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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Make What?

When Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, He left approximately 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) to do the task that He assigned them, that of being "My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Oh, sure, they would have the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), but just on the face of it 120 versus the world seemed like a big job.

Well, of course, you know the story. In the very next event the disciples were in Jerusalem at Pentecost, received the Holy Spirit, and started sharing the Gospel in every tongue around (Acts 2:1-11). Peter had to explain that they were not drunk and we get Peter's first sermon. As a result of that sermon, the Scriptures say that "those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) Okay, now we're talking some better numbers, right? I mean, 120 against the world is pretty slim, but 3,120 is much better.

What would have to happen in order to get these 3,000 extra converts up to speed in order to make them part of the job of being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the remotest part of the earth? These converts would have to be "educated". They'd have to be taught, trained, matured, nurtured, unified. And how does that occur?

The end of the second chapter of Acts gives us the answer.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
I have to be honest. This sounds wonderful. Imagine a church (meaning a gathering of "the called out ones") devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to eating together, and to prayer. Imagine that! These people really engaged. They were marked by sincerity of heart, by sharing with each other, by praising God. And the result of this "program" (It's in quotes because no one arranged it; it just happened.) was that "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47) More workers for the harvest.

Do you see anything different today? I have to say I do. Jesus gave us the Great Commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20) Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them "all that I commanded you." Make converts? Not on your life. Gather proselytes? Don't even think it. Make disciples.

To be sure, a lot of Christians today aren't particularly interested in preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15). Shame on us. Many of us don't know how. Many don't care enough to find out how. But among the remainder who do know and do care to do it, how many are interested in making disciples? We don't even like to use the word anymore. We don't want to "disciple" someone. Maybe "mentor". That sounds less ... arrogant. But we don't like to do that, either. "Too much work." "Too much time." "I'm not mature enough myself." "We're too busy and too independent and it's clearly someone else's job." Shame on us!

We are commanded by Christ (you know, the One whose name is at the beginning of our term, Christian) to make disciples. We don't really want to make converts. We're pretty sure we're not going to make disciples. When the apostles did it in the first century church, the Word says one of the results was more disciples and another was "favor with all the people." (Acts 2:47) We wonder why the church today is so anemic. We wonder why so many of those outside of the church think of us as hypocrites. We wonder why the church is so culture-saturated instead of Scripture-saturated. We wonder why the church in America appears to be a river 5 miles wide and 1 inch deep. Maybe, just maybe, if we were being obedient to Christ's command to make disciples rather than converts, we'd see a different kind of church (Eph 4:11-16). Instead, we understand quite well why Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)


Bob said...

i imagine the best place to start training is in the church. but there is the rub. what are the children being taught? what happens when it is discovered that some aspect of the church theology is incorrect? if you try to address it, out you go... we are Baptist, we are Presbyterian, we are Calvinist, and you my friend are a trouble maker. part of the problem is that the people at the top have a vested interest in insuring that the cash flow does not get disrupted. oh of course they will never actually say that, but when a pastor refuses to address the truth because he claims that he does not want division, you really have to wonder what is the motive. the truth causes division, it is meant to separate goats from sheep.

Stan said...

The church should be a training place indeed. And churches are often beset with concerns that are real but not valid. Money, attendance, what will people think, that sort of thing. But regardless of the church and its problems, I would think that fathers could be (by which I mean "are commanded to be") teaching their children and fellow believers should be in interpersonal relationships that lead to sanctification and walking with the Lord. No concerns about money or prestige for a church entity should influence that. It is my suspicion that we modern Christians have placed the responsibility on church government that God intended the Body of Christ to bear.