To make disciples, you need to be a disciple

Here is the text and the discussion questions of the last message of our Scattered and Gathered Series that we have been doing since April. We tackled Matthew 28:16-20. This Sunday we have a picnic, then the following 4 weeks we'll be tackling the unChristian series. So today we come to the end of our series that we have been working through since April….looking at the two natures of the church….the Scattered nature of the church…being sent out into the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing blessing to the world. And the gathered nature of the church, where we gather together for community and discipleship. So therefore we’ve been looking at the three very things that drive what we are all about. The values of mission, community and discipleship.

April through May we looked at the value of mission, and ended our time together as we spent time at the Block Party on Queen Street. June through July we looked at the importance of community and how it is impossible to be a follower of Jesus and try to do life alone. We continue working on developing community in various ways (next week is our End of the Summer picnic at my house, and we are looking at holding a Guys Night in the next few weeks, and hope to throw a lot more community building “events” during the next few months).

July through August we have been unpacking what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus through the lens of stories and teachings found in the book of Matthew. I won’t summarize all that we’ve looked at, but suffice it to say, a disciple of Jesus is one who is a learner or apprentice of Jesus, and seeks to orient and reorient their life around Jesus. To look like Jesus.

As we come to the end I thought we would unpack, what can be a very well known passages, for followers of Jesus, that I believe combines the two natures of the church, the scattered nature and the gathered nature. This passage is sometimes called the Great Commission by followers of Jesus and can be found at the end of the book of Matthew. Specifically it can be found in Matthew 28:16-20. And this is what it says, “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.”

So I want to spend time this morning unpacking this text and what it says about being a disciple of Jesus and also how it combines both natures of the church.

The first thing that I want to look at in this text is this surprising words found in verse 17. “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” These were disciples of Jesus, who spent 3 years with him, seeing his miracles, his teaching, seeing his death on the cross, and then 3 days later seeing him come back to life, and then spend the last 40 days in the resurrected Jesus presence. This statement might weird you out, like how can these disciples, who have the resurrected Christ right in front of them, doubt? This actually brings me hope, that even the early disciples didn’t have it all together. And they, on this day, as Jesus gets set to go back to heaven, are capable of doubt. So honestly, I believe a disciple of Jesus is one who doubts. A disciple realizes that they don’t have it all figured out, and that they are okay with that.

Now I truly believe that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but only faith’s misgivings. That we shouldn’t fear doubt unless it comes from sin; there is faith in honest doubt. So if doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, what is? I believe the opposite of faith is cynicism. And so here is the early disciples who gave their life to Jesus, doubting Jesus. So if you feel like you are struggling and thinking, man I can’t be a disciple of Jesus because I just have too many doubts, than realize that even the disciples of Jesus who looked eye to eye with Jesus doubted. And that doubt has a way of leading to faith, when we wrestle with our doubts.

So the next thing we read is what could be called Jesus’ most important message. Think about when someone is on the verge of passing away, they usually say things that they want to get across to their family, and friends. The thing that matters most. And so Jesus here is doing just that, letting his disciple in on a most important issue. His call for his disciples, is for them to go and make disciples and to teach them everything that Jesus had taught them. Dallas Willard, a theologian and author has this to say about the importance of this text, “The greatest issue facing the world today; with all its heartbreaking need, is whether those who by profession or culture, are identified as Christians, will become disciples- students, apprentices, practitioners- of Jesus Christ steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the heavens into every corner of human existence.”

Jesus told us, as disciples, to make disciples. Not converts to Christianity, nor to some particular faith and practice. He told us that while we are going, that we are to make disciples. That wherever you go this week, to school, to work, to play, in your neighborhood, etc… that you are to make disciples. This could also mean going to other parts of the world, but it doesn’t negate the fact that we are also to see where we are as a mission field to be about the work of discipling others into the ways of Jesus. This is one side of the nature of church, the scattered nature. If you want to obey this great commission, then you need to go. You can’t just stay. You can’t just stay in the gathered nature of the church all the time. But you can’t just go out alone trying to disciple others. You have to gather together, help disciple each other, teaching each other to obey everything that Jesus commanded, and then scatter out to make other disciples (which I believe includes the process of evangelism as well)

But all too often we have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. The current assumption is that you can be a Christian without being a disciple, but Jesus never made that assumption. To be a Christian, to Jesus, means looking like little Christs (where the name Christian came from) and that looking like little Christ’s means living under the teaching and life of Jesus. We have made disciples the elite within the Christian world, but Jesus calls each and every one of us to be and make disciples. We have said come to know Jesus, secure your place in heaven, than wait around till you die to go to heaven. Which has made what Dallas Willard calls “vampire Christians” who want Jesus for his blood and nothing else. Who don’t care about obeying everything that Jesus commanded, or who think being a Christian is just about a future destination and forgiveness of sins. Maybe that is why it seems like the 20th century/21st century evangelical church has had little impact on societal problems? Maybe the lack of care for social justice issues (all though this thankfully is starting to change) is because we believe Jesus wants us to be Christians and that means only being forgiven so we can go to heaven when we die and not truly understanding that Jesus doesn’t want us to be Christians in that sense, but disciples who live out Jesus call to “Follow Me.”

But what does it mean to be living out the Great Commission? What does it mean to “obey everything that I have commanded?” What does it look like to go and make disciples? How does it work for you and I and our community? That is what we will unpack together in our time of conversation and discussion.

1. What are your thoughts, comments, insights, questions, pushback, etc.. do you have regarding the text or the message? 2. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? How does or how could it look like on the ground, day in and day out for you? 3. How are you and I seeking to make disciples who obey everything that Jesus taught? 4. Who are you intentionally investing in, or intentionally discipling? (Whether they are a Christian or not)