This week’s guest blogger is Kelsie:
Have you ever noticed how often the most important part of a message comes at the end? When letter writing used to be a popular pastime, the last few sentences often contained the most important thoughts of the writer – declarations of love or instructions for the reader or a maybe a reminder of some significant idea the writer is trying to get across. As a preacher, the last five minutes of my message is the part that I really want people to get – because it’s usually then that the call to action is made or a challenge is issued.
Jesus saved, for the very end, an important message for his disciples. It was a call to action. It was a challenge to engage in his mission. It was a Biblical throw down to keep the kingdom growing and moving and active.
We read his words in Matthew 28:
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is known to us as The Great Commission. This is the kingdom business. This is our challenge, our purpose as people of God. We see this passage prayed over short term missionaries going to other countries as an encouragement to win people to Jesus. We hear it on multi-cultural emphasis Sundays to give weight to the boundless reach the gospel should have – to all nations and all peoples. We quote it to inspire ministry leaders to action and recite it to motivate believers to testify and witness to those who are lost or marginalized or wandering. We use it to prop up evangelism training and to give a framework of support to many missions programs.
But are we doing what Jesus actually commanded? Are we evangelists AND disciple-makers? We need evangelists – they’re important to the kingdom. We need proclaimers of the truth to win people to Jesus. We need people on fire with the love of Christ to tell their stories and share the gospel so that people may hear and come to know Jesus for themselves. I myself was saved when an evangelist came to my church when I was a young child. His puppet show presentation of the gospel hit my little seven year old heart in all the right places and I knew that I needed Jesus. And much like a short term missionary, after the week-long series was complete, the evangelist left and I didn’t see them again until many years later.
Evangelists are the great boundary spanners of the gospel, the ones who take God’s words to where the people are. They are the short term missionaries who share God’s love in distant lands in hopes that those who do not know Him might come to. But often they move on – to the next place where the lost might be found and rescued. They are the passionate preachers who speak in such a way that the hearts of people are moved to consider the weight of their sin and the call to redemption. What happens next is where we sometimes fall short of meeting the challenge – the instructions that were so important that Jesus saved them for last. I’m so very thankful for the ministry of a traveling evangelist that ushered me into the kingdom, but I’m even more grateful for those ones who showed me how to live once I was there. Because as much as we need evangelists, we also need disciple-makers.
We need to finish the mission: the teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded part. How many people have been saved — believing that salvation is all there is — and have walked out the doors of our churches to live their lives, believing that their salvation will only be realized at the end of it? They have only been saved to secure their eternity with no impact on their present. Evangelized, but not discipled.
I contend that we are saved in the present, for the present, and it is when our present lives become intertwined with life in Christ that we become not just saved; we become followers of Jesus and learners of truth and doers of his Word. These are now discipled lives – lives lived in the presence of God. And those lives are not lived by only pastors and those in full time ministry – the plan for the redemption of the world includes disciples who are also doctors, architects, politicians, fisherman, dentists, grocery clerks, librarians, construction workers, artists, writers, knitters, inventors, bloggers….you get the point.
The person of Jesus and the gospel of Jesus opened the doors of the kingdom for all people to be saved and then discipled. His command to the disciples was to bring all nations, all people, home to the kingdom. Evangelism is walking someone to and then through that door. Disciple making is showing them where to put their coat, giving them a tour, teaching them the rules of the house, and making sure they get settled in.
Discipleship is a beautiful part of God’s plan to redeem the world. Disciples are to make more disciples. The lives of discipled people can, will, and should change the world – because the lives we are living now do matter to the kingdom of God.
In fact, it’s so important that Jesus mentioned it last. Don’t forget these words, he’s saying, not just to those men gathered around him in that moment. He’s saying it to you and me too. Listen to Jesus now – for this is what it all comes down to. Evangelize the world, please, but don’t neglect to also be disciple-makers. Teach them his ways – show them his heart – engage them in his mission.
Therefore, go and make disciples.
To read more of Kelsi’s excellent writings, you can visit her blog at: http://kelsmoreno.wordpress.com/