blessing, a prophecy, just something simple to try. Finally the abbot could abide the silence no longer and he begged the hermit for an answer. The hermit replied, Im sorry, but there really isnt anything I have to tell you. I dont know what the future holds for the monastery. I am sorry oh, but there is this I believe that the Messiah is in your midst. The Messiah?, thought the abbot. Among us at the monastery. He rushed back and reported the unexpected news and the brothers began to question, Who is it? Who among us is the Messiah? Surely not Bro. Nicolaus, he gripes too much. Surely not Bro. Stavros he is so whiney. But what if ...? And on it went. And in time as the brothers began to suppose that any one of them could be the Messiah, they began to treat each other with respect and kindness and love. That spirit extended into the village and rumors of the Messiahs presence continued so that everyone began to wonder if their neighbor might be the Messiah. And though no one was ever identified as the Messiah, the monastery was thriving and the village was blessed and young men devoted themselves to the faith.
Since Jesus is with us always, then discipleship is on-going and it is everyday. It is not something for a special day or a special evening or a special program. It is the pulse of every moment lived in the kingdom of God.
"Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others"
Notes for the Sermon
September 12, 2004
"Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others"
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
September 12, 2004
Read Matthew 28:16-20
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