When your life has no purpose, everything becomes rather routine and dull. You get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to sleep, wake up and do the same thing over again – day after day, week after week, month after month. It’s life on the treadmill. Everything stays the same. The only thing that changes is the pace. Then at around 45 years of age something happens. They call it the mid-life crises. That’s when people start doing odd things like changing careers, buying expensive sports cars or taking up an extreme sport and nearly killing themselves.
Then after mid-like crises (if you’re still alive) you enter those golden years of the 60’s. The kids are well off your hands and you can sit back and enjoy life. You have the house, the boat, the bikes, and the caravan all to yourself. You spend those years going on as many adventures that your health will allow you because now the clock is ticking. You know there isn’t much time left.
Then you hit your 70s and you’re faced with a new problem: downsizing. All that stuff you’ve worked hard for all those years – well, the granny flat won’t hold it. It’s got to go. Who’s it going to? Your kids, or grandkids – most likely, if they want it. Sometimes they don’t want it and you have to sell it, for a tenth of the price you paid for it. And as you watch it being towed away from your driveway you feel this huge sense of loss and you are reminded that everything you own – all that you worked for, will one day go the same way. You go out of this world the same way you came in – with nothing.
No one sets out in life wanting to end up like this. No one starts out in life thinking, “I’m going to waste my life by working as hard as I can and amass tons of stuff I don’t really need only to give it all away and then die unfulfilled.” And yet most of us do exactly that.
So, what if I told you that there was another way? What if I told you there is something you can live for that will give you more satisfaction and joy than you could ever imagine? What if I told you it could mean the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering for countless other souls? Would you be interested? Perhaps? Then you need to have another look at the Great Commission. It’s the final instruction Jesus gives to his followers. He intended it for all believers for all time. Here it is:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The emphasis in this text is not “Go” but “make disciples.” That’s the main verb in the Greek. All the other verbs – going, baptizing and teaching are contingent upon this. So literally you could translate this, “as you are going (to work, to school, to the gym, to the grocery store), make disciples.”
A disciple is a learner, a follower – of someone or something. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) So in our case, making disciples involves helping and teaching people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus and become more like Jesus. That’s discipleship. It’s not just getting people to pray some prayer and then saying, “You’ll all good now. See you next Sunday.” There’s more work to do. Jesus said we need to teach them to observe everything he commanded. That means getting into Scripture and helping the person to read and study the Bible. It means coming alongside that person and saying, “Here, let me help you. Walk with me and I’ll show you how to do this.” That’s discipleship – helping people follow Jesus.
Every Christian is capable of doing this. Every one of us has the ability to come alongside a new Christian and help them understand the Christian life. Every one of us should be able to say to a younger brother or sister, “Here, let me help you read this. This is the Old Testament and this is the New Testament. The gospels are about the life and ministry of Jesus. Then there are these letters to churches – they are directly for us. Let’s have a read together.” Every one of us can teach a new Christian how to pray and confess sin. We can all do this.
OK, so you see what our mission is. It’s not hard. It’s not impossible. Now for the next question: Why should I enlist in this mission? Let me give you three reasons:
a) Because Jesus commands it.
One day we will all stand before our Lord and give an account for our days – what we invested our lives in, what we gave our time to. We are not going to able to say, “Well I just didn’t really understand what you meant,” or “Nobody taught me Greek,” or “I couldn’t find anyone to disciple.” None of those excuses are going to cut it. Jesus commands it. Therefore, we are to obey it.
b) Because you were made for it.
When God saved you, he put the Holy Spirit in you to motivate and empower you to be on mission. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Now that you belong to Jesus, God has lined up for you good works for you to do. And some of those good works involve making disciples. Jesus said in John 15:16, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit…” What kind of fruit? The answer I often hear is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ – love, joy, peace, patience kindness etc. I don’t think that’s what Jesus is referring to. He’s talking about new believers. God wants you to be fruitful. He wants to produce new Christians through you. That may mean leading them to Christ or it may mean being a link in the chain. Jesus wants to use you to help someone move one step closer to becoming a Christian.
c) Because lives depend on it.
Do you ever think about this? Do you ever think about those who are around you – your friends, neighbours, work colleagues, where they might be going? If they don’t come to know Jesus, the Bible says they are going to a lost eternity. Your unsaved family member or friend – if he doesn’t believe the gospel, he will one day stand before God and be judged and then cast into the lake of fire. Does that do anything to you?
Too many of us treat the church like a cruise ship. We buy our ticket, get on board and then sit on the deck enjoying the view. We have all the food we could ever eat, spread out in front us, every day. If we get bored looking at the ocean, there are various forms of entertainment to keep us amused. The church is not a cruise ship; it’s a rescue boat. Ships are sinking and there are people in the water. If we don’t go after them, they will perish. So we power up the searchlight and we head into those waves looking to pluck every soul from those waters that we can. And we need all the help we can get for this. We need people in the engine room keeping that diesel firing, we need people on the sides calling out when they see a bobbing head, we need people into the galley heating up food for those we rescue, and we need people on Comms letting home base know where we are. We don’t need people complaining that the chairs are too hard and the music is too loud.
You say, “OK, I understand our mission and I see why I need to enlist and be a part of it, but what exactly am I to do? Where do I start?” Here are three simple steps you can take to get started.
1. Be available.
This is where it starts. It starts by surrendering ourselves to God and saying, “Lord, I don’t know what I can do. But I’m here. I’m willing. I’m in your hands.” God can do great things with people with this kind of heart.
2. Be prayerful.
Start praying for the people God has put in your life. What about your boss? Start praying for him. Your work colleagues – even the ones that get up your nose (especially those), pray for them – by name. Pray for their salvation. Pray for God to open up doors to speak to them. Pray for your unsaved friends. There’s a house on our street that’s been empty for a few weeks. So every time I run past it I pray for the new people who are going to move in. I say, “Lord I pray for this family, I ask you begin to work in their hearts. I pray you will open up an opportunity for me to meet them and talk to them about you. Thank you, Lord Jesus.” Look around you. See a world without Jesus. Pray for people and then watch with expectation for God to answer. You’re praying for the things that are at centre of God’s heart. He’ll be listening. And he’ll be working.
3. Be intentional.
No gospel conversation happens automatically. They happen because someone started them. Start talking more with the people God brings across your path. Take an interest in them. Ask them how their weekend went. Ask them how their family is doing. Take an interest in what interests them. Sooner or later they’ll start asking you things. Be ready for that. And then bring the conversation around to spiritual matters.
Don’t be unbelieving. Don’t be fearful. Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. He’s put you on this earth for a purpose, and he’s given you a mission. And there’s nothing and no one you will encounter that Jesus can’t handle. So roll up your sleeves, set your eyes on heaven and go forth in faith.
Note: this post is based on a message I preached called “The Gospel to the World.” It the fourth part of a series which unveils our new mission and vision at Grace Church. You can listen to it on our website here.