Passing the Baton
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Believe it or not, I used to be pretty fast. I told you before that I got out of the Marine Corps about 50 lbs ago. That’s not even a joke. In high school, we didn’t have a track team, but I could have dominated it. I never let anyone be faster than me. I ran a mile in 6 minutes flat until this guy showed up in 10 grade that ran his in 5:40. I was never second until that day, and I made up my mind that I was going to beat him. It only took me a couple of weeks. In fact, I think I could have beat him sooner but my mind didn’t know that I was capable of doing it. I never needed to run that fast to beat everyone else. No one came close before when I ran my mile in 6 minutes, but this guy comes along and presents a challenge that I had to face. And face it I did. A couple weeks later I blew by him and finished in 5:30 flat. I took me 2 weeks to shave 30 seconds off my mile just because someone was faster than me. and that can’t happen. So, tonight I’m going to talk a little about running, but more about passing the baton.
The great commission is very familiar to anyone that calls themselves a Christian. Second only to for Christianity in general, is a very important verse. I know our movement is more interested in , and , but in general all Christians are aware of the importance of Mathew 28:19. It is 24 words that Jesus used to hand the baton over to us. First to the 12, then to the 120, and then to us. In a relay race that uses batons the rules are clear. The baton must be passed to the next runner, and it must be done so without delay.
Passing the Baton
Passing the Baton
After each runner runs his leg of the 400-meter relay race, he hands off the baton to his teammate. That teammate must receive the baton within a 20-meter area. If the pass comes before or after that area, the pass is considered illegal, and the team is disqualified. Also, if a runner drops the baton while passing or in the middle of the race, the team is disqualified.
Dropping the baton is not an option.
Waiting too long to take the baton is not an option.
And so it is with the great commission. Jesus passed us the baton in Mathew 28:19. He told us to Go and teach all nations which can also be interpreted to Go and make disciples.
If dropping this baton is not an option, and delaying the hand off is not an option, then what are we waiting for?
Is it paralysis by analysis? Perhaps the paralyzing force is the simple fact that we don’t know how to make disciples. Have you ever made one? Are you sure?
What does it even mean to make disciples?
If I asked that question to each person here individually, how many different answers do you suppose we would get?
Some possible answers might be:
We make them disciples when we baptize them
… when we pray them through
… when they start following holiness standards
… When they can quote
… When they can go a whole month without missing a service
… When they start coming to midweek service, because only the committed come on Wednesday night.
… When we teach them a home Bible Study
… When we get them to think like us
… When we get them to act like us
… When they are in on the proper lingo
… When they start
… or when we do all these things plus 7 other things… then and only then have we made a disciple.
If we are ever going to create a culture of disciple making in this church, we must all agree on what making a disciple actually is. Let me start by defining what making a disciple is not. Making a disciple is not the same as converting someone. The goal for many apostolics is to dip someone in the water and pray them through and toss them out to the curb. In many churches today in our movement, disciple making is nothing more than a numbers game. How many did we baptize?
Listen, the change that happens in person when they are baptized in water or in Spirit is done completely by God. You haven’t made anything when you baptize someone. You have nothing to do with it. That’s all God. So, what do we do? What’s our part in this CO-Mission? Yes we need to baptize people, but more than that we need to know how do we make disciples?
If we’re to make something it would help to know what it is we are making first. So, let’s define disciple.
A disciple is a student who adheres to and (travels with) a teacher in a relationship based on education.
Notice that it says “Travels With”. You can’t make a disciple until you are first prepared to travel with a disciple. It isn’t just about teaching somebody what the truth is, is about travelling through life with them by your side in a relationship.
How Jesus Made Disciples
How Jesus Made Disciples
Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about making disciples from someone else that knows how to make them. Maybe even the expert at it. The one who did it better than anyone else. That person was Jesus. Maybe we can glean something from watching how he did it. How he made disciples. After all, he didn’t pass the baton to us without first carrying the baton himself. Jesus made many disciples. More disciples in 3 years than many of us have made in a lifetime. How can we be Christ-like if we don’t do what Christ did and if we don’t do what Christ told us to do… which is to make disciples.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
My first question for us tonight is,
How long do you think you should wait before you start making disciples?
So, here we have Jesus just starting his ministry. Right before the passage we just read, Jesus was baptized by John and then he went through his 40 days of temptation in the desert with the devil and the very first thing he does next is make 4 disciples. He hadn’t eaten in 40 days, he probably could have used a few weeks of rest and relaxation in a nice town somewhere, but no, Jesus goes to the ghetto and finds himself 4 disciples. Peter, Andrew, James and John.
When the baton is being passed from one runner to the next, they only have 20 meters to make the pass. It can’t be too early and it can’t be too late. So, there is no room for delay. Making discples is the most important thing we can do once we have the baton.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
Once the disciples received the Holy Ghost, they weren’t supposed to tarry in jerusalem anymore. Jesus said wait there UNTIL. YOu can’t get the baton early, you have to have an upper room experience, but you also can’t keep waiting in the upper room forever. You’ve got to get out there and make disciples right away! Don’t miss the passing of the baton! Don’t keep waiting in the upper room. Don’t keep dwelling in spiritual infancy. Grow up and make a disciple! Take the baton as soon as it is passed.
Where did Jesus go start his disciple-making factory?
It says in our passage that he was walking by the Sea of Galilee. Not int he synagauge. By the sea.
Let me just tell you about Galilee. Jesus was from there. Nazerath was a southern city in Galilee. Now here, today, in southern California, it is a status symbol to have a big house overlooking the ocean. If you just have a silver of an ocean view even it is 20 miles away and you can make out the waves if you squint real hard and the light is just right and the fog has subsided… but if you have the sliver or ocean view (I’m talking to you Jon and Anna), your home value skyrockets. This wasn’t the case in Galilee. No one liked Galilee like they like Southern California. It didn’t mean as much to them to have water views of the sea. That’s why Nathanael said, Can anything good come out of Nazerath which was a town in Galilee? It wasn’t a tourist attraction. It wasn’t the most popular destination city. It was just the opposite. It was that side of town that you didn’t want to go to. And this is where Jesus went to find some disciples.
He didn’t go to Rancho Santa Fe and find the movie stars and the doctors. He didn’t knock doors in La Jolla and look for a billionare that might fund his ministry. No, He went to Galilee and found some poor fishermen. Which leads me to my next question.
What kind of person did Jesus choose to be a discple?
He didn’t go after the rich and famous. He didn’t talk to the religious elites. He didn’t try to win over the mayor.
My cousin just became elected the Sherrif of Etoway County Alabama where I grew up. I went to High School at Etowah High School with Caddilac Williams the former NFL running back. That’s my one claim to fame.
My cousin, the sherrif knows the truth. He heard if from my grandfather just like I did… but when he started running for Sherrif, every church in town wanted him to become a member. The bigger the church, the more votes he would likely get from the church members. He let it sway him. The church isn’t a place to promise votes to a local politition in return for his presence on our pews. If Mayor Sam Abed wants to join us, then let him join us, I would love it, but that’s not our target for disciplship. Jesus didn’t go after the mayor of Galilee, he went to the slums and found some fishermen.
Now, it is easy for us to overlook the cultural signifigance of Jesus’ choice of fishermen to base the foundation of his ministry on, and the foundation is exactly what they were. He said he would build his church on Peter and the apostles are the foundation of his house and Jesus is the chief cornerstone. With any stucture that is built, the foundation must be solid. You can cut corners on the roofing and maybe get away with it for a while, but if you cut corners on the foundation that building will not stand very long if at all. So, why would Jesus choose poor fishermen?
I often am plagued with this issue of interpreting the Bible through American eyes. I know we like to think that Jesus ate cheeseburgers and cherry pie and drove a candy apple red cheverolet. We like to think that the old testament heros were all stict Jewish traditional orthodox people, but the NT guys were all blue jean wearing Americans in our minds… whether you realize it or not, you probably let our American culture cloud your interpretation of the bible a little bit.
You see, fishing to us is a fun recreational activity. Some people do it for a living here in SoCal, but we don’t think they are bad people because they like to fish. I love sea food. But Jesus and his disciples were law abiding Jews. They had this one law that was difficult to avoid breaking as a fisherman that you may not have thought of before. Let me read you the Law.
He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.
And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even. And he that eateth of the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that beareth the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.
Did you catch that?
What happens when you take a fish out of water?
They didn’t have live wells back then. The fish they caught died before they reached shore, and somebody had to take those dead fish off the boat and carry them to the market. This means that every day except the sababath day, the fisherman was either in a boat alone or walking to the market unclean and someone that was unclean was to keep their distance from everyone else. This is why Nathanael said, can any good thing come from Nazerath? Isn’t everyone in Galalee an unclean fishermen?
Imagine your profession that you didn’t choose, your father’s father chose it, is the cause of your entire life being secluded. Either out at sea with your brother all day or walking to the market while eveyrone is trying avoid you. How alone would you feel? How desparate for attention would you be?
Do you know anyone like that? Someone at the office that everyone avoids? The one they all make fun of behind her back? The one that never gets picked for the team? That’s the person that Jesus chose to disciple.
People that don’t get attention, will light up like a Christmas tree instantly when they finally get it.
People crave relationship and attention. These are the people that Jesus went after, the unclean fisherman, the hated tax collector, the lepers who were supposed to camp outside the city in isolation. These are the people that Jesus gave attention to, and that’s why they followed him. All of them followed him.
Who do you think would more easiliy follow you if you gave them the time of day? The mayor, or the bagger at your local supermarket?
Oh, sure they aren’t cool… but maybe they aren’t cool because they feel alone and never get to practise being social. Jesus chose the outcasts, and I was one of them. I’m so glad he chose me… now I have the baton. Will I hold it, or pass it to someone that needs attention? Someone thats hurting and alone? Someone that is an outcast by societies standards? These are Jesus’ disciples. They are God’s children. I can’t drop the baton.
How do you know you’ve found the right person?
What did Jesus see in Peter, James, John Andrew, and Mathew? Maybe it was the fact that they lit up when he asked them to follow him. I don’t recommend using those words… Hey, Follow me.. People might be like, follow you where? But you can ask that lonely person to have a cup of coffe with you… and if light up when you give them attention, you might have yourself a person worth discipling.
They need to light up when you give them attention. When Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to follow him, the Bible says that left their nets and straightway followed him. This means they left their livelihood. They left their income. They left their source of food and shelter. They left everything they were familiar with. They left their traditions. They did this all because one man made such an impression on them that they felt like it was worth it. That’s how you know you have found the right person or people. You are not looking for someone that can be your mentor. You aren’t looking for someone you want to be like, someone you envy. You are looking for someone that looks up to you. You may not believe it, but someone is always looking up to us. No matter where you are in life, there is someone that wants to be where you are. Find that person. Not just random people, but be intentionally on the lookout for someone that you can disciple. Someone that might look up to you. Someone that if you gave them the time of day, they would light up.
When Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to follow him, the Bible says that left their nets and straightway followed him. This means they left their livelihood. They left their income. They left their family. They left their source of food and shelter. They left everything they were familiar with. They left their traditions. They did this all because one man made such an impression on them that they felt like it was worth it. That’s how you know you have found the right person or people.
You are not looking for someone that can be YOUR mentor. You aren’t looking for someone you want to be like, someone you envy. You are looking for someone that looks up to you. You may not believe it, but someone is always looking up to us. No matter where you are in life, there is someone that wants to be where you are. Find that person. Not just random people, but be intentionally on the lookout for someone that you can disciple. Someone that might look up to you. Someone that if you gave them the time of day, they would light up.
When you are running a race, you can’t grab 7 batons. You grab one at a time. If we all just went after one person… imagine. We have what, 40-50 people here tonight in the main sanctuary? What if we did this. We’d have over 100 in here on a midweek. Then imagine if all those people did this… Thats how Jesus grew his ministry. In 3 years time, he had some 500 people that witnessed his resurrection and came forward to tell Dr. Luke about it. Some 3,000 more were ready to join up just 50 days after His death. It started with a few outcasts, but then he started getting prominent men like Nicodemus to meet him in the night to talk to him.
So, once we’ve identified that person we want to dicsiple, we ask
How do I discple them?
I want to take a moment here to talk about spiritual maturity. Pastor just talked a little about this last week in his lesson, so I won’t go too deep. We know the Bible talks about being spritual babies and always needing milk and not being ready to eat the meat. Listen, before we can discple anyone, we need to grow up spiritually. .. and this has nothing to do with age. I don’t mean that you need to wait until you are 55 before you can disciple someone… but spiritually, you have to start taking responsibility for your own self.
There are 4 stages are growth spiritually. First you are dead, then you are born again and you are a baby, soon you grow into adolecense, and finally you become a parent of your own so that you can reproduce yourself in the Kingdom of God. And these stages are not always linier. You might make it to being a parent, but then become spirutually dead or go back to being a baby.
I dont’ think this takes years either. It all depends on you. If you want to, you can stay a baby forever. Always needing the pastor to tell you stop doing this sin, and straighten out this part of your life, and stop gossiping about so and so, and it could never end… or you can start growing up and learning right from wrong and entering adolecense.. and then you don’t just know right and wrong but you decide to do what is right even when no one knows you are doing it… then you start producing more disciples. That’s when you’ve finally matured as a follower of Christ.
And making a disciple is not just getting someone to church.. it is not about getting them baptized. That’s part of it, but it is much more than that. You can start discipling them before you ever break open .
I have a friend of mine that I’ve been discpling for about 3 years now. He’s never come to church, and won’t come to a Bible study, but he comes to me more and more about questions that he can’t answer. We’ve become friends. Close friends. I can call on him whenever I need something, and he can call on me. Imagine that… a friend that doesn’t go to church here. I’ve been over to his house, and he’s been to mine. I set down to eat with him. I’m doing life with him. I call him up to see if he wants to hang out. We do that often. Soon, very soon, he’s going to be here and you will all meet him. I know this, because he is my discple. But the key is not treat him like a number, a statisitic. I’m not just trying to “win” him. I’m truly his friend. I’m truly concerned about him. When he has a bad day, I want to hear about it. I listen. I don’t judge him.
This is what Jesus did. He met Levi aka Mathew and said, let’s have dinner at your place. And the only friends that Matthew had were other tax collectors and sinners. No one else wanted anything to do with Matthew, but Jesus gave him the time of day, and Matthew clinged to that attention like white on rice.
Attention to an isolated soul is like a magnet to metal or if you’re from Alabama, it’s like a tornado to a trailer park. You can’t keep them apart.
When Jesus found them, he did life with them. Asked them how their fishing was going, and then gave them some advice about where to throw their nets. He ate with them. He found a short man named Zacceus in a tree and sat down to dinner with him.. and this was after Jesus’ fame was spread abroad. He paid attention to the hurting, lonely souls and they could not help but follow him. Then Jesus just did life with them. He ate with them, walked with them, prayed with them, went to wedding with them and let them in on the secrets of the puzzling parable that he told the multitudes about. He took them aside and invested time and attention in them.
Jesus didn’t try to reach the multitudes. He told his discples to pray for laborers to do that. Jesus invested in his disciples… Then he passed us the baton to them.
Now, I want to spend a minute right here on this concept of investing time in other people. This is the true sign of spiritual maturity. When you stop needing someone to constantly pay attention to you, and you are more focused on paying attention to others. Think about it… That attention that you crave, other people crave it too. When someone gave you that attention, that means they had to stop thinking about themselves to give it to you, and you must do that same. Get yourself to a place where you don’t need to be tended to constantly. That attention you crave from our pastor 24/7, is attention that he doesn’t spen on himself, but it is also time that he can’t spend on newborns in the the church. Don’t be a forever baby. Open up a clothing store called forever one. That’s not helping the Kingdom of God grow. and it isn’t helping yourself grow either.
My kids… they need attention. but Levi needs more than Nora, and Nora needs more than asher. Asher has started making his own pop tarts and putting on his own shoes. He’s practically grown or so he thinks. He is starting school this year, I can’t believe it either. And before you know it, he will be off to college and living his own life. At that point, barring any devastating life choices, my son will be on his own. He won’t need me anymore. If he does get into a bind, I’ll be there for him, but he will be expected to not make a habit of coming to me for help. He’ll need to figure out life on his own.
This is where we need to get to spiritually. We need to get to a place where we don’t have to be constantly reminded to pray or read the word. We fast because we want to control our flesh instead of letting our flesh get us into trouble and then come running to our “parent” our spiritual leader to bail us out of the trouble that we shouldn’t even be in.
When we finally reach that level of spiritual adulthood, we will be able to turn our attention away from ourselves and put it on a new disciple.
So where do we start?
Remember, Jesus didn’t go looking for discples in the synagauge. He found them out by the sea. We can’t be sitting around waiting for people to show up on a Sunday and then attack them like vultures to take them on as a disciple. We should be discipling people that have never even darkened the doors of this church.
And the Key is to invest our time into them. That’s where we start. Jesus did it. We need to do it too. Remember the definition I gave you of a disciple?
A disciple is a student who adheres to and (travels with) a teacher in a relationship based on education.
The teacher has to develop a relationship with the student.
How does a relationship develop?
I’m glad you asked. Relationships start with fellowship. Something that I feel like the church today is missing, is authentic fellowship. Fellowship is not shaking hands and smiling at everyone after service. Fellowship is not saying hello as you rush out the door to your car because your sunday nap is a callin’.
Fellowship is spending time with each other in small groups called social spaces. You can’t fellowship in a Sunday Service. Sunday Worship Services are Public spaces.
Let me explain.
There are 4 types of spaces.
Imagine 4 circles and each one is smaller than the last one. The public space is bigger than the social space and so on.
When Jesus talked to the multitudes, that was a public space. When you attend a baseball game, that is a public space. Listening to a me tonight is a public space. None of you are interacting with each other. You are only listening to me. A classroom, and mall, a large swap meet. These are public spaces. You cannot fellowship in a public space. It is not possible. In a public space you don’t really know anyone else very well. You could know some of their names, but probably not all of them and you don’t know what anyone really does outside the public space where you saw them. You don’t know their secrets, and you may never talk to most people in the public space at all. If you do, it is nothing more than a superficial salutation and the question that no one wants a truthful answer to in a public space, “How do you do?”.
If the only interaction that you get with other people in the church is in a public space... then you don’t have fellowship.
Why do we need fellowship?
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Fellowship is needed because iron sharpens iron, but if iron never sees another piece of iron, then how can it be sharpened? Fellowship is needed because when John Mark feels dejected, Barnabas takes him under his wing and raises him back up. Fellowship is needed because
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Fellowship is needed because where 2 or 3 are gathered together in his name, he will be in the middle of it.
Fellowship is needed because when I stumble, I need you to pick me up.
Fellowship is needed because without it, we only focus on ourselves. We are selfish by nature. We have to care for ourselfs. It is the law of self preservation.
Nothing is wrong with you if you love yourself, that’s normal, but something is wrong if you never love your neighbor has yourself.
If we cannot have fellowship in a public space, then let’s dive deeper.
Social Spaces are about 5-20 people and is a place where you might know everyone’s name, but you don’t know all about their business. You still don’t know their secrets, but you might know what a few of them do outside the social space. If you are at a company party, or a house party, or a small wedding reception, this is a social space. There are less than 20 people in this space, and people are forced to talk to each other more than just saying hello.
It is in this size space that where fellowship is possible, but it cannot be forced. There is enough people in this size space to find someone that has something in common with you and you can do one of two things with that. You can invite that person into your personal space, or you can continue to be isolated.
Isolation is the 8th deadly sin. You can’t be a christian and be isolated. You were commanded to make disciples. You were commanded to take up the baton. If we are never in social spaces, how can we fellowship? We can’t just have doctrine and no fellowship. And if we don’t fellowship, we can’t have relationships, and if we don’t have relationship how can we make a disciple?
I remember as a teenager that after every service 15 or 20 of us would go out to eat somewhere. We did it all the time. Life long relationships were fostered in those social spaces. At my grandparents tiny church in the mountain, they used their fellowship after every service to guess what, fellowship. Imagine that. If we don’t have social spaces, we won’t have fellowship, and if we don’t have fellowship, we cannot have relationships… and we need relationships if we are going to make disciples.
THat’s the definition of a discple… a student that has a relationship with the teacher. THat’s a discple. Making discples is about making relationships. It is about investing your life into someone other than yourself. That’s what Jesus did. He gave his life for us! Who are you giving your life to?
So don’t creep back into your comfort zone of isolation.
Comfort doesn’t make disciples. Comfort makes cowards of us all.
As you know, pastor has announced that we are going to be doing small groups soon. I’m so excited about this. I truly believe that a small group is a perfect place for fellowship to foster relationships.
When you take someone from a social space into your personal space, you are now in a relationship with that person. It is called a friendship. A personal space is about 5 people. Most people do not have the capacity to be in a true friendship with more than 5 people. Outside of 5 people, they are likely just aquaintances.
If Jesus teaching the multitudes was his public space, the 12 were his social space, then the 3 that he took to the mountian were his personal space. Peter, James and John were his true friends. They were willing to defend him by sword, they laid their head on his chest, they were closer to him that the others.
The only way to truly make a disciple is to get someone into that personal space, and to get them to let you into theirs.
Not anyone can occupy this space. People that might fit your personal space won’t fit mine, and people that fit mine, may not fit pastor’s. You can’t force people into your personal space, and you certianly can’t force yourself into theirs. It takes time. It takes work. And it takes you and I getting our focus off ourselves. Don’t go out and try to force 57 people into your personal space. YOu have to be selective, and if we all work together we can reach the multitude, but not even Jesus tried to reach the whole multitude. He say pray for laborers while he brought just 3 men into his personal space.
The last level down is the intimate space. We only have room for one person in this space. It is most often a spouse, and if you are married then it better be your spouse, but it can also be your best best friend if you are not married. This was Peter to Jesus. He wittled the multitude down to 12, then down to 3, and finally to Peter, and he said Peter, I’m going to build my church on you. And that is why he trusted Peter to deliver the first sermon to the church in Acts chapter 2. He trusted him because he had crafted Peter into the type of desciple that was willing to go toe to toe with a Roman Soldier for his friend Jesus. Jesus created the ultimate disciple in Peter.
We must do the same. We have the baton.
It can’t be happenstance. It is an intentional process that needs to become interwoven into the culture of this church.
We must make disciples. We must make discples. We must make disciples.
Not just because Jesus told us to, but becuase that’s what a mature Christian is driven to do.
Don’t drop the baton.
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.
Watch this.. Jesus said “I am with you always”. What’s he saying. Even though Jesus left in bodily form, he’s here in Spirit form becuase a true disciple maker is always in a relationship with the disciple. Remember our definition. It isn’t just about the teaching, it is about the relationship between the student and the teacher.
Go Make Disciples means that we need to Baptize and Teach people while we are in a relationship with them. The relationship piece is the part we overlook. It is the piece we leave out. We try to give them doctrine without fellowship. We try to quote them without breaking bread with them in .
Here’s your baton.
Go Make Disciples.