I used to have a “drug” problem.
Every child in my family did. Dad and mom were leaders in their churches, so we got “drug” to church every time the doors were open: Sunday morning before anyone got there, Sunday lunches, frequent evening meetings, Wednesday night prayer, and Christmas – lots more practices and services. (Come on – you saw that one coming!)
So it is no surprise that I thought Christianity was about church attendance.
Until one day, my Sunday School teacher told me about The Gift of Salvation that God gives through Jesus. Now I understood Christianity as a personal relationship with the living Jesus.
However, as I began to mature and grow deeper in knowledge and understanding, the word DISCIPLE kept on coming up, and it occurred to me: they’re not talking about the original Twelve – they are talking about the path that EVERY person who trusts and follows Jesus. That meant I was a disciple!
But then I noticed a dichotomy that still persists: Some people want Jesus as a Savior, but pull back when they want him to be Lord of all – to “let” him be the boss that calls the shots on everything. It’s a strange thing – Christian philosopher and author Dallas Willard said it was as if we were like vampires: wanting just enough Jesus' blood to be satisfied, but not so much that it would demand an uncomfortable exchange. The problem is that Jesus’ full intention is to transform ALL of us, not just the parts we deem undesirable.
In fact, one of the only reasons why the Church exists on earth is to complete that intention. Jesus said:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Not, “go and make buildings” or “go and develop a religious leadership hierarchy” or “go and develop ministry systems” – in fact, “go”,“baptize”, and “teaching” are participles that modify the verb, which is – you guessed it – to go and make disciples.
I wonder, if at the culmination of history, Jesus will ask the Church – you and me: “You had ONE job … how did you do?” I must admit: I’m a little nervous about that prospect.
Historically, what would YOU say the church has been most focused on? Admittedly, for the first couple of centuries, we were literally trying to simply stay alive! In some places in the world, this fact still exists - Voice of the Martyrs estimates that there is more persecution of Christ Followers today than there has ever been in history. We just don’t see it.
But it still begs the question: if the church is meant to make disciples, how do we make sure (a) individually we are doing our part and (b) corporately, we are ALL doing our part?
In the next few weeks I want to take a note from the aforementioned Dallas Willard and examine his humble assessments as to the TWO primary Objectives that the Church has in training disciples.
Of course, for now, I just want to get your attention, and for you to reflect: If Jesus has given me a mission (and indeed he has in Matthew 28:18-20), how am I praying for that, maturing in that, being fruitful in that?
Tune in next week!