Go Forth Into All the World
While every effective Christian congregation is directed by a unique vision for its ministries, all churches ultimately share the same mission. This shared mission is stated explicitly by Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20. "Go therefore," says Jesus, "and make disciples of all nations."
Even in the first sentence of the directive by Jesus Christ we are presented with a challenge to modern notions of church growth and health. So many of us ecclesiastical leaders have been culturally conditioned to attract, actively recruit and create "new members" for our congregations, but fewer of us have been encouraged to think in terms of making "disciples." The difference between a member and a disciple is profound.
Membership evokes the idea of belonging to a particular organization based on shared passions, interests and affinities with other members. One can belong to a country club or YMCA or classic car club simply by seeking approval, paying membership dues and abiding by the stated customs and by-laws of the organization. Once accepted as a member, new initiates are not typically expected to undergo substantial changes to their personhood or social status. Rather, one is simply a member and shares a sense of belonging with other fellow members.
To be a disciple literally means to be a "learner," one committed to some level of transformation of the heart and mind. Significantly, while members belong to an organization, Christian disciples belong to a person - Jesus Christ. And so, when Jesus instructed his apostles to "go into all the world" and make disciples, he had in mind a substantial global mission based on the authority given to him and consisting of two primary tasks: i) baptizing people in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and ii) teaching them to observe everything (Jesus) commanded his apostles.
The breadth and depth of Jesus' missional objective is staggering. Make disciples of all nations? Make disciples, not just attract members? Teach people to observe everything Jesus commanded? Truly, without the foundational authority of Jesus Christ this missional objective sounds like a monumental undertaking, if not an impossibility. And yet, it is not. If Jesus did not believe in the efficacy of his mission, he would not have issued the mission as a command.
As my wife Cherie and I approach the "go date" for our missional endeavor to Europe in July, I find myself most comforted by the tag line at the end of the Great Commission, namely, "and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). Yes, Jesus himself, the giver of the Great Commission, goes along as both the Initiator and Sustainer of the missional endeavor.
Over the course of four (4) weeks this summer, Cherie and I will join with two missionary families in northwest England and in Berlin, Germany as they carry out the work of the Great Commission in their respective cultural contexts. You'll hear more about these families in future blog posts. As we understand it at the moment, our missional work will largely be a ministry of presence as we walk alongside these missionary families to support, encourage and pray for the health and effectiveness of their ministries.
I invite you to return to this blog often over the coming weeks as we provide updates on the missional endeavors to which the Lord has called us and for which he has equipped us.
In the meantime, may the Lord bless you abundantly as you trust in HIm.