Going to church and calling myself a Christian automatically makes me a disciple. Or one would think. Calling yourself a disciple is a fancy way of saying you are a follower of Christ. But look at it this way. I can go to school and call myself a student but that doesn’t automatically mean I am going to graduate. Becoming a student, and attending school are steps in what makes me a graduate. Going to church and being a Christian are only little parts in what makes me a disciple. Being a disciple isn’t just going to church and saying I follow Christ, it’s an intentional process, and one a lot of us tend to forget, or even ignore.
1. Deny Yourself (Mark 8:34; Matthew 6:33; Luke 14:33)
This starts with repentance, and admitting to your sins which leads to a transformation. A baptism where you are born again in Christ. It continues with you making God your first priority in life. You give God your life, you leave the plans you had for yourself to follow God’s plans. You are no longer the driver, the one running your life. You must give God ownership to all that you are and to all that you own. It’s because of Him you have it anyways, right?.
2. Read, Understand and Apply Scripture (John 8:31; Matthew 4:4; Luke 11:28)
Reading Scripture is extremely important, but it is also important that we that we understand what it is saying and that we apply it to our lives. Often we read a passage and it leaves our minds the second after it enters. To be disciples we need to read Scripture but also apply it to our lives and this requires that we understand it.
3. Teach, Serve, Love (Matthew 28:20; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1-2)
Teach others all that you know about Jesus, teach them to obey every command that he has given us. As a disciple you will always be a student but you must also be a teacher. Mike Breen says that every disciple must look like a sheep from the front and a shepherd from the back. We must also never stop loving. There is no shortage of commands and verses in the Bible that tell us to love as Christ loved. To be a disciple is to be an imitator of Christ; to love as Christ loved.
4. Transform your Mind and Live Righteously (2 Timothy 2:15; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
To truly be a disciple of Christ we need to focus our lives on living righteously and living free of sin. Yes, I know that as humans it is impossible to be completely sinless, but as a disciple we are called to a higher standard, God’s standard, of living. We can’t do as the world does. When we are born again, we need to transform our minds, attitudes and actions. We need to live righteously and act in a way that pleases God and brings glory to His name alone.
5. Counsel (Proverbs 11:14; Hebrews 13:17; Proverbs 12:15)
We are meant to receive counsel in our lives. It is said in Scripture that the wise receive counsel. When we try to live on our own and believe we always know best we are setting ourselves up to fall. You’ve probably heard the quote “two heads are better than one”, well it can apply to this. Seeking counsel and help from another disciple is better than not seeking counsel. Remember to use others in the family of Christ for help and advice.
6. Evangelize (Mark 16:15; Acts 20:24; Luke 4:18)
Evangelizing is an important part of being a disciple. We need to share of God’s grace and love. We must share the Gospel with anyone and everyone. Share your testimony of what God has done for you in your life. This can show others the power of God and also be encouraging for them. God is too good to keep to ourselves!
7. Worship (1 Chronicles 16:23-31; Hebrews 12: 28-29; Psalm 113:3)
As a disciple we are to worship God in all that we do. It isn’t just singing songs at church on Sunday morning, it can be done in many ways. When we use the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with to honour Him, that is worship. You can worship God by playing sports, studying for school, and even cooking. Obeying the commands God has given us is a form of worship too. Worship God in everything you do!
No one ever said that being a disciple of Christ was going to be easy work. It takes constant work and effort. It is an ongoing process where you never stop learning and growing in your faith. Look at it like a journey. When you are going somewhere you have to keep moving until you reach that place. You can’t stop walking half way and expect to get there. On your faith journey, you have to continue to walk towards God by constantly working through the process of being a disciple. It doesn’t have to be done in any specific order, but everything has to be done. And we can’t stop. The process of being a disciple doesn’t end until the day of Jesus’ return, and Jesus has said that he will return when all nations have had the chance to hear the Gospel (Matthew 24:14). So where do you stand on the process of being a disciple? Are any of the tasks missing from your life?
The language that dominates the theology of mission today features a hierarchy or an order of status describing its very essence. All the terms are derived from the Latin word missio (roughly translated “sent”) and are used to convey the concept rooted in the biblica l Greek term apostello. At the top is Missio Dei. This is followed by mission and missional in the middle. At the bottom, and considered by some to be a relic from the past, is missions.
This reality raises a couple of questions: “Are all these terms really needed? Are there distinctions to be communicated by the different terms?”
As to the distinctions they convey, Missio Dei literally means “mission of God,” and includes everything that God is doing in the world to achieve His purposes. He is sovereign over all and all that He does in the world, either directly or through His agents, is apart of Missio Dei.
The part of the Missio Dei that is undertaken by the Church in all of its variety is reflected in the word mission—the mission of the Church, and all it is to do in the world. Missional is a much more recent adaptation of the term to distinguish the outward or other-focus of the Church’s mission from all that the Church does to teach, care for, and minister to its own.
While some may see it as a vestige of the colonial past, or a “From the West to the Rest” approach to mission, missions is actually about that part of the mission of the Church that seeks to cross cultural, religious, and ethnic boundaries to introduce and further the work of the gospel.
In addition, establishing churches among those people groups and communities where Christ is least known has been distinguished over the last several decades as what frontier missions is all about.
As to whether all these terms are really needed, each one has a particularly important emphasis, even though each overlaps or encompasses at least some of what the others convey. So they are all interrelated, but, to the extent that they are properly understood, each term serves a useful purpose. The problems arise when the terms are used in exclusive ways for which they aren’t adequate.
To say, for example, either that the Missio Dei and the mission of the Church are synonymous, or that the mission of the Church is all that one needs to focus on or be concerned about, runs the risk of defining everything as mission.
As historian Stephen Neill once pointed out, “If everything is missions, nothing is missions.”
Neill might have been even more correct had he said, “If everything is missions, cross-cultural missions is not far from extinction.” The reason is that squeaky wheels receive all the attention, but even squeaky wheels that are far away are rarely heard.
Human nature is very predictable when it comes to setting priorities. The things that affect us most intimately—the welfare of our family and friends and the welfare of our community and country—are always going to receive first dibs on our attention. It takes a major adjustment to our mental and spiritual orientation for us to add a focus on geographically or culturally-distant people living and dying without the gospel.
If people(s) and places are outside our orbit of first-hand relationships, then it takes a lot of information and inspiration to get us to really care. And if a missions emphasis focusing on those outside of our own language or culture is not a significant part of the burden and teaching of local churches and their members, it will almost always be ignored. Without an intentional emphasis, the needs across the street will tend to crowd out the needs across the world.
So rather than limiting ourselves to one or two generalized terms related to mission, or using generalized substitutes words like ‘outreach’, it really is important to be precise in what we are talking about.
Missio Dei is about all that God does in the world. Mission is about all that the Church/churches do in the world. Missional is about what the Church/churches do to reach out beyond themselves. And missions is about crossing cultural and language boundaries with the gospel to minister to those with limited/least access to it. Without a special emphasis on missions, the unreached and the least-reached will likely stay that way far longer than they should.
Do you know what the ten truths in missions are? The ten things that without, things begin to go astray? Each of the ten truths is important; none should be forgotten or ignored. Take a look to see if you and your church have remembered all 10 in your missions strategy.
1. God has an end goal for humanity, that all peoples, tongues, tribes, and nations worship Him
John Piper states in his book, “Let the Nations be Glad” that missions is not the ultimate goal of the church; worship is. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”
2. This goal is a major theme of Scripture (Gen 3 – Rev 22)
It is an often neglected or ignored theme though. If I were to ask you to complete this verse, ‘Be still and know…’ most would be able to say ‘…that I am God.’ But that is only 1/3 of the verse. The complete verse, from Psalm 46:10 is, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The point of much of the Old Testament is to showcase God’s marvelous deeds in order that His name would be made great among the nations.
3. The Great Commission – the Evangelization and Discipleship of All Nations (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Great Commission is the means to the goal. Only those who are born again (John 3:3) may enter the kingdom of God and participate in the worship of the Lamb that we see in Revelation 7:9-10), which is the ultimate goal for humanity. Therefore, it is through the proclamation of the gospel in the completing of the Great Commission that we accomplish this goal (Romans 10:14-15).
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
4.The Church is God’s primary agent to carry out the Great Commission in this age
We know that the Great Commission given to the disciples was actually given more broadly to the church because of the promise that completes the commission in Matthew 28:20 “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The age has not yet ended; therefore the commission is still in force on those of us who have followed. And the means of doing this is through the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:14-15) and the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19).
5. The Great Commission is the primary mission of every church
Apart from the church’s imperative to worship God, it must be all about the business of making disciples. Whatever else a church may do, if it is not making disciples, it is failing in its obedience to its master and his commission.
6. This mission belongs to the whole church
There is no basis upon which a congregation may claim exclusion from obedience to the Great Commission.
7. The Great Commission includes three kinds of people
People like us nearby
People unlike us nearby
People unlike us far away
This is one way of understanding the final words of Jesus to his followers in Acts 1:8, “…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There are those in our neighbourhoods who look like we do, who speak the same language as we do and who have a similar cultural paradigm. These are those like us nearby, our Jerusalem. Then there are those unlike us nearby, the immigrants in our communities, perhaps refugees who have settled, or the foreign students on a college or university campus. They do not look like you, do not share the same language or cultural paradigm. These will require a significant investment of time and effort to cross those boundaries of difference in order to make a Gospel connection. And lastly there are those people groups who are unlike us and who live far away. These are the ones typically targeted by missionaries.
8. The congregation is responsible to reach the people they can reach
The endless near-neighbour evangelism is the responsibility of each congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be salt and light in our community (Matthew 5:13-16).
9. Missions is primarily the church’s efforts to help fulfill the Great Commission among people beyond the reach of the local congregation
The “s” on the end of missions is important because it helps to differentiate the evangelistic efforts directed toward those unlike us far away. It is primarily this activity that moves us closer to the completion of the Great Commission, which we believe to be explained by Jesus in Matthew 24:14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
10. The church’s missions team has two arenas of responsibility: external (deployment) and internal (mobilization)
Typically, when a congregation thinks in terms of it’s responsibility in missions, it involves the sending of funds for support of a missionary who may or may not have come from within the congregation. That is the external deployment of resources whether personnel or finances. But there is a neglected aspect of the missions team’s responsibility and that is the development and mobilization of those resources.
Specifically, it means developing the source of the funds that are sent in support of missionaries. Whether it is through a discipleship of generosity or through fundraising events, the funds must be gathered. The more intentional the missions committee can be about this responsibility, the easier it will be to follow through on commitments.
There is also the responsibility to develop and mobilize new missionaries. A significant element of the discipleship process should be the consideration of how one may be obedient to the Great Commission and whether a period of time spent serving cross-culturally is an option. Romans 10:14-15 asks,”…and how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
So how are you doing? Each of these 10 truths highlight an important area of missions work. The extent to which we are hitting each of the 10 truths indicates how well we are doing at missions. If you would like help in thinking through the process of examining your church’s missions strategy in order to be more efficient and focused, contact us. We would love to begin a discussion with you.
If you were to ask the people in your church, how many of them would be able to tell you what the Great Commission is? Not where you find it in the Bible, or what the verse is, but the actual meaning and importance of it? We tend to forget to teach that part. The Great Commission is more than a verse in the Bible; it is the church’s job, our job, to help people understand what it is and what it means.
What Is It?
What Does It Mean?
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,” Matthew 28:19-20, the famous Great Commission. But what does it mean?
To get a good understanding of what the Great Commission means it is best to break it down into 5 parts.
1. “Therefore, go”
We are called to go, to get up and do something! But it means more than to get up and go somewhere. It means to leave your comfort zone. God doesn’t expect everyone to do the actual going, He doesn’t call everyone to do that. Sometimes God calls us to be the ones that support the actual goers. This may require us to get out of our comfort zone by praying for someone or supporting them financially. Even Paul in Romans 15:23-33 asks for material and prayer support, and he was known as one of the great missionaries.
2. “And make disciples of all nations”
This part ties in with the first. We are to Go and make disciples of all nations. This is the section that is the direct command of the commission. We are to make disciples of all nations, and the rest are the means to this commandment; go, baptize and teach. We also need to focus on the last part of this sentence, “of all nations’. This is so important! The Great Commission isn't only about local evangelism; it focuses on all nations! We can’t stay home in our own little community and think that that is enough! We need to cross borders and reach every nation around the world!
3. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
This is one of the means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples. We must baptize new believers. Jesus said in John 3:5-7 that no one can come to know God and enter His kingdom unless they are born again of water and of the Spirit. To be born again is to leave your old life behind and give up yourself and all that you had to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus! To follow Jesus, is to be a disciple, so through baptism we are creating disciples.
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
4. “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”
Another means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples is teaching. Jesus tells us to teach the nations EVERYTHING he has commanded us. Not certain aspects or the good or easy things but everything he has commanded. And not to just teach the command but teach to OBEY the command. It is important to see this difference. To be a disciple of Christ we must obey his commands and not just know them. If we don’t teach the nations to know AND obey Jesus’ commandments we are failing at making true disciples. As Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). We can’t be Jesus’ disciples if we don’t love him, and if we love him we need to obey his commands.
5. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”
This is the ending of the Great Commission. It ends off with Jesus reminding us that he is always with us. We can take comfort in this knowing that when we are going, baptizing and teaching we aren’t doing it on our own strength, but with the power of Jesus. “To the very end of the age”, means to the end of time, and the end of time comes when Jesus returns. So this commandment is a commandment that continues for all old and new followers. It wasn't given only for the 12. It needs to be obeyed until Jesus comes back to earth.
We need to do a better job at teaching others about the Great Commission. We can’t pass it off as just another verse to be memorized. We need to explain the meaning of it, what it means for us to actually do what is commanded of us and why we must do it. We need to leave our comfort zones and go. We need to cross borders to all nations. We need to baptize new believers and teach them to know and obey Jesus’s commandments. And we need to realize that this commandment didn’t stop existing when the 12 died. It continues today, and will continue until Jesus returns. We can’t let it end with our generation, we need to teach the importance of it to each generation to come. So what steps will you take to obey this Great Commission?
If you love me, keep my commands."