If you have been a part of the Church for some time you have probably heard the preacher speak on “The Great Commission” – when Jesus gave the command to His disciples to “Go make disciples…” Jesus spoke these words before He ascended up into heaven. These were His final instructions before leaving earth. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20…
“18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In the Gospel of mark the commission begins with “Go evangelize…” (Mark 16)
In the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
He was giving these instructions to His disciples. A disciple was an apprentice, one who was called to follow a rabbi (teacher) and to learn from the religious teacher and eventually take on his on disciples. This speaks volumes about Jesus’ plan to reach the world. We might think His plan would have been to save and disciple the masses; to save and disciple all of Jerusalem at once. But this was not His plan. His plan was to come and live among His people, call a small group of disciples to Himself, and train these men to reach the masses.
This plan is counter to how churches in the West try to reach and disciple the world.
The typical plan in the West: Bigger is better, right? And so we try to attract as many people as possible to an event at which we might share the gospel. When people accept Christ, they might be directed to a discipleship relationship, but often there is not a plan in place and/or discipleship is not stressed as important and so the new Christian doesn’t make it a priority. Then we place these people into leadership roles, often before they are ready, and they are not discipling people when they really don’t know what they are doing.
Now contrast this with the plan of Jesus.
Jesus’ plan of discipleship: Jesus did not come to save everyone on the planet at the same time when He came to earth 2,000 years ago. He did not come in all His glory; He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. He lived with humans because He incarnated Himself, He moved into the neighborhood so to speak and influenced those He came in contact with. When it was His time to enact God’s plan to reach the world, He started with 12 men; He called them to be His apprentices and He taught them everything they needed to know in order to reach the world. True He preached to the masses, but His emphasis was not on the masses, but on the 12. He lived among them, served them, worked with them, won them over, taught them, resolved conflicts among them, taught them about compassion, taught them truth, and then after His death and resurrection He said, “You’re your turn to take what I have taught you and go replicate what I have done with you among the people throughout the nations to the end of the earth.”
Jesus was commissioning the disciples to live incarnationally, to go back to Jerusalem and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with them, teaching them to be followers of Jesus.
Likewise for Grace Church leadership, Jesus’ plan is that our leaders would be like Jesus or the Apostles and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with them, teaching them to be followers of Jesus in the context of Seattle.
Likewise for us, Jesus’ plan is that we, Christians, would be like Jesus or the disciples and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with us, teaching them to be followers of Jesus in the context of Seattle (or wherever you live).
For Jesus to be incarnate in us, it takes us following Jesus, turning to Him as our master and perfect teacher who speaks with authority. We need to commit our lives to Christ. This requires that we read the Bible, especially the Gospels of Jesus so as to take on Jesus’ love and nature. This requires prayer that our bodies cooperate with the Spirit to crucify our fleshly desires, which are counter to Christ-likeness so that we can display love incarnate – Christ in me. If we, Christians, can live this way we will not need magical programs to reach the world. Our current church events, and potlucks, and small groups, and home communities, and Sunday school classes, and fellowship in the foyer will be enough. May we strive to know Jesus and strive to live like Him and strive for spiritual renewal as a Christian community. Amen.