I am sure reading this title alone causes you great angst. How dare you say the church is wrong? Maybe wrong is a strong word but I think the modern church has forgotten or limited the impact and understanding of discipleship. The reason for the two camps is how we have defined the mission of the church. The mission and discipleship are linked. Our understanding of mission determines how we prepare folks to carry out that said mission. As with any organization if we don’t pay attention to the mission, then the mission can get hijacked by nefarious forces. The mission is influenced even shaped by external factors, i.e., declining denominational and local church affiliations. Decisions made to save the institution shape the focus and direction of the programs and emphasis, what gets lost in all of this is the clear, simple task Christ gave to his church. “Go, teach and make disciples.”
So, it comes down often to these two options: Is the church’s mission to invite people to connect with the Savior, Jesus Christ (Evangelism)? Or is the mission to teach people to follow the example of Jesus, learn to obey His teachings, while inviting others to join you on this journey of faith (Discipleship)? Most would say “yes, both are right”, but we don’t do both. Sometimes we don’t do either, and we make church about something else. We make church about fellowship, gathering together, and celebrating that togetherness. Stop and think, if the mission is about evangelism and discipleship then why are we not measuring those things? Instead, we measure how many gathered together each week and how engaged they are by how much they give.
This story by David Currens hits home for me.
Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor, portrays this scene in marble. In a church in Copenhagen stands his statue of the risen Christ with outstretched hands bearing the print of the nails and sending His disciples on their errand of peace. On each side of the church are six figures, representing the Twelve Apostles, in which group Paul takes the place of Judas.
To see the group as here represented makes a deep impression on the mind. Here is Christ, not on a cross, but ready for the Throne and yet scarred. The twofold message from His lips, according to John’s Gospel, is caught by the artist’s skill: “Peace be unto you” and, “As my Father hath sent me, even so, send I you.” We have peace through His blood and apostleship through His example. David L. Currens1
Is the mission to evangelize?
“…go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
The church’s mission is apparently to evangelize. Jesus gives us a clear mandate to take the peace that Jesus Christ suffered and died to win for the world, to the world. I love this quote from the book I am reading, “The Great Commission is neither evangelism-centered nor discipleship-centered. It is gospel-centered. The command to make disciples is described in three ways: 1) being sent in the power of Jesus, 2) baptizing into the name of Jesus, and 3) teaching the commands of Jesus. The mission of the church is radically Jesus-centered.”2
Is the mission to make disciples?
20 Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”3
For this mission to be accomplished, it can’t all fall on the pastors. And the new modern reality is fewer people are walking into the church to hear this message of peace. So, as David points out in the work of Thorwaldsen, the Father is sending His disciples into the world to deliver this message of peace. Discipleship is about preparing the saints to be sent on the mission. The church has gotten distracted, we have focused so heavily on the gathering we have neglected the equipping of members to be sent. I have talked to many people sitting in the pew, who have a hunger and desire to be equipped. Church, your people do not want to sit they want to be equipped and sent!
If you like this share it with anyone whom it may be a blessing or a challenge.
In the Service of an Awesome God!
1Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times(p. 815). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
2Dobson, J & Watson, B, “Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Community,” p 49
3GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 28:19–20). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.
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