Jesus Gave His Church a Job… Part 3

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, The Message). 

In this series (read part 1 here and 2 here), we’ve been examining the crisis of non-discipleship that the Church is finding itself in.   

The emphasis on “making disciples” from Matthew 28 is not to make good church people – those who attend and serve within a church including participation in its internal programs. While there is much good that is within this part of our life as a community of followers of Jesus, it has developed us into churchgoers but not so much as disciples. 

Disciples Are Salty and Shiny 

Disciples, or those who believe and follow Jesus, are, to paraphrase Jesus’ words in his Big Sermon, salty and shiny. 

Jesus said when we are salty, we are light (Matthew 5:13-16). Being salty means that we are living and leaning into increasingly being Christ-like in our thoughts, our opinions, our responses, our reactions. The less salty we are, the less we tend to shine. We become just another dim (or hidden) light in a world of dim-light options. I have read theologians and commentarians who say that Jesus is saying “You are ALL the light of the world.” Those who live a Jesus-centered life are the light of the world because we reflect Jesus who is THE light of the world.  

So the question is, how salty are we?  How salty we are is a direct reflection of how shiny we will be. Which drops us right back into the conversation on discipleship. 

Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20 as quoted above poses at least three points here that are relevant and to which we should be asking questions of our own disciplemaking habits: 

Train everyone you meet…in this way of life…instruct them in the practice…” 

  1. Train Everyone 
  1. In this way of life 
  1. (and) instruct them in the practice 

Last blog left us with two things to think on. One was that discipleship doesn’t occur through osmosis. You may read that and roll your eyes and say, “well, duhh!” But the reality is osmosis is the most common way we tend to convey discipleship. We preach good sermons and hold good Bible studies and hope something rubs off. While learning by osmosis has its value, it also has limitations.  

Intentional, Relational Discipleship 

Discipling one another in the way of Jesus and His kingdom point of view doesn’t happen only because we follow Him from mountain to mountain to hear sermons. He was intentional in relationally discipling those that followed Him more closely, including those beyond the twelve whom He chose to train so as to train more disciples, or more specifically to train everyone they meet as they go through life – being salty and shiny! 

The other thought from our previous article was about unlearning what we already assume and think we know: being humbly prepared to let Jesus change our point of view about our religion, our practices of it and even the purpose(s) of it.   

How does our point of view about the world, religion, and even our own faith start to be transformed? Jesus infers it starts as we train one another (that’s the everyone) in this way of life. He takes His hearers back to what is most important for discipleship and the task or purpose of those who follow Him – His church.   

From my decades of scouring the Scriptures to understand this, I’ve found that our purpose as Christ’s witnesses (those who witness us see us as shiny; or not) is reflected in Jesus’ statements in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), The Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:37/Luke 10:27), and the intent (which Jesus demonstrated frequently in his words and deeds) of the Great Requirement (Micah 6:8).  

You may think this is simplistic, but if we intentionally and relationally disciple one another, as lifelong learners, in the ways and intent of these, our worldview will be influenced. If, that is, we are humbly willing to lay down our assumptions and preconceptions from our own point of view to Jesus’ point of view (POV). As we increasingly adopt the view of God’s kingdom, already working right here, right now; if we practice justice-making, peace-making, mercy, hope, meaning, joy, grace and love towards our ‘neighbours’, we, who are also our neighbour, will increasingly “…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- (so) that (we) may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18-19).   

As we live our everyday-as we are going-along the way lives, seeing people and circumstances through a Jesus POV, we cannot help but then practice it. As children of God walking alongside one another in every aspect of life, pointing one another to Jesus’s point of view, we will experience transformation of our hearts, minds, soul and strength and increasingly find ourselves grace-filled with compassion, practicing the fruit of the Spirit  towards brokenness of our human experiences both in one another and in ourselves.  

We will develop saltiness in ourselves and our saltiness will be Christ’s witness to the world of God who so loved the world he died to redeem, reconcile and restore all our relationships: with God himself, with one another and with self. On the matter of salt, Jesus asks the question: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? His answer: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Salty and shiny. 

Our shiny-ness is our evangelism. Like discipleship, it is a lifelong way of life, not a program.   

One final note for pondering. Our age of Enlightenment participated in transforming discipleship from apprenticeship relationships to knowledge-based programs. We became less salty thus less shiny, which affects how people see Christ in us (our shiny bits). So we created programs to help increase our evangelism. 

But neither discipleship nor evangelism, as posited from the beginning of this series, are programs. When we are salty, we are shiny. Evangelism is not the purpose of the church. Discipleship is, and evangelism happens because we are discipling one another to learn, teach, live and practice the beautiful way of Jesus. 

Jesus Gave His Church a Job…

…To “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything [he had taught and] commanded.” This was the Risen King revealing God’s mission to the world, through the gathered disciples. In many Bible translations we’ve aptly titled it the Great Commission, because of the clarity of vocation for the church, those gathered together under Christ. 

On this blog we’ve often written about discipleship in connection with church planting, defining church planting as the fruit of disciples who make disciples who can also make disciples. Disciple-making is the call of the Great Commission. In other words, the mission of the church isn’t evangelism, it’s discipleship.  

In an interpretive misunderstanding of the “go” in Jesus’ Commission, we’ve made the “going” the mission. The more literal translation in the Greek is not an imperative “go,” but rather a descriptor of how we make disciples: as the disciples are going (back home from the mount in Galilee), and as followers of Christ we each go about our lives (our witness), we make disciples of all the people we encounter, baptizing them when they recognize they have a need to travel a different road (repentance and salvation). Then, they begin the lifelong journey of intentional and accountable discipling of one another. 

Before we go further, I do want to say that I am thoroughly convinced that all humans are always being discipled by others, and therefore are witnesses of that discipleship. My Grandmother discipled me to view the mentally challenged adults she worked among with respect and honor. My Great Grandparents discipled me to care for the frail and elderly when I served tea and talked with those in their old age care home. Culture and societal values have certainly discipled me to a variety of worldviews and ideas, many of which I still find myself needing to submit to Christ. Everyone is being discipled, and by the way we speak, form opinions, act or don’t act (our witness), everyone is discipling others whether they realize it or not. 

With that in mind, every person we encounter and are in some form of relationship with, are being discipled by us before we even mention Jesus/church/God/salvation. What we are discipling them to, is another matter.    

Here, we are talking about the kind of discipleship that shapes us towards being image bearers of God’s character, by living lives increasingly reflective of Christ’s kingdom point of view. That’s a lifelong, relational journey, putting all our heart, mind, soul and strength increasingly under the Lordship of Christ. When we are on that kind of journey, evangelism is what naturally happens “as we go” as demonstrative witnesses of Christ where we live, work, play and pray. 

Somewhere along the way, discipling one another in intentional, relational communities has become something many leaders yearn for, but are wary to lead into, knowing many church-goers like going to church, but are not particularly interested in being in accountable discipleship relationships with the group of people they worship with on Sunday. We compartmentalize different aspects of our lives and justify and rationalize that because Jesus has saved the world and we’ve accepted that gift through baptism, God’s main requirement of us is that we “go” to church and possibly serve in the church’s programs and activities. 

Evangelism, then, has morphed into being a task/program of helping people make a decision for Christ by telling them a particular aspect of the gospel and encouraging them to come to church. Disciple making – on the level Jesus made disciples – became something optional as long as we could keep people attending our worship services.  Thus the creation of what is popularly known in the West as “consumer Christianity,” and our current non-discipleship crisis. 

As Dallas Willard is famously known for saying, “non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.” 

We’ve long known the elephant was there.  We thought that we could solve our current declines in church attendance with more evangelism, more “witnessing” while our own witness to the world in word and deed, both as individuals and as corporate entities, looked not a lot different from those who did not profess to be followers of Christ and tragically, worse. Conferences, books, lectures and missional and church planting networks rose up to help us with increasing our evangelistic impulses, whilst ignoring the elephant taking up the majority space in the room with the solution written across its body: discipleship. 

To be clear, if we do not refocus our time, our budgets, our energy, and our mission, toward making disciples who make disciples and so on, there will be little evangelism (witness). Evangelism happens because we are making disciples who are then making disciples who also make disciples.   

Matthew commentarian Rodney Reeves says it like this: “When these disciples make disciples of all peoples, then the reign of Christ is present. And when those disciples make other disciples, then the unstoppable kingdom of heaven will continue to extend all the way to the ends of the earth.”1 

You might think this is just hair splitting, but just looking around us, we can see that making people into church-goers has not been as effective as we would hope in changing the lens through which they see the world. We all have multiple, and often opposing, ideas on politics, culture, social issues, entertainment, the poor, the marginalized, the homeless. That’s normal, of course, we aren’t talking about uniformity where we all think, act, vote or even necessarily interpret scripture the same way. But we are talking about sanctification, where our worldview, with the guidance of the Spirit and one another, begins to be reshaped so that we look, speak, behave, and love more and more like Jesus, living life by the examples he taught and by obeying his commandments of loving God, self and neighbour with all we are and all we have as we participate in God’s kingdom of peace, joy, righteousness and love towards all humanity. 

In the following posts that look at the crisis of non-discipleship the church faces, we will examine some things we need to rethink and some things we need to lay down next time. In the meantime, ask for God to help us be open for all our hearts, minds, soul and strength to be shaped like Christ “as we are going”…


  1. Reeves, Rodney, Matthew: The Story of God Bible Commentary

Go… But First, Wait

As our period of 77 Days of Prayer and Discernment draws to a close, I want to share an article about how in order to be Christ’s sent ones, we must first listen and wait on Him. These past 11 weeks, we’ve been leaning into this calling to go, but first wait, so I hope you will be encouraged by this article! ~Cailey Morgan

 

wait-saturate.jpg

 

By Ben Connelly, saturatetheworld.com
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John
baptized with water, but you will be baptized  with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore
 the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons
 that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when
 the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in
 Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

My Biggest Failure

“What’s been your biggest missional failure?” That’s a question I asked many respected, experienced church planters during a series of interviews in 2014. Some chuckled as they shared a personal embarrassment; others told laugh-out-loud stories of tactical mistakes.

But one response was different from the rest. It was totally unexpected, and has stuck with me for over three years now: the pastor became stone-faced sober and said, My biggest failure by a country mile was berating God’s people to mission, as opposed to letting the gospel win their hearts, by the Spirit, for mission. I hammered them with the obligations of the gospel, without winning their hearts with the glorious things that God has done for them. They could only sustain living missionally for either short bursts of time, or for a longer time but then they eventually gave up thru weariness. Because Christ wasn’t continually refreshing their hearts. That was by far my biggest fail.”

As church planters and pastors, mission is woven into the very fabric of our roles and our lives. We are charged with loving neighbors; we spend our days and weeks trying to “go, make disciples”; we long to see our cities redeemed. And we spend endless hours pouring ourselves out to those ends. After all, one of the most known verses in the Bible is in Acts’ opening scene, where Jesus’ commands his first followers: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth…” (1:8). That’s our life, right, church planters?

But that’s not actually the first command Jesus gives in that paragraph.

Waiting

The first command in the book of Acts, which is rarely even spoken of, is in verse 4, “[Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” – which, he makes clear, is “the Holy Spirit” who comes upon us with the only power that can make our “going” and our “witnessing” possible (1:4-8, italics added).

In other words, Jesus’ first marching orders, to the small band of apostles and disciples on whom the fate of global Christianity rested, were, “Stop.” “Wait.” “Don’t go.”

It seems shocking – but the point is one that many of us, who love our neighbors and feel the urgency of God’s mission, need to heed. We cannot go; we cannot accomplish anything; we cannot rightly witness – if God doesn’t show up, empower us, and do what only God can do. Here’s the beauty: God promises us his Spirit in Acts 1, and in Acts 2, God fulfills that promise. The Spirit comes at Pentecost, people begin getting saved, and then God (through both human choice and human suffering) disperses his church throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and well beyond. God does charge us to make disciples, but only after we wait on him.

For some of us, that’s a needed breath of fresh air. For some, it’s a humbling truth. For some, it’s a lifeline as we feel like we’re drowning. Let’s learn from the interviewee’s warning. Let’s rest in God’s Word for ourselves and for those in our churches. Let’s be about the heart, the gospel, the “glorious things God has done,” and the Spirit more than the obligations, the actions, the berating, and even the “going” itself. Jesus sends us to be witnesses, but if we go without reliance, dependence, and the filling that only his Spirit can offer, we’ve missed the point completely.

This is my prayer for each of us: that our participation in God’s mission would be patient, prayerful, joy-filled, and free – even restful(!), because our role is simply obedience, as we wait on the Lord and follow his lead.

This guest post is originally found at at saturatetheworld.com.

I saw a great re-post of a tweet attributed to Eugene Peterson – “Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” We’ve written lots about watching for where God is already at work and joining Him there and I love the phrasing of “disciplined refusal,” but as this article reminded us, it is by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we are able to act at all.  Before we can gospel others, we must first be a people whose hearts and mission are “fanned into flame” because we embrace the gospel message ourselves in such a way as we cannot contain the hope, peace, joy and love overflowing from within ourselves and our church communities. And sometimes that means we have to wait in prayer to discover this. In this Advent season, how will you practice this discipline, remembering that waiting is not stopping activity, it is increasing prayer and discernment? ~ Shannon Youell

What ARE we planting?

by Shannon Youell

Thank you to one of our readers who brought up a couple of great questions in response to an article we reposted on our blog: “Five Church Planting Dangers” by Tim Chester.

Here is the response:

Great article re ‘what not to do’. However when you remove ALL of those possibilities it seems the “dream pool of concepts” is greatly diminished. It brings me back to a foundational question. WHAT are we seeking to plant? Where have we articulated our shared CBWC definition of a church plant?  Hugh Fraser

What I really liked about Chester’s article was that he pointed out both the dangers and the positives of different types of plant birthings and then summarized with succinct Constructive Principles: BE creative, positive, missional, contextual and biblical.  Whilst I realize these sound simple, any of us who have actually “done church” know how hard these things are!  Puzzled. CC David Goehring

But, the flaw I see in this article, and in this I pose the same question as Hugh: WHAT are we seeking to plant?  In each of Chester’s “models” the emphasis is on the creation or re-creation of communities that serve themselves. I don’t mean this in a negative way, as of course we are to love, serve and fellowship with one another, but when it comes to planting churches, is our biblical mission to create communities where “already followers” can gather?

At the risk of your (hopefully) constructive and thoughtful criticism, I humbly submit that the answer is mostly no, yet our methodologies and our ecclesiology often end up leaning towards the former.

The five models Chester highlights—and there are many variations thereof—are all models the church has used and each has pros and cons within their unique contexts.  But what we really need is a principle that works in any context.

Jesus’ model was about growing disciples to maturity so that they could make disciples who could grow disciples to maturity who could then make disciples.  He wasn’t “making” churches, but disciples, and in that Jesus builds his ekklesia: a group of people who are citizens and thus free, called to gather together  to have an affect on the communities and cities they live in by introducing the kingdom of God into the places and spaces where darkness still has a hold.  These are the type of disciples Jesus calls us to be and to make.

Now, this is a blog and research shows that this post is already getting too long for the average attention span of our post-modern sound-bite world, so I will not even attempt to go further here on that statement at this time, except to say that I wonder what it would look like if our energy and resources were poured into making those who have received Jesus as Savior, to developing ourselves and one another into mature disciples who can truly also let Jesus be our Lord and live our lives in complete devotion to the things He is devoted to.  The good news is that we do it right here, right now in our own places and spaces where we live, work, play and pray.  This is our mission field and it is ripe to harvest.

Oh, and I will address Hugh’s second question next time!  In the meantime watch this little clip from Verge Network of David Platt talking about just this topic….it will only cost you another few minutes!

 

I would love to have dialogue with you on this topic. Come and join the conversation! Email me at syouell@cbwc.ca or comment on the blog. Every viewpoint is welcome, and I believe even when we disagree on something, that if we respectfully read and listen, we can all learn from one another.

Till next time!

Shannon Youell
CBWC CP Co-ordinator/Director

 

 

Church Planters = Community Seeders

By Shannon Youell

I have a confession to make.

I’m not sure what I think about the term ‘church planting’. In fact, since coming into the role of Church Plant coordinator/director, I have been trying to find a succinct descriptive of what we mean when we talk about planting churches.

Photo: Tez Goodyer

Photo: Tez Goodyer

I’ve asked the question to any who would hear me out and asked for suggestions, thoughts, wild ideas even. Not because I think the term is a bad one or anything, but because, like any word or term that we routinely toss about, we have preconceived ideas of what that looks like and for me at least, the term speaks recreating/reproducing structures. Build and they will come. And some will for sure and I am ever so grateful that one can find churches all over communities when the Spirit begins to woo the curious to return to what has been rejected or to discover what they’ve always yearned for.

But is that recreating/reproducing of places of worship the metric we should use to determine if the Great Commission is being fulfilled? I just don’t see where Jesus called us to be church planters though he certainly majored on the making of disciples and commissioned us to do the same.

So, for me, the metric is that we are disciples of Jesus who make disciples (of not yet and new believers) who grow into communities who choose to gather together to worship, pray, teach, learn, eat, laugh, mourn, and sometimes even ‘do’ life together, not only for an hour and a half on Sunday or Wednesday study or prayer time, but also when we scatter into our everyday lives and the everyday places we find ourselves into and scatter seeds of gospeling as image bearers; light bearers of Christ, who make disciples who grow into communities who choose to gather together…..

Maybe that is how you would describe church planting and I just have to get over my preconceived bias of what the term seems to represent, but either way as followers of Christ, each and everyone of us (not just ‘leaders’ or ‘pastors’ my friends) but every single one of us who confesses Jesus as our Savior and our Lord, fall under the descriptive. We are the ‘church planters’, the ‘community seeders’, the disciples and disciple makers.

I would love to hear any ideas you might have on how we can rethink our language around ‘church planting’, or ways you are re-framing , or ways you are re-framing your gathered faith community to become disciples who make disciples?

Email me at syouell@cbwc.ca, or post a comment on this blog.

We can all learn from one another, so let’s start sharing!

Be the Mentor you Want to Have

by Cailey Morgan

Chuck Lawless recently wrote a helpful and thorough article on “Why Everybody Needs a Mentor and How to Find One.” And while I think he’s definitely right, there’s another side of the coin. I kind of wish he’d written on “Why Everybody Needs a Mentor and how to BE One.”

Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” goes beyond evangelism. It goes beyond getting people through the door of the church. In fact, if we’re taking discipleship seriously, most of it won’t happen on a Sunday morning.

A big part of the Great Commission is the raising up of God’s children into mature disciples who in turn go and make disciples themselves. I’m convinced a critical piece of that call includes mentorship and menteeship. We all need to be encouraged and challenged, which happens best when coming from someone further along in their walk with Christ. But don’t you think that one of the best ways to solidify what we’ve been learning is to practice it? We all have someone in our lives who could benefit from our encouragement and accountability.Baptism-service-Brother-Sun

So, here are a few of Lawless’ points about why mentorship is important, but I’d like us to relate them to both receiving and giving intentional discipleship:

  • It’s biblical. We can name them. Moses and Joshua. Jethro and Moses. Naomi and Ruth. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and His disciples. Paul and Timothy. Paul Himself told us that elders must teach the next generation (Titus 2).
  • We’re created to be in relationship with others. When God declared it was not good for Adam to be alone (Gen. 2:18), He was not indicating that every person must be married. Instead, He was showing us that none of us is created to be a loner. He expects us to walk together with others.
  • None of us knows everything. I don’t know anyone who would say he knows all things, but I do know people who live that way – distanced from others, standing alone, and completely unteachable. We are not so smart that we have nothing to learn from another.
  • All of us have blind spots. By definition, a “blind spot” is something we don’t see.  So, if you say you don’t have blind spots, you just admitted you do. We need someone else to help us see ourselves fully.
  • Experience is a great teacher. We know that truth because we’ve been there. We know better now because of mistakes we made in the past. In a good mentoring relationship, we learn from somebody else’s experiences as well.
  • Life will sting sometime. It happens to all of us. The proverbial floor drops out beneath us. Our plans get redirected or shattered. Life hurts – and we need someone to help us carry the burden when it does.
  • People are God’s gift to us. Dr. Bill Lane, the mentor of Christian musician Michael Card, put it this way: “When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person.” We miss this gift when no one walks beside us to guide and encourage us.

If you need help finding a mentor, or are looking for resources on how to be a good mentor yourself, let us know! We’s be happy to point you in the right direction.

New Peoples; New Churches

By Ron Orr, Alberta Regional Church Planting Director

We all know that there are new peoples, immigrants, streaming into Canada every day. And they are beginning dozens of new churches, here, in their new country.

Here is the face of Canadian Baptist church planting in Alberta today:

Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Calgary

Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Calgary

  • A multi-city African fellowship of Swahili speakers
  • An Ethiopian church
  • A group of Indonesian Christians,
  • 2 French/Creole speaking churches
  • A whole movement of 8-10 new churches deliberately planted by Filipinos along the Edmonton-Calgary corridor
  • Another Filipino initiative began when Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Manila sent missionaries here to plant churches here, in their “ends of the earth”
  • Karen refugees from Burma gather in worship
  • At least 2 Japanese congregations
  • Several Spanish speaking flocks

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Many new churches are springing up in Alberta, speaking different tongues, often with bi-vocational pastors leading them.

Some of our visionary established CBWC churches are seizing the opportunity to share in Kingdom work with these new congregations. They share spaces, wisdom, and bookkeeping services.

We’re grateful for the generous support of churches like Westview Baptist who have offered their facility, money, and administrative resources to support new churches in Calgary. But you don’t have to be a big church to make a big difference. What would church multiplication look like for your congregation?

It is an exciting time to see what God is doing. Will you look for opportunities to partner with whoever is moving into your neighbourhood?

If you or your church would like to engage the Great Commission with a new church plant, contact Ron Orr at pastorron@platinum.ca to see how you can get involved.

This article was originally featured in the CBWC’s Alberta-NWT regional newsletter, Our Journey. Email Sharon Onciul at abarea@cbwc.ca to subscribe.

 

Joining God in the Neighbourhood

When we ask God to be with us as we work for His Kingdom in our communities, are we missing the point of the Great Commission? Should we ask, rather, to join Him in His ongoing restoration of all things?

In this brief video, Alan Roxburgh gives four reasons for joining God in the neighbourhood. Can you think of other reasons?

What would it take in your church to re-engage the neighbourhood in a new way? What are the roadblocks? What are the opportunities?

Share your thoughts with us here!