Discipleship – 1: The Mission

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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 Acts 14, specifically Acts 14:21-28, 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 Matthew 28:18-20, 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 . . .