If you had to choose between building relationships with lost people and going to church, which one would you do? Seriously. Most would answer, “Go to church, obviously.” Going to church is what “good” Christians do.
True. It’s a worthy thing to do, especially if being part of that church community is causing you to grow as a disciple. So often, though, there is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.
What do “good” disciples do? I believe that engaging with, befriending, and loving on lost people and sharing the good news with them, is what disciples do. It’s what Jesus did. He hung out with lost people a lot more than he went to synagogue meetings and conferences right?
Are Our Priorities, His Priorities?
I wonder sometimes why attending church weekly has become such a highly critical component of our “following Jesus” while making disciples is not. Jesus never once commanded us to “go to church every week.” He repeatedly told His disciples to “go and make disciples.”
He said He would make them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Jesus revealed His personal mission when He said, the Son of Man had come to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). I’m pretty sure the gospels speak a lot more about making disciples of lost people than about attending a meeting in a building once a week. Do you agree?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-church. I believe in the Church. I believe in the Church both universally and locally. It is the Bride of Christ and absolutely precious to God. I believe we are to be a part of it, universally and locally. Still, I wonder how our priorities got so off track from the scriptural mandate.
Someone said to me recently, “Jesus didn’t say to make disciple-makers, he said to make disciples.” They had issues with the expression of the Great Commission by various DMM/CPM speakers like Victor Choudhrie and Ying Kai*. I’ve been pondering that a bit this week. Is it an inappropriate distortion of scripture to add an emphasis on disciple-making when teaching on the Great Commission? I’m a seminary grad, so I went back to my hermeneutics training on this one.
It is true, Jesus said, “make disciples.” He didn’t say “make disciple-makers.” I believe though, in light of the huge lack of emphasis in the church today on the inherent role of disciple-making in the life of a disciple, it is not an inappropriate way to state the Great Commission. Instead, it is a needed emphasis to bring across the correct message. Jesus’ originally intended message would be consistent with using the word disciple-makers, not just the word disciples in Matt. 28:28-20.
Our Lord calls us to make disciples. A disciple is one who desires to follow the Master, become like Him, and who obeys His commands. One of His commands is to make more disciples. A disciple is, therefore, also a disciple-maker.
Let’s go back to the issue of re-aligning our priorities.
We all have limited time and make constant choices about how we will use that time. What are your essential activities and priorities? Is building genuine relationships with lost people one of them? Is opening up space in your life and schedule to share the gospel important to you? Are you watching for and seeking chances to share good news and make disciples of those God has put into your life; at work, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store?
A Word to Missionaries and Pastors
Even missionaries can fall into the trap of being so busy with “ministry” that we fail to prioritize the lost. I’ve definitely been guilty of this and have to continually re-evaluate my priorities in light of what Jesus says is important to HIm. Do we fail to prioritize disciple-making? Because we are so busy with other “ministry” tasks? Ironically, it was in response to the call to fulfill the Great Commission that many of us are “on the field” or in the pastorate. How did we allow building relationships with lost people to slip to such a low priority in our actions? Preaching and training others to do this is not enough. They can’t learn from us about something we don’t personally do ourselves.
Take a moment to look at your life and schedule. How could you adjust it to make more space to connect with lost people in genuine ways? What if you were, for a few months, to give loving and knowing lost people the same level of priority you give to attending church and church events? I’m not saying stop going to church! Just give it equal billing- equal time in your schedule. See what God might do!
I’m going to be doing this. I hope you will join me. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. So must we.
*Read more about Ying Kai or Victor’s teaching of the Great Commission and Disciple-Making at http://www.t4tglobalmissions.org/the-great-commission, or in this Mission Frontier’s article http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/church-planting-movements-from-one-indian-perspective.