Discipleship – 1: The Mission

What if we were given one thing to do – just one main mission – and we didn’t do it? Now, this does not imply that this one thing is an all encompassing definition of our lives and all of the reality adjacent to our lives – but, it is the one thing – the main thing we are to do. I guess it would depend upon who gave us the mission and what was at stake . . . right?

When reading , specifically , I see an interesting, rather arresting pattern. The text says that Paul “made many disciples . . . strengthened the souls of the disciples . . . and spent a long time (not a little time) with the disciples.” This is a profound narrative. Paul could have, according to some – should have, kept working “for the faith”, since all of these people were already converts. Yet, he spent precious time encouraging and building up the Church and he spent large amounts of that time. Why? Why would he do that?

Simply, because we have been told to do that. In , the “Great Commission” is to make disciples. The only imperative (a verb that commands) in the text here is Matheteusate – or “Make Disciples.” The others are participles – “as you are going . . .by teaching . . . by baptizing.”  The command is to make disciples*, and that does not just mean converts.

This is likened unto children. One would never leave a child unattended or cared for at the hospital to go and find/make more babies to abandon. Rather, there is dependency on long-term care involved. Discipleship is long and difficult and costly . . . but more about that later.

Jesus spent years with His disciples – and frankly only a few of them. He was known for turning large crowds away. He was known for not placating the masses, but staying to the task of seeking and saving the lost, at the will of His Father to their unified abiding glory. Jesus called, cared for and commissioned His disciples to Himself – we are to do the same as we seek others to follow Jesus with us.

Another question is how did Paul do it? What he did NOT do is described in full in the modern evangelically shaming book, The Gospel Blimp, by Joseph Bayly. See comic version, here.

In this parable, as it were, there is a story of some people and their church friends that are over for a cookout. They look next door to see their “worldly neighbors” and begin to muse with their church friends on how they would love to see them come to Christ, but they don’t know how to do it. Just then, a plane flies overhead and it catches the attention of the neighbors. The group comments on how it would be great if the plane had had a banner behind it with the Gospel, because it ha caught their attention. This bore an idea.

What if there were a large blimp, like the one at ball games, that had the message of the Gospel on the side for all the city to see, of course including these neighbors? Then everyone could look up and see the Gospel for themselves. The idea was quickly shuffled into action and soon they owned a blimp that not only put small messages on the side (horizontal shaped blimps can’t hold too much text), but they also broadcast preaching and the like through a loud speaker and dropped gospel tracts, or “fire bombs” all over the city. The “ministry” was met with opposition, like police ordinances and complaints for littering – but, the ministry pressed on. Some of the couples had problems, even marital problems, as a result of the “ministry” and even the original couple bowed out.

The GB (Gospel Blimp) ministry kept floating forward, though. They hired a marketing agent and gave the chair of the group the title of “Commander”, as this would be seen better by the public. And so on . . . and so on.

Some months later, the original couple invited the GB ministry over for another cookout. This time, the “worldly neighbors” were there, too. When asked about this, they confessed that they had become believers. The GB team lit up and began to ask if it was the blimp message, or the broadcast or the fire bombs . . . It was none of them. It was that the neighbors had visited them in the hospital and had spent time with them. They had told them about Jesus and shown them Jesus.

The movie version ends with the directive, “If you want to reach your friends with the Gospel, try talking to them.”

We are called to make disciples – instead we have filled the sky with blimps and the ground with bricks and mortar. We are failing at the one thing he gave us to do.

We should stop yearning for the mega-church; Jesus was more like a mini-church pastor.

We should stop chasing after more land and buildings; Jesus was homeless.

Maybe it’s because we are like Ephesus who lost her first love – you don’t recommend what you don’t cherish . . .

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14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. 11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples. (ESV)

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples. (ESV)

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

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