What is Our Job?

By | April 27, 2011

I heard Mike Breen speak a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting; if I were to be asked to relate the basics of Christianity, I would have covered all of the same points which he did, only using different language. One thing he said stuck in my mind, not because of it being a new idea, but because it was well put:

We [Christians] have thought it is our job to make and “do” church, and that it is the church’s job to create disciples. But we have it wrong, and that’s the reason we are seeing such poor results. Jesus told us to make disciples. As we make disciples, church will happen. The church’s job then is to display God’s image to the world. (paraphrased)

This is so good! We (the church) are Christ’s body. Jesus is the image of God. Therefore, as people look at us, they should be seeing what God is like! We are the witness to the reality of God and his ways. We do this by making disciples—followers of Christ. And Jesus said we should be known for our love. Isn’t that perhaps because love is one of the very most core, foundational characteristics of God?

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  • Charlie Webster

    Discipling is the job—it is the commandment and it is where we need to focus. But we need a few things to make the job happen.

    1. We need to understand that discipling is the job. You and Mike are correct in seeing the importance of this. In spite of erroneous translations of the Great Commission, there is no commandment to go. When Jesus gave this commission, he used a participle for Go. That means that it really should be translated “going” or “as you go” or “wherever you go.” If the commandment were actually to “go” as to a mission field, most Christians could not obey, in part because they do not have what it would take to do so, and in part because the church could not provide the needed support. And it would not make sense anyhow. Jesus was no fool. He knew that people would go just as a part of their lives—some would go locally and some internationally. His point was that wherever we go, we should constantly do the things that would make people want to be his disciples.

    2. Having said that, we need to consider how to “do the things that would make people want to be his disciples.” Here the lesson of the fisherman is important. The good fisherman does not chase the fish. Instead, he offers the fish something that the fish wants, and he lets the fish come to him. The primary key (the “bait” if you will) is the heart and soul of Christianity: Christian love. When I say Christian love, it is important to understand that the biblical idea of Christian love is not romantic love or family love or sexual love. The best simple definition of Christian love that I have come up with is “unselfish, caring, generous, active, forgiving love.”

    a. Unselfish: It’s important to understand that the “unselfish” part applies to this world. Christian love has great self-interest in an eternal sense, but Christian love is incompatible with worldly selfishness. God is love (1John 4:8), and as Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and the things of this world” (Matthew 6:24). As long as we focus on worldly selfishness, we cannot draw people to Jesus the way we were intended to do. Wall Street and Madison Avenue may teach us that “greed is good,” but that concept is completely opposed to our Lord’s commandment to love others as we love ourselves.

    b. Caring: The very heart of Christian love is that it is a caring love. It is a love that sees the needs of others and truly cares about those needs. It is a love that looks upon an enemy or someone you may despise and recognizes that the things you hate or despise in that person are signs of something seriously wrong in that person’s spiritual life. It is a love that, even when it is necessary to participate in having a person’s wrong-doing punished, still sees the need and takes the time and effort to sincerely pray for and try to help that person. As Jesus said, as his disciples we cannot stop with loving our friends or those with whom we are comfortable, we have to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-47). It is only when people see that we truly care about them that they will be drawn to the thing that causes us to be generous—in this case, to the Lord who causes us to be generous.

    c. Generous: At least in the vast majority of cases, God does not want us to impoverish ourselves and become charity cases just to help others. However, when he has given us the ability and the means to help a person in need, he expects us to use what he has given us as faithful stewards. Will people abuse our generosity? Of course they will, but that is between them and God. Our job is to do what God has empowered us to do, to use for God what God has given us and let God deal with those who abuse our generosity (though it is certainly good and right to use common sense in this stewardship). When we show such generosity, people who see how much we care by observing our generosity will be drawn to the Lord who taught us to live this way.

    d. Active: A person may have an unselfish attitude, a caring heart, a generous open wallet when it comes to putting money in an offering plate, and still that person may not actively participate in meeting the needs of others. Christian love get’s a person’s hands dirty. Christian love sees the need and gets active in meeting the need. Sometimes we think that praying for a person is not much help, but that is the first thing a Christian should do. What greater source of power and help can we find? That should be our starting point, but when God has given us the ability to physically help, we must not stop with prayer. When people see that we are willing to follow our Lord in getting our hands dirty to help those in need, they will be drawn to our Lord.

    e. Forgiving: This may be the least popular aspect of Christian love, but it is a vital part of what it takes to “disciple the nations.” As long as the world sees Christians who cannot forgive each other or members of their own families, they will not be drawn to our Lord as he meant that they should be. When the world sees that we can love and forgive the person who abuses us, that we can love and forgive the person who cuts us off in traffic, that we can love and forgive the person who steals from us or kills someone dear to us, then the world will be drawn to our Lord who empowers us to love in this way.

    3. When a fisherman has hooked a fish, it is often important to have a net to scoop the fish from the water. For Christians, this net is a simple, easily communicated plan of salvation that is consistent with the message of the whole Bible and that is easy to defend from a biblical perspective. That plan of salvation is “Jesus is Lord.” It’s that simple. All the details of what to do and how to do it are resolved in those three words. This is a plan that does not stop with a “sinner’s prayer” (find that in the Bible) or a sprinkling of or dunking in water—it is open-ended even into eternity. It is something that can be found over and over throughout the New Testament. And when we realize that the God of the Old Testament came to earth in Jesus, then the message of the Old Testament is the same as the message of the New Testament. If someone asks what this means in a person’s life, the answer is also simple: “Learn what Jesus wants you to do and then do it.” And if someone asks what Jesus wants us to do, the answer is again very simple: Christian love first for God and then for everyone else.

    4. If a fisherman goes fishing, really wanting to catch some good fish, and then every time he gets a fish close enough to bring in, someone else scoops it out of the water for himself, that fisherman would soon be discouraged with fishing. The most motivating factor for a fisherman is when he starts bringing in the fish. The same is true for discipling (being fishers of men). If every time a person brings someone to the point of accepting Jesus and becoming a disciple, some minister steps in and takes credit for the conversion, the individual will soon become discouraged. We need trained ministers as the coaches to train us and guide us in how to do this job of discipling the nations, but the ministers need to step aside and let the Christians carry through on the job. If a Christian brings someone to the point where that person is ready to accept Jesus as Lord, that Christian needs to be taught to close the deal. The best way to do this is what Jesus taught as the first step of obedience: baptism. When the person who has led someone to the Lord feels the joy of bringing new life into the kingdom by actually participating in the baptism, the sense of motivation is wonderful. The normal response is, “I want to do that again!” And there is no reason to wait—find some water and get it done. If having family witness the baptism is important, re-enact it later or video tape it. Any successful salesperson knows the importance of closing the deal as soon as the prospect is ready.

    5. Baptism: There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about baptism. God is not impressed because people happen to get wet, no matter who gets them wet or what ceremony accompanies them getting wet. Getting baptized earns no credit with God. In fact, there is nothing a person can do to earn credit with God. All the things we do for God are things we should have done for our creator, and what he asks of us is clearly reasonable. “He has showed you, mankind, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do what is just, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). In other words, do what’s right, love forgiving others and being kind to others, and stay close to God. Who could argue that any of this is wrong or bad? But baptism was meant to be for us. It is like Colonel Travis drawing a line in the dirt and asking the men at the Alamo to step over that line if they were ready to die there at the Alamo. It is how a new convert physically acts out the death of a worldly person and the resurrection of that person into God’s spiritual kingdom. It is how a new convert physically acts out the washing away of his or her sins. It is how a new convert publically demonstrates his or her first obedience to the Lord.

    6. Once a person does accept Jesus as Lord, we who are already Christians need to help that person become a fisher of men, a discipler of the nations. Remember, the Great Commission has one commandment and two participles after the command that have to do with how to fulfill the commandment: the commandment is to make disciples wherever we go, and the following participles tell us to baptize these disciples and to train them to follow Jesus’ commandments of love for God and love for each other.

    If we wait for professional Christians to win the world, it will never happen. There will never be enough of them. But if we turn every Christian into a discipler, offering a simple message that is easy to communicate and that is obviously good, there is no way to calculate how quickly the church could accomplish the Great Commission.