AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Mission Possible
Matthew 28:16-20 (p. 698) April 10, 2016
Say this with me, ready? The Mission of the church never changes!!! One more time…The Mission of the church NEVER changes!!!
And that mission is pretty simple to explain…“Go make disciples who follow Jesus.” “And then teach them to obey His commands.”
Is this Mission possible? Absolutely…we have the authoritative power of Jesus and we have His word, we have the same resurrection, the same Holy Spirit, and His same family plan for the church…so why is a mission that is absolutely possible…in fact essential for our future being ignored? I think one person got it right when he assessed the condition of the visible body of Christ when he said,
“The Church today has raised a whole generation of mules.”
I love animals…and before you get too mad at me…I know we live in Kentucky and it’s “horse central” but most people would agree with these statements:
• Mules can endure extreme temperatures better than horses.
• Mules are by most accounts noticeably more intelligent than horses.
• Mules eat less and rarely have hoof problems, unlike horses.
• Mules live longer (18 years vs. 15 years) than horses.
• Mules are generally more productive when it comes to work than horses. A mule can carry a 50-60 pound pack up to 50 miles in one day!
• As a matter of fact, about the only problem with mules is that they are almost always sterile and therefore incapable of reproduction. Durable–yes! Smart–yes! Inexpensive to maintain–yes! Hard workers–yes! But unfortunately most mules are the end of the family line. Perhaps this is what is meant by this individual who claims that we’re raising a whole generation of mules!
The church is full of hard workers. We teach classes, serve the physical needs of others, clean up and mow the grass, cook, move tables, organize social activities, visit and even write letters and cards, and do a host of other things, the vast majority of which are good and helpful ministries. There is just one problem. We’re not very good at reproducing. For some obvious reasons, we don’t share what it means to be a disciple of Christ with others so that they can know Him and enlist in His work. Many are at the end of the line when it comes to spiritual reproduction. The mission of the church given to us by our Lord is to go into all the world and make disciples of others. It is entirely possible that we can work very hard at various activities and yet still fail to get the job done. Let me say it plainly. If we are not contributing to the Great Commission by making disciples, we are not doing the job completely. If we are nothing more than a generation of infertile mules, then at least from a human perspective, we are on the road to extinction.
So once again will you repeat this truth with me? “The Mission of the Church NEVER changes!!!”
“Go Make Disciples.”
So why does any church who claims Jesus as their authoritative leader become sterile?
I. ISSUES THAT PUT THE GREAT COMMISSION OUT OF COMMISSION
The Great Commission are some of Jesus’ final words here on earth…This commission is authorized by the power of Christ, accomplished by the plan of Christ, and assured by the presence of Christ.
If the command is so simple that my 8 year old grandson, The Peanut, gets it
“Jesus Loves Us…Tell this to everybody” why don’t adult followers get is…or have stopped getting it? Well, here’s a few I believe make us mules instead of multipliers.
1. It’s not my job.
I had a friend ask me how many baptisms we had last year…and I said 8…His response was like “that’s not very many.” I stayed quiet…which is hard for me to do…but I thought…what if every committed follower of Christ led 8 people into the waters of baptism this year? or 4…or even 1.
You see the Great Commission wasn’t fulfilled in the early days of the church after Pentecost because the Apostles baptized thousands and thousands. In fact they dedicated themselves to studying the Word of God and prayer…so they could make disciples who make disciples…the Apostle Paul would say:
1 CORINTHIANS 1:14-17 (p. 793)
What kind of idiot preacher would say something like that? LOL…I’ll tell you…an idiot preacher who knew it was about Christ and not him…an idiot preacher who knew people who argue about the number of baptisms and who did it…miss the point of discipleship…baptism is essential in fulfilling this commission or Jesus wouldn’t have included it.
But the people who came to know Christ daily in Jerusalem were made by individuals who knew it was their calling…and the mission field of Paul was to make disciples who make disciples so that when he wasn’t there…they’d still be making disciples…my dad used to say “it’s more productive for 10 people to do 10 jobs…than for 1 person to try and do 10 jobs.
The Commission of Christ is every believer’s job. You’re never too old…too shy…too ungifted…to tell people you love Jesus and lead them to love Him too.
The 2nd issue, in no particular order is…
2. We become protectors of territory instead of growers of the Kingdom.
One of our elders who I respect tremendously, put it this way… “We should have less territory protection and more encouragement for new people to become involved in the areas they’re gifted in or have special interest in.”
It seems to me the call of Jesus is “come follow me.” “Come with me.” “Let’s do this together.” Not…“Stay away, this is my area.”
Have you ever noticed…Paul took Barnabas and Silas with Him?
It wasn’t just Stephen who oversaw the first deacon ministry, by Philip and 5 others…the mark of a real disciple maker is always about growing people…sharing ministry… “Without a successor…you’ll never be successful…at least in fulfilling the Great Commission.
The third issue to put the Great Commission out of commission:
3. Leaders who don’t serve as examples to their flock.
Jesus modeled disciple making…so His followers could see it in action. It’s the very reason one of those lead disciples, Peter, wrote “We follow in His steps” and “To the elders among you I appeal as a fellow elder…be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3)
The reason not many people should become teachers…is that we’re under a stricter judgment (James 3:1). If your words and life don’t match…you are much more like the Pharisees than like Jesus. If you have never, or have no real desire, to live out the mission of the church…why should you in any way be influencing others with your teaching? You’ll create a group of people who meet only to get information that’s never used. You’ll become mules that work hard at activities but never reproduce Jesus followers or desire to.
[I’ve never served in the military…one of my deepest regrets…but I understand it’s chain of command…authority comes from higher up…and then is passed down “the chain.” It’s not a request or a suggestion…They call them “orders.” But what if that order arrived at a sergeant…and the sergeant then determined…This isn’t really important…I’ll give them my own.
Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me…go and make disciples.
These are the highest orders from the greatest authority, but what if a leader in the chain of command disregards them and tells immature privates it’s not that important?
Do you remember this story in Matthew chapter 8?
MATTHEW 8:5-9 (p. 680)
This leader understood the chain of command…He took orders and he gave orders…He understood obedience to the one in authority.
Jesus response to this was “I’ve not even found in Israel faith like this.”
These are our marching orders in the Great Commission: “Go make disciples,” the question is do we respect his authority…and do we put people in leadership places that don’t break the chain of command?
And my experience is it’s a lot easier to put people who understand the authority of Jesus in these places than to try and remove them after the chain is broken.
As another one of our elders said, “leaders must be people “committed to the cause, with high moral character, and a compassion for people.” “They must believe in what they’re doing. They prove it by the way they live, and they encourage others with love and patience to do the same.”
The final issue…
4. You don’t really love Christ or His Bride, the Church.
[I love my wife Kari…I think you know that’s clearly evident…that I married waaay above my pay grade!!! I love introducing her to people…I’m proud she’s my wife and I want people to know it…she’s my bride.]
But I’ve met people who have never told people they love Jesus…when they talk about His bride all they can mention are the things they don’t like…and yes I understand your preferences and your disappointments…but if you really love the bridegroom, shouldn’t you look at His bride the way he does instead of how jealous ex-lovers do?
You see Christianity is about loving Jesus…It’s not only the characteristic that identifies true disciples…They’ll know you’re my disciples by the way you love one another.” It’s also the motivation that propels us to share the Great Commission…“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
You see the Great Commission is never done affectively unless
II. WE LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE AS WE GO INTO THE WORLD
Jesus promised, “I’ll be with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)
Those who are in Christ…have Christ in them…We are never alone…He promises to give us the words we need to say…He promises when the storms of life blow to be our “Prince of Peace.”
Our baptism brings the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of His Holy Spirit…as the song says…from this day forward “We will never walk alone!!!”
On Sundays this Spirit unites us in worship…which is extremely important…because it’s in His worship and praise that we proclaim His glory…so that Monday through Saturday we remember why we live, breathe and have our being…We remember our mission…The one that never changes…
In 1933 Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, began teaching sailor Les Spencer how to grow in his relationship with Jesus Christ. They spent many hours together in Bible study, scripture memorization and prayer. Soon a shipmate of Les Spencer asked him about the reason for his changed life. Les brought him to Daws and said, “Teach him what you taught me.” Dawson’s answer — “You teach him” — was the beginning of the Navigators. Les Spencer did help that sailor and the two in turn began to help others. Thus was born a simple model of discipleship or spiritual reproduction, a process whereby one person helps another, who in turn helps another, and on and on. Eventually the Navigators became a worldwide ministry organization committed to carrying out this multiplying process in over 1000 countries. When Dawson Trotman passed away he left a legacy of discipleship on this earth, the likes of which is seldom seen. Oh, by the way, he died the same way he lived…laying down his life for others. In 1956 at a place called Schroon Lake in the state of New York, Dawson drowned while trying to save the lives of two young ladies, He jumped into the lake when he saw them struggling to stay afloat. He managed to lift one girl out of the water. He returned for the other and rescued her as well. By the will of God, however, it was the last time anyone ever saw Dawson Trotman alive. His body was not seen again until the dragnet found him a few hours later. A man named Larsen, who was on that boat when Trotman died, later said, “The entire United States Navy couldn’t have saved Trotman that day — it was God’s time.” Time Magazine ran an article on his life the next week, and put a caption beneath his name that read, “Always Holding Somebody Up.” This one sentence summed up Trotman’s life – invested in people, spent on helping many find life, then holding them up so that they might be able to do the same for still others. What will the caption beneath your name read when God calls you home?