Go and Make Disciples, Two Words To Transform The Church
What is the point the of the church? Is it to make disciples? This question has been debated for centuries and certainly will not be resolved in this blog post. Sorry to disappoint you. But occasionally it’s good to revisit this question to remind us that church isn’t about opinions as to what it should be but rather to (re)discover what the Bible says it is.
When Things Go Wrong
So here is a personal confession. I’ve lost sight of the point of the church, at least a sober evaluation of where my focus has been suggested that to me. After all, I’m the pastor and I “should” have a laser-like focus on the point. But even pastors can lose sight of things that matter.
Personal development guru Stephen Covey said, “the most important thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Usually, that’s easier said than done. His point, however, shouldn’t be lost on us just because we find it difficult to do. The wisdom of Stephen Covey becomes acutely apparent when leaders and organizations lose sight of “the main thing” and then wonder why “things aren’t working.”
As the pastor, I get caught up in the ordinary business of ministry – studying for and preparing sermons, ministering to the distressed, providing leadership and guidance to the staff, reaching out to newcomers, overseeing administrative details, and serving the community. All of these are essential functions of a pastor, but are they the main thing?
Disciples Making Disciples Is The Main Thing
At the recent Anglican Connection Conference in Dallas, I was reminded of the main point of the church – making disciples or followers of Jesus Christ which led me to this question.
Is this a true statement? Can we boil down church work to this simple statement?
Let’s have a look at the four Gospels for a moment and see what the have to say.
The Gospel of Matthew
Jesus summarizes this emphasis well in Matthew 28:19–20,
“go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Here are two commands that leap from the text, go and make. Not only are their commands but there are required results, “disciples.” We are to go and make disciples. That’s our business. Nothing more and nothing less.
The Gospels of Mark and Luke
If Matthew tells us our business, then Mark and Luke give us our method.
“Go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation,” (Mark 16:18).
Notice the simplicity of Mark’s statement, go and proclaim the Gospel or Good News. Just like Matthew, Jesus dispatches his people (the church) on a mission but with a slightly different focus – to proclaim the Gospel.
The writer Luke approaches it slightly differently by giving us more detail.
“Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations…” (Luke 24:46–48).
Luke ties a very important dimension to our proclamation business by linking two important ideas together: the historical event of the crucifixion and resurrection, and the divine intent of that moment in history, namely forgiveness and repentance of sins. So good news that we are proclaiming is repentance and forgiveness of sins. That is the main thing of the first three Gospel writers.
The Gospel of John
If Matthew, Mark, and Luke are giving us the mission, the method, and the message, then John provides us with the result.
At the conclusion of the Gospel, he writes:
“these (signs) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name,” (John 20:31).
Earlier in his book John records Jesus reason for coming to planet earth quoting him by saying, “I have come that you may have life,” (John 10:10). And not just any kind of life, but as he promises “life abundantly.” The underlying Greek word conveys the meaning “extraordinary.”
I don’t know about you, but the final vision of John promises something that even I want an extraordinary life. The temptation, of course, is to define “the extraordinary life” through the lens of people who flip houses and make loads of money. But the Gospel writer doesn’t have American materialism in mind when he talks about the abundant life. Instead, John repeatedly suggests that the extraordinary life begins with knowing we are at peace with God.
Our Purpose: Proclaim, Declare, and Demonstrate
So if we take all four Gospels and combine together our observations from the scriptures we’ve just read, we could (re)discover the church’s corporate purpose.
According to the Gospel writers, our purpose for existence should contain at least the following:
We are to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ by:
- Proclaiming that we have been set right with God through Jesus Christ;
- Declaring that by repenting from our sin and receiving God’s forgiveness, we can realign our lives to his standards; and
- Demonstrating His promise by living extraordinary lives through the peace with God.
As I shared this with my friend Jim, he pointed something out that is critical to all of this. To go and make disciples of others, we must first be a disciple of Jesus ourselves. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Prayer. Heavenly Father inspire your church to go and make disciples through Jesus Christ by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Question. How would you live your life differently if you knew for certain that you and God were at peace?