Matthew 28:19-20-“ 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.”
Our staff and ministry directors worked through a book on what Missional churches are all about. The thesis of the book is that Missional churches are very different than churches with a mission. Churches with a mission have a missions program. Missional churches, however don’t make being on mission a program, but part of the DNA of every Christian’s life. Missional churches purpose to make disciples who are apostled, which means, sent out to do the work of making more disciples. Here are a few ways that missional churches define success:
Success is not simply how many people come to our church services, but how many people our church serves.
Not simply how many people attend our ministry, but how many people have we equipped for ministry.
Not simply how many people minister inside the church, but how many minister outside the church.
Not simply how many ministries we start, but how many ministries we help.
Not simply counting the resources that God gives us to steward, but counting how many good stewards are we developing for the sake of the world.
Not simply how we are connecting with our culture but how we are engaging our culture.
Not simply how much we immerse ourselves in the Bible text, but how faithfully we live in the story of God.
Not simply how many people we bring into the kingdom, but how much of the kingdom we bring to the earth.
Missional churches don’t meet once a week to “have church.” Missional churches are the church, seven days a week.
As a result of our reading and study, we have developed a mission statement for our church and challenge each Christian here, to make it their personal mission statement. I’ll be preaching through the statements over the coming weeks. It is:
As people on mission to glorify and obey God we are
Becoming disciples (Training Ourselves)
Blessing our community (Serving Others)
Bringing all to Christ and (Sharing the Gospel)
Building up God’s kingdom! (Teaching New Disciples to Obey)
What does it mean to become a disciple?
1. Becoming Disciples Involves Training
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” – Luke 6:40 The goal of a disciple is to be “like his teacher.”
Call Ken Lindsay and Cathy Parsons up. Ask Ken to teach Cathy Parsons how to play the piano. (When that fails, ask Jill Turner to come up and show Cathy where middle C is and how to play from C-D-E-F-G).
Why couldn’t Ken teach Cathy where middle C was? Because Ken has never trained to play the piano. Listen, you will never lead someone to Christ and teach them to obey, which is to make them a disciple, if you don’t train to become one yourself. Our mission isn’t just to keep our noses clean until Jesus comes or we die. Our mission is to become actual disciples who make other disciples. To do so, we’ve got to be committed to being trained.
I enjoy going to watch Hannah’s dance practices, especially when she’s learning a new skill. I love to see her challenged and determined to get a new step right or to do a double spin instead of just a single. That’s why we pay money each month. We invest in her training. That’s why she sweats and stretches and reaches and expends energy. She invests in her training in order to perfect that move and to move on to the next level.
She doesn’t move from a flap step in tap shoes to a pull back or toe jump without mastering the flap step. She did flaps and shuffles for a year before her teacher ever thought about a pull back or a toe jump. Why? Because there was a level of mastery required before you could move on. Moving on requires training and practice.
I’ll bet Hannah’s dance teacher would love to have a nickel for every time she said, “Watch me, and she demonstrated a flap or a shuffle.” Her teacher sets herself up as the example of what the step should look like and expects that the students are attending practice and watching intently and then trying to put into practice, what they are learning even if it involves stress, strain, expending energy and falling once in a while.
It is God’s objective to make His disciples like Jesus. That requires training. Just because you invite Jesus into your life doesn’t mean that God has waved a magic wand and said, “Presto change,” you are now like Jesus. Becoming like Jesus involves a change in thinking, a change in living, and a change in what we desire in this life. In order for those things to take place, we have to study the Master. We have to expend some energy. We have to show up for practice and we have to expect to fall down and determine to get back up when we do.
Any trainer will tell you that it’s not so much about what you do in their presence, but what you do in their absence that will cause you to advance. If you are only eating right in the presence of your swim coach, and the minute you get out of their site, it doesn’t matter how hard you train when you are with the coach, if you are sabotaging yourself the rest of the time by eating twinkies, cupcakes and ho ho’s.
Any music teacher will tell you it doesn’t matter how focused you are at your once a week lesson, if you aren’t practicing during the week, you simply won’t make the kind of progress you are capable of making.
Listen, everyone here has made a good decision this morning. Being here in church is a good decision to have made, but if this is the only Word you get all week, if this is the only worship you get, if this is the only focused prayer time you get, you won’t make the kind of spiritual progress you are capable of making.
It would be nice if we could have instant maturity. But it doesn’t work that way in Christian growth. Jesus told us that a disciple becomes like his master after a process and becoming “perfectly trained.” You’ve got to put in the time in order to be properly trained.
The disciples had an unusual opportunity to be trained at the feet of the Master. Talk about putting in the hours. It was like they were in a traveling boarding school. Jesus was always teaching. They were always absorbing, asking questions, trying to put Christ’s teachings into practice. Sometimes getting it right. Many times failing. But constantly training.
We can’t walk with Jesus in the physical sense the way the disciples did, but we can hear Him speak daily. II Timothy 3:16-17-All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We don’t have time to be random about reading and knowing God’s Word. It is the training mechanism for righteousness. I Cor. 9:25-26 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
From February to July I lost 18 pounds. Applause is highly appropriate! But from August until now I’ve gained three back. So, feeling I needed again to get control of the situation, I made a significant commitment. I decided to watch the premier of “The Biggest Loser.” Thom and I sat there, snuggled on the couch . . . with a bag of chips . . . enjoying watching the first episode. It’s so inspirational. The trainers give weight loss tips when they are going to commercial. I think, “This is great knowledge.” And what have I ever done with any tip they’ve mentioned? Nothing. Yet, somewhere, I led myself to believe that if I watched “The Biggest Loser,” I might lose weight. Come on. I’m not alone am I? Anyone else here think that if you watch the “Biggest Loser” it might help you lose weight? Seriously. You can’t lose weight by watching someone else sweat anymore than you can become a racecar driver by sitting in the stands.
Then, in a moment of late night fatigue or just sheer ridiculousness, in all seriousness and sincerity, I turned to Thom and I said, “Well, I did buy that weight loss book at Wall-mart. You know, the Flat Belly Diet.” I thought he was going to spit his mouthful of chips across the family room. He nearly choked laughing. He patted my hand and he said, “Well . . . it’s a good start, honey.” As if by buying a book I had somehow made myself think I was being proactive about more weight loss. Buying a book won’t do a thing if I don’t crack it and apply it.
You may have a Bible on your coffee table, but if you never open it, ask God to speak to you, read it, and then ask God to help you apply what you’ve read you won’t be in training mode. Knowing something and doing something are two completely different things. When we do what we know and when what we know is Truth, we are training to become disciples.
I know you’re busy. I’m not sitting at home eating bon bons either (well, except for during “The Biggest Loser ☺) . . . I know we’re busy, but we’ve got to be committed to the training that comes from being in God’s Word.
Here are some ideas:
Parents, you are suppose to raise disciples. Period. Bringing your kids to church is the most basic of your responsibilities. It’s not enough. Pastor Wendy is amending in her heart! It’s not enough. Indoctrinate your kids to the Christian faith by showing them what it means to be a disciple in training. Pick up a copy of “Dinner Table Devotions” by Nancy Guthrie, and make dinner a few times a week the place to talk about spiritual things. If the only thing you talk about with your kids is their school day, their friends, and their homework, you are missing what is most important, which is disciplemaking training.
Any of you who are on the computer, sign up for a free daily devotional at “Crosswalk.com.” It will take you just a few minutes a day to read it, but read it and write down something you’ve learned. Carry it with you and ask God to help you apply it.
Get the Bible on CD and listen to it in your car. I challenge any family here to memorize a chapter together. Dad, you get the first couple of verses. Assign the kids some verses. Mom, you memorize the rest. Then let us know you are ready to recite God’s Word and we’ll work the work you’ve done into a morning service.
Those of you who work in an office, try “Faithintheworkplace.com” on your breaks.
Two websites that are theologically sound for you to check out and learn from are:
Take advantage of the training we offer here. I’m teaching the Basics of the Christian faith class here tonight. Pastor Thom is teaching a class on spiritual gifts here tonight. On Wednesday night, I’m going through the book of Hebrews. Our Sunday School classes will teach you how to live from God’s Word. We make time for our favorite TV shows, time to get to the gym or to the kids’ soccer games or to get our nails done. We can make time for the most important thing which is to be trained to be disciples.
2. Becoming Disciples Involves Transformation
The Cardboard testimonies we just saw were another reminded that God is at work in the lives of people and that He has transforming power. Do you believe that?
“But we all…beholding…the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” – 2 Corinthians 3:18
Now in order to be transformed, you have to desire to be transformed. I know plenty of people who are living the way they are living and have no desire to change. They’re content being who they are, and ain’t nobody gonna convince them they need to change. God will not force us to do anything. He’s not a heavy handed God. Transformation is the desire of a disciple’s heart, not a court order from the justice halls of heaven.
God has a purpose for your life. There is something He wants to complete in you, and in order for you to be transformed, you have to cooperate. You have to surrender.
“Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The question discipleship asks of us is not just “Are you willing to give up your sins in order to obtain forgiveness, but are you willing to give up your life in order to be transformed to live the life of Jesus.
“For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Romans 8:29 It is God’s will that you look like and live the life of Jesus.
Becoming disciples means that we are always becoming. We are always transforming. We are always growing. We never stop. We don’t retire in discipleship. Until we are perfected in heaven, there is more for us to know and become.
In Luke 9:21-23 the Lord told his disciples: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” You can’t run your own life and be a disciple. Through self denial, you have to choose to submit to transformation.
The Fruit of the Spirit is the standard for the lives of those becoming disciples. Galatians 5:22 ff “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
When it comes to assessing where you are in the process of transformation, you need to ask yourself, not “How often do I love?” but “How often do I love like Jesus?” Is my love unconditional or are there select people I avoid at the grocery? “Is my joy like the joy Jesus experienced,” who even in the face of the cross, Hebrews said, had real joy. Does our joy crumble when circumstances are different than we would like them to be or uncomfortable? Is our peace like the peace Jesus demonstrated during his life? He slept in a boat during a storm. Our kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control—how close do they look like those attributes as demonstrated in Jesus?
You see, since Jesus is the standard for the way we live life, we’ll always be in need of transformation because He is perfection.
You can’t be transformed without a desire and without the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. If it is the fruit of God’s Spirit that we’re after, it is the work of the Spirit that we need. You can pray to the Holy Spirit. You can talk to the Holy Spirit. He is the One who guides us into Truth and reveals where we fall short. Ask Him to show you what you need to work on and ask Him to lead you into situations on purpose that will help you be transformed in that area.
3. Becoming Disciples Involves Teaching Others Become Disciples
I love the pattern of becoming a disciple that is expressed in Psalm 51. David starts by confessing His sin and by asking God for mercy. He asks to be forgiven. He asks for cleansing. When you mess up, this is a great Psalm to pray for yourself.
In verse ten of Psalm 51, he goes on to say, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” That’s the transforming work we just talked about. He knows it’s only possible if he himself does the asking and God does the transforming. He says in verse eleven, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. (The Holy Spirit is key here.) Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Do you hear what he’s saying? Help me to stay willing to be transformed, God.
The next part is so powerful. After David has been forgiven and cleansed and transformed, the next verse says, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.”
Yes! Yes! Yes! Disciples who makes disciples. We were told in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 that we are to “Go and make disciples, teaching them to obey God.” Evangelism is wonderful. Outreach is wonderful, but if we never teach those who become saved to become disciples who make disciples, we haven’t fulfilled the Great Commission. Therefore, the process of disciplemaking includes teaching disciples to be disciplemakers.
Who is it in your life right now that needs Jesus? You are supposed to share the Gospel and teach them to obey it as well. I’m not necessarily talking about a weekly meeting with them where you take them through a Bible study although that is one of the most effective ways to help someone learn to obey, but I’m talking about walking and talking it in front of them on purpose, not casually, and I’m talking about getting courageous to say, “So how are things with you and God, and how can I pray for you?”
The movie, “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” is out this weekend. It’s only in two theaters in WV and one of them is the Nitro Great Escape Theater. I’m telling you this movie details what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples. If you don’t take a non-Christian to see this movie, you are perhaps missing the greatest opportunity this Fall to impact one of your unsaved friends for the Kingdom. It’s that good. It’s showing today at 2:10. You can eat lunch, get there and get back for choir practice!
The truth is, you are always teaching by what you don’t do and by what you do. You’re always teaching because people are always watching. Why not teach them to follow Jesus?
What I don’t want you to do is leave feeling like the process is too hard, like you can’t be good enough, like you’ve wasted too much time or you’ve been a big disappointment in your Christian walk, or like you could never become a full disciple who helps others become full disciples.
Listen to the selecting process that Rabbis would use to choose their disciples. At the Age of 6, children would begin to learn the Torah. This training was called Bat cipher, from 8 to 10 they would have the torah by heart, memorized, (Gen – Deu). By the end of bat-cipher, most kids would go and learn their family trade, but the best of the best would advance to the next level. The ones with the most natural ability would then memorize (Gen to Mal), after this the best of the best of the best would then apply to a rabbi to become his disciple. A disciple does not just want to know what his Rabbi knows, but he wants to be like his rabbi, and do what his rabbi does. Different rabbis had different sets of interpretations, which were called a Rabbi’s yoke. So you would then apply to the rabbi, and the rabbi would grill you. The rabbi wanted to know if you could do what he could do. He wanted to know if you could spread out his yoke. After being questioned, the rabbi might tell you he knows you love God and knows the Torah, but you couldn’t do what he did. Then he would tell you to go learn your family business. But if the rabbi thought that kid had what it takes, that he was the best of the best of the best, the rabbi would then say, “Come follow me.”
Those exact words!
That kid would then leave family, friends and the synagogue and village and would devote his entire life to being like his rabbi. Learning to do what your rabbi does, this is what it means to be a disciple.
In the gospels, we see Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to come and follow him. If they are fishermen then they are not following another rabbi. That means that they are not the best of the best. The Bible says, they dropped their nets and followed after Jesus. Of course they would have done that because in those days rabbis were the most honored and respected people. Picture this, Jesus, a Rabbi, is walking along the beach and says come and follow me. What He is really saying, “You can do what I can do! You can be like me!” Then the story continues, with the men fishing with their fathers. That means they are learning their family’s business and that means they did not make the cut. They were not considered the best of the best to any other rabbis. But Jesus tells them that He chooses them and they did not choose Him (John 15). A rabbi chooses his disciples on the basis that they have the potential to be like him. Hallelujah!
Jesus, our Rabbi, believes in us! He must have faith in us because he tells us to go and make more disciples. He actually believes that we can be like Him and live like Him. Jesus has faith that you can follow him and be like him. He believes it and that is what the foundation of our calling should be based on.
Everybody has to start somewhere. Where do you find yourself in these statements?
I’m interested in spiritual things.
I believe God exists.
I go to church.
I have made a decision to accept Christ as my Savior.
I have been baptized.
I have prayed to receive the Holy Spirit to help me.
I regularly read my Bible and pray.
I am involved in a Bible study or accountability group.
I am adjusting my life to honor God when He shows me what needs to change.
I am committed to learning the pattern of the life of Jesus.
I have a spiritual mentor that I am accountable to.
I am actively sharing my faith.
I have prayed with people to accept Christ.
I am currently discipling someone one on one, helping them to obey Christ’s teachings.
Based on your answer to those statements, respond to God’s call to becoming His disciple; one who trains to follow the Master, who is transformed into the image of Christ and who teaches others to follow and obey.