“You Are Now Entering the Mission Field”

Entermissionfield

It is difficult to imagine entirely what must have been going on in the minds and hearts of Jesus’ disciples following His death and burial.  When the eleven disciples first heard about Jesus being alive they were locked up in a room overcome with fear (John 20:19).  One of the difficulties they must have dealt with was the discouraging thoughts of “this seems so final,” and “this must be the end.”  In a similar way family members of loved ones today face the discouragement of how death seems final, but the truth is that death is really the beginning.  How quickly the ten disciples fear, minus Thomas who later believed, turned to gladness when they saw the risen Lord, “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20).[1]   It is indeed a wonderful beginning for believers as Jesus was the “first fruits” of those that died (1 Corinthians 15:20).   The meaning of “first fruits” is that there would be more to follow, and those that place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will also live victoriously after death.

The eleven disciples had gone where Jesus told them and once they saw the resurrected Savior again, some of them responded with worshiping Him while the others doubted (28:16-17).  D.A. Carson believes that those who doubted were probably disciples beyond the eleven.[2]  However, Craig L. Blomberg believes that those who doubted were certain disciples within the eleven because they did not know how to react to seeing the risen Lord.[3]  It seems that since the disciples had already believed in Jesus due to prior post resurrection sightings, that it was more probable that the ones who doubted were individuals outside the eleven.  Regardless of exactly who doubted, it is important to understand what these disciples were witnessing and the uncertainty that naturally ensued by some.  It is highly possible that some of the uncertainty could have included not recognizing Jesus, fear of how Jesus would have responded to them, hesitancy to go against their Jewish belief of worshiping anyone but Yahweh, or confusion of “how to behave in the presence of a supernaturally manifested, exalted, and holy being.”[4]  It is important to keep in mind what the disciples faced during the time of the crucifixion and resurrection, and it is more important to realize the significance of the initial disciples knowing that Jesus completed the work He willingly chose to endure.  The resurrection is without a doubt the most important and most powerful event in human history.

Should we be silent about the victory that is available through the Lord Jesus Christ?  Jesus left his disciples with a commandment that included what His followers were supposed to do then, and what His followers should continue to do today.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus provided his disciples with a clear mandate that began with a statement proving that He had the authority to give such a command.   James Montgomery Boice wrote about the scope of Jesus’ authority which includes “authority in heaven, authority over spiritual forces, authority on earth, authority over His disciples, and authority over the nations.”[5]  As God, Jesus was the only one qualified to give the disciples a command just before His ascension back to the Father.

The command “Go ye” is not to a select group like pastors, evangelists, or missionaries, but is given to all followers of Christ without exclusion.  The word “therefore” points back to His authority, and what Jesus basically said as He began to give his commission was “because I have all authority, I am telling all my disciples to go.”  The command did not originate from a pulpit or a church leader; it came straight from God Himself.  Yet the way many today treat the Great Commission you would think the “go” of the commission was not for the individual people who make up the church.

Many laity and clergy no longer see the church as the instrument to reach the world.  They mistakenly believe that the television and radio airwaves, the nationwide media blitzes, or the mass-evangelism rallies are the only effective way to respond to the Great Commission and reach millions of unreached.  Few perceive their own congregation as having the potential for being God’s instrument to reach their community.[6]

Jesus made it clear that He expected each of His followers to go, and a church made up of individuals that intentionally chose to be Great Commission minded will prove highly effective since it is God’s plan.

When Jesus gave the command to “go” to His followers, He did not intend that individual believers not meet together since they must “go.”  The church was established by Jesus because He meant for His own to meet together for reasons given by the author of Hebrews, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  If believers only “go” and neglect meeting together with the community of faith, then they will lack the benefits of being encouraged to love, good works, and exhortation.  John Stott shared a story about a Scottish minister who was visiting a member of his church who had been absent from worship.  There was not a word shared during the visit, but as the man stared at the fire in the fireplace, the minister took the tongs and removed a piece of coal from the fire.  It did not take long for the coal to lose its glow and fire; however the coal got its power and glow back after the minister put it back in the fire.  The man got the point of the strong illustration and returned back to church the next Sunday. [7] Stott wrote, “The Christian fellowship is not only an article of faith and a glorious reality; it is also an enormous help.  Our church membership exerts a stabilizing influence on us.”[8]  When we are faithful to meet together with other believers, then we can effectively “go” the way that Jesus commanded.  Those who “go” without being associated with or faithful to a local assembly are guilty of minimizing a people that they should desire to be included with, especially since Jesus Himself established and died for the church.

There is an error in overemphasizing “go” over “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  The Greek word used for “teach” is “matheteuo,” and means “to be a disciple of one” and “to follow his precepts and instructions” as well as “to make a disciple.”[9]  Because of the meaning of the Greek word “matheteuo,” The New International Version translates the first part of Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”  The “make disciples” is not emphasized as it should be, “when all attention is centered on the command to ‘go,’ as in countless appeals for missionary candidates, so that foreign missions are elevated to a higher status of Christian service than other forms of spiritual activity.” [10]  The Lord Jesus Christ expects every one of His followers to serve Him by intentionally going out and making more disciples.  These disciples are not just people who say some prayer just to stay out of hell, but they understand that the true meaning of being a disciple is following the instructions of Jesus, the Master Teacher.  Jim Petersen wrote about how the eleven disciples would have wondered if Jesus was serious when He commanded them to take what He taught them to every people on earth, but “Jesus was thinking generations when He gave the command to the eleven.”[11]  A disciple must understand that he or she should “go and make disciples” because Jesus’ command was not only for the eleven, but for subsequent disciples from generation to generation.

It is amazing how the church today makes fulfilling the Great Commission so complex when it is so simple.  It seems that if we have a big campaign that collects big offerings with a “big shot chairman executive officer pastor” stirring people with his charisma, then we have done our part in obeying Christ’s command to “go and make disciples.”  Certainly campaigns that raise money for missions are important, but should be supplemental to Christ’s command instead of the only effort made.  Peteresen wrote the “characteristic pattern of the kingdom at work:  low profile, low maintenance, no need for press coverage, just go to people.  And they did.”[12]  A good place for church members to start is to go to family members, neighbors, and co-workers; these are individuals that church members come in contact with every week but neglect “go” to.  A seminar or weekend retreat is not needed to explain the simplicity of obeying Christ’s command to “go make disciples,” just go to people.

The mention of “baptism” proves the seriousness of becoming a disciple.  Becoming a disciple is not being talked into something or saying “yes” to a few questions so someone can go to heaven.  Carson wrote that baptism “is a sign both of entrance into Messiah’s covenant community and of pledged submission to his lordship.”[13]  Like the Ethiopian Eunuch after his conversion, someone who understands the great news of the burden of sin being lifted should not be hesitant to be identified as a follower of Christ through baptism.  Baptism does not make a person a disciple, but when someone becomes a follower of Christ they should be baptized since this is characteristic of a true disciple who desires to let the world know that they have decided in their hearts to follow Jesus.  The baptism is to be done “in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost” because the disciple now identifies with God as part of God’s family.  Some have stated that Matthew took the liberty to add the trinity to what Jesus had said was in “my name,” but Blomberg stated that “by using the fuller description current in his own day, who shall say that he seriously misrepresented our Lord’s intention?”   The important fact is that as a follower of Christ, a believer identifies himself as part of the family of God and also one who adheres to the teachings of Jesus through baptism.

Not only is “baptism” important but so is “teaching.”  Jesus did not just state that there should be teaching, but clarified what should be taught.  A disciple should be taught the things that Jesus taught with the understanding of keeping Jesus’ teachings.  The Greek word “tereo” that is translated “observe” in Matthew 28:19 is also translated “keep” fifty seven times in other verses of Scripture.[14]  No harm is done to Matthew 28:19 if someone was to read the verse as “teaching them to keep all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”   Like baptism, teaching does not make someone a disciple, but it is characteristic of someone who is a follower of Jesus.

Jesus ends His command with the assurance that He will be with His disciples as they seek to obey “go and make disciples.”  The assurance of Jesus’ promise to be with His disciples makes clear that Jesus is not expecting his followers to look to or depend on the flesh.  The fact that Jesus will be with His followers links back to the opening chapter when Jesus took on flesh through the virgin birth and was to be called Emmanuel, “God with us.”[15]  The sad thing is that many today act as if Jesus is not with them as they attempt to carry out the Great Commission.  There seems to be a mentality today of “only the preacher and select leaders can effectively perform the Great Commission.”  Carson Pue wrote about the importance of vision and teamwork and gave the following definition of a ministry team:  “A ministry team is a group of interdependent people committed to a common purpose who choose to cooperate in order to achieve exceptional results for the glory of God.”[16]  A body of believers with a team concept of fulfilling the Great Commission with the understanding that each individual has the Lord Jesus with them can effectively reach people in the community, nation, and world.

A sad reality though is that many are not doing their part to “make disciples.”  The Barna Research Group recently did a survey where they asked people to describe their goals in life.

Almost nine out of ten adults described themselves as “Christian.”  Of those surveyed, four out of ten said they were personally committed to Jesus Christ, had confessed their sins, and believed they will go to heaven after they die because of God’s grace provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But not one of the adults we interviewed said that their goal in life was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples. (This survey, by the way, included interviews with pastors and other church leaders as well as hundreds of people who regularly attend church services and programs.)[17]

Church members must realize that as Disciples of Christ, they are commanded to “go make disciples.”  Also church leaders must not give themselves too much credit in believing that since they are “more mature” or “more qualified” than laity, only they should “go and make disciples.”  Howard and William Hendricks wrote, “Sometimes the disciples became masters themselves and developed their own followings.  But Jesus’ command to His followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ is distinctive in that Jesus remains the Master, the Discipler.  He wants people who are recruited to the faith to remain His disciples, His learners.”[18]  The truth is that each individual disciple has the ability to reach persons that others could not reach.

Each disciple has all that he or she needs in fulfilling Christ’s command, and that is Christ Himself.  The process is simple, go to people.  God help our churches to reach out to the lost together as a team who relies on Jesus Himself to provide the needed strength as well as produce the results.  Instead of depending on the pastor to go witness to lost friend, Jesus’ way is for each church member to “go” to that individual to share the gospel.

[1] All Biblical citations will be from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.

[2] D.A. Carson, “Matthew” in Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 594.

[3] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew in The New American Commentary, vol. 22 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1992), 430.

[4] Ibid.

[5] James Montgomery Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 160-162.

[6] Win Arn and Charles Arn, The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples:  Every Christian an Effective Witness through an Enabling Church, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 10.

[7] John Stott, Christian Basics: An Invitation to Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 99.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Peabody: Hendrickson, [1896] 2002), 386.

[10] Craig L. Blomberg, New American Commentary, 431.

[11] Jim Petersen, Lifestyle Discipleship: The Challenge of Following Jesus in Today’s World (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), 178.

[12] Ibid.

[13] D.A. Carson, Expositors Bible Commentary, 597.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Craig L. Blomberg, New American Commentary, 434.

[16] Carson Pue, Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling, and Competency (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 149.

[17] George Barna, Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2001), 7-8.

[18] Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks, As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 182.

God’s love, God’s story, God’s power, God’s salvation!

 

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On this Good Friday as I meditate about what Jesus did on the cross in paying the price for our sin by dying in our place, I’m reminded that God’s Word clearly states that this was God saying “I love you!” (Romans 5:8) What an amazing love! What a powerful story! The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), but what amazes me is the concept that the gospel needs to be improved, watered down to be less offensive, sugar coated with the flavor of “it’s all about you!” Simply put, the gospel doesn’t need adding to because it can’t possibly be improved!

My fear is that the “gospel” being shared today is not the life-changing powerful gospel of the Bible that produces real salvation because it was changed to be more appealing, and the attraction was more a selfish motive of adding Jesus to fix problems instead of trusting Jesus to deal with sin. The tragedy is that many are responding to this kind of message and led to believe that they are to saved. They have been given a bill of goods that really brings confusion and leads to multiple “salvation experiences.” I’ve recently heard stories of grandparents being so concerned with how many times their grand kids are getting “saved.” A real salvation experience recognizes sin and the need to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. A real salvation experience understands that we’ve blown it and it’s either Jesus or nothing. A real salvation experience is all about Jesus and not about me anymore. Jesus isn’t a friend that you add to your life, He is your life! He is not just your Savior but your Lord and Savior. What God does will bring everlasting change, and what man does will not last! So rest easy pastor, youth minister, volunteer, or leader because salvation is God’s work. Just share the gospel and leave the results up to Him, and when the result is salvation it will last.

This Sunday, and every day, may we share the gospel as it is and trust God to do the work that only He can do in changing lives through His power! Come on minister, don’t give your self so much credit that you think you can improve on the most powerful message the world has ever known, the gospel message! Jesus is what makes the gospel great, not you. Thank you Jesus for paying it all on the cross and demonstrating the greatest love ever!

-Pastor Mark

Romans 5:8

Things you don’t have to do to see God’s church go forward…

A timely article for the modern church of America by Cary Schmidt

1. You don’t have to stop using Bible Words—Bible words are true and powerful words. Define them. Teach them. Cross-reference them. Illustrate them. But don’t stop using Bible Words—sin, hell, heaven, Spirit, worship, propitiation, justification, mercy, grace, sanctification, etc. Bible words grow the church in depth and health.

2. You don’t have to minimize the gospel—From Genesis the Revelation, the gospel is the core of God’s heart to mankind. Paul told Titus to affirm the gospel “constantly!” Keep giving the clear gospel—to both Christians and non-Christians. By it we are saved, by it we live! You cannot exhaust the gospel, and it is the single emphasis that will bring both new life and maturity to your church.

3. You don’t have to stop preaching good doctrine—The heart of man was designed to thrive on truth. Good doctrine and theology is the foundation of all of life. Doctrine is attractive when made understandable and when connected to every day life. It stabilizes the soul. Good doctrine is not negotiable. Don’t remove it or minimize it. In a day of pluralism and secularism and relativism, people are desperate for true absolutes upon which they can anchor their lives.

4. You don’t have to have performance-driven ministry—A lot of churches today more resemble a nightclub than a place of spiritual activity. Are we trying to worship Jesus and grow in His Word, or impress people with performance? Keep the lights on, lead in corporate/heart-felt worship, lift up Jesus Christ, open and expound the Word, and watch Jesus draw people to Himself.

5. You don’t have to stop using the word “church”—Jesus died for the church, promised to build the church, loves the church, and is the head of the church. Choose to love the word “church,” and help people experience real loving, healthy, dynamic church every time they attend yours. Bad church experiences are common, but so are bad restaurant experiences. We don’t need “alternative” words—we need authentic, healthy churches.

6. You don’t have to downplay doctrinal distinction—God is the final authority. He defines life, love, sexuality, marriage, and all other doctrinal and moral issues. And He is good. He is love. He is grace. Messing with His message to men is the most unloving, ungracious, uncaring thing you can do. Help people build their lives on uncompromised truth, and watch them grow. Likewise, teach sound doctrine and help people discern “bad doctrine”—this was exactly what the Apostle Paul did in New Testament contexts.

7. You don’t have to marginalize an age group—Some strategists encourage church leaders to focus on specific ages, to the exclusion of others. This is really unbiblical thinking. A healthy church is multi-generational—it’s a church full of all ages and kinds of people—loving, praying, serving, and caring for one another across all generational, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries.

8. You don’t have to target a demographic—Again, strategists would teach you to define a demographic—how you will reach a particular group, usually “income focused.” God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus is not exclusive—everyone in every life-stage deserves the truth. A healthy church will flatten society’s stratums and bring every kind of person together around the person of Jesus Christ. Attempt to reacheveryone, and guaranteed, God will provide for His church.

9. You don’t have to condone sin—Strategists would tell you to not speak out on sensitive issues. God tells you to speak the truth in love. I’ve heard plenty of preachers speak the truth in anger, irrationally. I’ve heard many speak the truth in love with sound reason. It is possible to speak truthfully, lovingly, and convincingly against sin and it’s destructive nature. If you don’t speak truth, you are not loving. Love is truthful. Truth is loving. You always help people grow when you teach them God’s best.

10. You don’t have to stop inviting people to respond to God’s Word—Some would say, “don’t have a planned time for response, like an invitation” or “don’t invite people to accept Christ.” But truth always calls for a response. When you speak truth, the hearers must decide what to do with it. Whether in their seat or at an altar—keep encouraging people make right decisions based upon God’s Word.

God builds His church when we get out of His way. Let us not become victims of the “growth at all costs” thinking. Let us see God develop His church, His way—as a pillar and ground of the truth. Only biblical growth is healthy growth.

If you will couple sound biblical content, a clear gospel message, a loving church family, and a well-prepared environment of hospitality—you will see God take His church forward with new life and spiritual maturity.

The gospel is still powerful to transform lives! What a privilege we have to partner with Him in the greatest work on the planet—seeing Jesus build His church!

Your Powerful “God Story”

Want a powerful testimony? If you’ve been saved by faith in Jesus then you’ve got one! It’s great to hear dramatic testimonies, or “God stories,” of how God brought someone from addictions and changed them, but the reality is that it took the same grace and power of God to save someone who wasn’t brought from a life of addictions. We were all dead in our trespasses and sin but when we put our faith in Jesus we were literally brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-10)! Now that’s as dramatic as it gets! Praise God for His power to transform lives for His glory! Christians, let’s all tell our “God story” because our salvation is the greatest things we have! Let’s share it! “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As we continue to strive to be a lighthouse for Liberty here at LFBC, we must keep in mind that the best thing we can share with others is not about a pastor, great music, or even a great church, the best thing we can share with people is our “God story” of when we came to faith in Christ, and the difference Jesus continues to make in our lives. My fear is that we don’t talk about Jesus like we should because we either don’t know Him or we aren’t as close to Him as we ought to be. Like the Apostle Paul, we will never reach a level of complacently where we have obtained perfection, but we should keep growing and going forward in Jesus name that will show a steady change by the power of God (Philippians 3:12-14). The most powerful witness to a lost world in darkness is a changed life through a personal relationship with Christ. Do you know Him? Is He changing you? If so, let’s share the facts of what God is doing in your life because that is the best story that you can share!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Mark

What a great week!

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As I parked the bus a few minutes ago and made my way across the lawn at LFBC to my Jeep it hit me…Mission week is over. There were no kids in the lawn playing kick ball or freeze tag and no sounds of laughter and shouts of joy – just silence. The buses weren’t lined up ready to take our group somewhere to minister in Jesus name. The Fellowship Hall that had been filled with kids making cards and goody bags is now empty. The kitchen where volunteers worked to provide us with great lunches is also empty. Yeah I’m kinda sad that it’s over yet at the same time I’m overwhelmed with joy at all the cherished memories of the good work our group did for the glory of God.

Oh I loved each day this week watching our kids and students reach out to others because of God’s love! May we continue to focus on reaching out to others and loving others beyond this week, and may our work be contagious in our church family because people need the comfort of God. Like the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Thank you everyone who participated in any way to make our Mission Week an incredible experience! I’m so proud of everyone and I love each of you more than you’ll ever know! Love in Christ, Pastor Mark