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MIssion Driven Church: Go and Tell

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Introduction to Series

What drives you? What is it in your life that motivates you to get up each morning? What gives you energy and passion in life?
I had good friend all through life who is driven to make beautiful music. Money does not drive him. Fame and influence or power have no pull un his life. He simply loves music. He plays multiple instruments from clarinet, to cello, to piano really well and then lots of other competently. He plays in a bar band and in a church band and teaches music. He is driven by the music.
Some people in school are driven to be the top in their class. Maybe it is top in grades or popularity or athletics, but they long to be the best.
I have another friend who is a gifted leader and motivator. He has always been drawn to roles where he can shape an organization and motivate a team to achieve more then they thought possible and that drive led him to eventually become the CEO of his firm.
We all have things that motivate and drive us to work hard in life. It may be raising kids who love Jesus or making a welcoming home for others or learning or exploring. Lots of things can motivate us.
Lots of things can motivate churches, too. Some churches can get caught up in culture wars or political movements. Others focus on being together and having community with their friends and family. Others are driven by a desire to be protected from the influence of the world.
When I think about God’s purpose for the church, which is really all about God’s mission for the world, my mind goes almost immediately to Revelation 7 which says:
Revelation 7:9–10 NIV
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Our mission, as a church and as believers, at its very core is simply this, to see that great multitude in heaven praising God grow bigger and bigger. This is why we exist. Not to have worship services every Sunday. Not to enjoy a meal with a 7 to 9 group. Not to feed kids on the weekend or provide personal care items or a dignified shopping experience for people in a tough spot. Those are all great things, but the goal of the church is to see the population of God’s kingdom grow.
Over the next three weeks, we are going to be looking at 3 key teachings of Jesus that flesh out for us how we are to join God in his mission of redeeming and rescuing this world he loves. Next week, we will look at the great commandment in Matthew 22. The following week, we will look at Jesus Great Mission from Luke 4. And this week, we will look at the Great Commission Jesus has give us in Matthew 28. But before we dive into scripture this morning, let us pray.
Teach us your way, O Lord, and lead us on a level path. Teach us, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then we will keep them to the end. Give us understanding, and we will keep your law and obey it with all our hearts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Text

Matthew 28:16–20 NIV
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
L: This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!
P: Praise to you, O Christ!

The Basis: All Authority Belongs to Jesus

Our text this morning comes at the very very end of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus has died and been raised and is now meeting with his disciples before he ascends to heaven.
The disciples gather on the mountain, and here the Greek is really interesting because it could be the mountain where Jesus told them to go OR it could be the mountain where Jesus taught them. So, it could be some generic mountain in Galilee or it could be the mountain where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
Regardless, they gather on this mountain to meet with Jesus. When they see Jesus, some immediately fall down and worship Jesus while others doubt or hesitate. They hold back. They have questions. They aren’t quite sure what to make of this resurrection. What does it mean? Who could Jesus be? Did it really happen? These and many more questions must be swirling in their head.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke or reject them for their doubts and hesitation, he comes near to them and simply declares who he is. He is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Don’t miss this. This is the gospel message of the resurrection. It is the gospel Paul preached so clearly in Colossians. This gospel is the reason the early church faced persecution.
The gospel the early church preached was not only forgiveness of sins, though that is central. The gospel was that in Jesus and through his church, God was establishing his reign, his perfect kingdom of justice and grace and earth, and the only way we can be a part of this kingdom is to be perfect or have our sins forgiven through Jesus who reconciled us to God.
Our mission then is not about winning a culture war or building God’s kingdom or growing the church or accumulating political influence, it is simply to proclaim the truth that Jesus reigns over all and all people, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high, will ultimately be held accountable for their actions by Jesus when he returns and fully brings about his kingdom.
our activity as a church flows from the power and authority of Jesus and not our own and certainly is not driven by fear of the decline of the church or the changing of our culture because we know all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. This is the basis of the mission of the church: the authority of Jesus.

The Task: Make Disciples

Our task is absolutely clear. The one with all authority over heaven and earth has told us to go and make disciples. Not go and have a Bible study. Not go and have a prayer meeting. Not go and hold a worship service. All of these are great activities that may support the mission, but the mission of the church is to make disciples.
And here I want to pause for just a moment and clarify something I thought was obvious until a week or two ago. When we use the word “make,” we do not mean coerce, force, manipulate, or brainwash people. That seemed like common sense to me that if we are called to love people then we cannot force them to believe.
And, besides that obvious point, the phrase “make disciples” which is all one word in Greek, simply means to show someone how to follow Jesus. So, our job is to help people who do not know how to follow Jesus begin to follow Jesus.

The Steps: Baptize

There are two basic steps to this disciple making: baptizing and teaching. Baptism can seem rather symbolic and perfunctory for many of us. We dribble some water on someone’s head or dunk them in a river and say some words about the trinity. But baptism is so much more than that.
Two huge things are going on in baptism. First, for the person being baptized or making profession of faith, they are saying publicly that they are no longer going to live according to the patterns of the world. In the first century according to the polytheism of Rome and in the 21st according to the ways of secularism that says there is no divine and no reality beyond the physical. They are turning away from that worldview and all the ways that worldview leads us to value power over service, pleasure over sacrifice, freedom over self-control, and instead they are going to begin to try to follow the ways of Jesus that require loving our enemies, caring for the poor, using whatever power we have to benefit others and so on. It is a radical change in worldview and allegiance. These are simply massive claims they make in baptism.
But baptism is not only about the person being baptized, it is also about us. Baptism has historically been the rite, the ritual or practice, the church has used to welcome new people into the community. If we sprinkle water on people or formally welcome people as new members up front in a worship service, but we do not invite them into our homes and share our lives with them and seek to be a support in their lives, then we have not really baptized them because they have not been included into the community of God’s people in this place.
In a very simple way, this baptism becomes real when you talk with someone new after church in the lobby. Or when someone joins a 729 group and makes connections with people they didn’t know. Or begins serving in a ministry for the first time and makes new relational connections.
I was just talking about this with someone on Consistory recently how this was one of the gifts Sarah McAnally brought to Zion. She loved getting to know new people and didn’t just talk to them at church, but planned play dates and babysat their kids and invited people over for meals. I see Sharilyn VanWyhe picking up that baton from Sarah as she plans girls nights at her place and when new small groups form or someone new gets invited to join a small group or discipleship triad. We baptize people not just in the formal sacrament, but we embody that baptism when we include them in our lives.

The Steps: Teach to Obey

So, we baptize people. And then we teach people to obey everything Jesus commanded us. I want to suggest to you today the key words in this phrase are “everything” “commanded” and “Jesus.” We are not to teach people to follow some of what Jesus commanded, but all of it. We don’t get to pick and choose which parts of Jesus’ teaching we get to follow.
Love you enemies, but don’t worry about your anger? Not an option. Be generous to those in need, but don’t worry about chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage. Not an option. Refuse to swear oaths to other things or people, but strive for personal power. Not an option for a follower of Jesus.
We are to seek to obey everything Jesus commanded. Even when it is inconvenient. Even when we think Jesus didn’t understand the complexities of out world. Even when it contradicts our preferred politics. Even when it leads to rejection and conflict and with family and friends and even other Christians. Yep. We are to teach people to obey everything Jesus commanded. A
Which also means, we are to focus on how Jesus commanded us to live. Not what our peers think. Not what our parents said. Not tradition. And let us not forget that Jesus told us not even a dot or a dash of the law is replaced by his teaching. So this is a command not simply focused on Jesus direct words in scripture, but includes all of scripture.
So, when we read the Bible, we need to do the hard work of paying attention to the cultural context, the context of the verses and chapters around it, how a particular passage fits in the whole story of the Bible, but if we stop there. If we settle for knowing really cool things about the Bible. If we settle for even memorizing the Bible, as good as that may be. We are not disciples.
We are not disciples, until we begin to put into practice all scripture has to teach us. And, we are not discipling others unless we show them how we are putting all of scripture into practice in our lives, even when Jesus’ teachings are really hard for us personally.
We are to baptize, to include in community, and then teach to obey all Jesus has commanded that our lives might be shaped to look like the life of Jesus.

The Power: Jesus is With Us

All fo this sounds pretty theoretical to me even as I am talking so let me get down to a really practical method to disciple, baptize, and teach people. This is a square. This square is a visual reminder of the four basic steps in discipling someone.
First, let me note, as Jeremy and I have discussed often. What we are doing right now. Preaching and listening to a sermon is basically the worst way possible to disciple someone. Of all our options to influence people to make changes in their life to better follow Jesus, this about the worst way to do it.
But this square is a great way. Whenever you teach someone a new skill, habit or job, you need to walk them around the square to effectively equip them to do the task or adopt the habit.
First, they watch you do it. They watch you clean the dishes or change the oil in a car or set-up your home wifi or pray with someone else. Next, they help you clean the dishes or change the oil or set up a wifi or pray with someone else and then you give some feedback. Third, you help them clean the dishes, change the oil, set up the wifi or pray with someone and then you give them some feedback. Finally, you watch them clean the dishes, change the oil, setup the wifi, or pray with someone and then you give them some feedback. Now, they know how to clean the dishes, change the oil setup the wifi, or pray with someone. And they have also experienced an effective way to teach someone else.
This is the way Jesus discipled his followers and it is still the best way to shape someone’s life. But, you can’t do this until you are willing to let someone into your life, into your home, into your day-to-day experiences where they can see you and how you handle frustrations, failures, insults, suffering, and success. Discipleship is not ultimately about a class or a system, it is about a relationship where we learn to follow Jesus by imitating someone else who is following Jesus.
It won’t happen by just talking on a Sunday morning or meeting for coffee every so often, it takes time, persistence, and patience.
What are you willing to do? What are you willing to sacrifice? Who are you willing to invest in so that you can join Jesus in this great commission of making disciples?
If this all feels a little overwhelming, remember and meditate on the promise at the end of our passage, Jesus is with us. He goes with us unto the world. He is with us as we disciple and as we learn to obey him better ourselves. We disciple others not on our own, but with Jesus. Let’s go join him this week.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
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