“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Most of us have heard at some time or another the simple yet profound definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Yet we often find ourselves trapped in the system we’ve constructed that is familiar, comfortable and lacking results. The American Church at large finds itself here far too often. Over the past 40 years in America, we’ve concluded that the best way to influence culture and share the message of Christ is to create grand centers for life and existence in Christian community. There is little doubt of the purity of motivation behind this constructed system. Create large buildings with massive amenities; bring powerful speakers with powerful messages; organize music and environments to be comfortable and moving; and do it all to reach the world for Christ. However, the results have been disappointing.
The Church today continues to lose influence in the culture. Massive buildings with coffee shops and restaurants have resulted in a festering ground for Christian bacteria. Language begins to morph into Christian speak. Our shirts become billboards of cheesy slogans and even our picture frames display Scripture verses. We replicate all of culture’s best at a substandard par and separate ourselves from culture increasingly more. Wrigley’s mints just aren’t good enough, ours need to have a cross and Scripture reference. In essence, we’ve stopped going and those who are without Christ quit coming.
One of the final statements Jesus makes on earth is found at the end of Matthew 28. The first word of verse 19, “Go”, is best translated, “as you are going.” Jesus told His disciples to go about life and as you do, make disciples. There is so much to pick apart here but I really want to focus on the word “Go” or “as you are going”. We, the Church, have spent so much energy trying to get those far from God to draw close to us. Yet Scripture so clearly calls us to go. We spend so much time making our services friendly to those not following Christ yet often my car barely turns off before the garage door clangs shut.
Before the Scripture even reaches the words “make disciples”, it tells us to go. For our context, maybe the words should read, “go away” or “go home”. Speaking in broad general terms, I believe so much time is spent getting the dark to come toward the light. Yet it seems that influence means taking the light into darkness.
Discipleship begins by going away. It is time to leave the church premises and enter the neighborhoods, walk the streets, play in our front yards, and invite those distant people next door into our homes. The culture is looking for a message of hope, purpose and community. What are they seeing as we go?
2 thoughts on “Go Away”
There are several key facets of a disciple. A disciple considers the cost of discipleship, is totally committed to Christ, expresses a willingness to carry his burden to sacrifice for Christ, will give up earthly possessions, studies God’s Word, loves other believers, abides in Christ, is “Someone who realizes that they can do nothing apart from Christ, remains in the Vine, prays, bears much fruit, and glorifies God”–(John 15:1-8,) is filled with the Holy Spirit, is an obedient follower of Christ, and is intimately involved in the mission to make disciples.
These qualities fall into three categories: “sacrificial, relational and transformational.” The aggregate statement, “A disciple is a person who has trusted Christ for salvation and has surrendered completely to Him. He or she is committed to practicing the spiritual disciplines in community and developing to their full potential for Christ and His mission,” (Dempsey) embodies the sum total of the definition of a disciple.
Biblical multiplication plays an essential role in the life of a disciple. Moreover, “The body of Christ will grow as each individual part does its unique and specific function in the body”(Depmsey.) Regardless of his unique array of gifts, his primary calling is to “multiply” himself. A disciple must therefore get out of maintenance mode and seek to follow Christ’s edict to “make disciples” as he “walks along the way.” In other words, Biblical multiplication (discipling a disciple maker) represents the primary edict of the disciple.
After all, when did the command change from “go make” to “come hear?”
Josh, did you finish reading PC? Sounds like it with this rant. But I agree 100%. This is part of my reasons for not being totally satisfied for what we are building in our services etc, b/c it can be so “me” centered.
The Jewish model of Rabbinical practice is a better fit. Jesus as a Rabbi taught his “yoke” or teachings to his disciples and then they were told to go and make more disciples of this yoke or teaching. We are called to spread this “yoke” or teaching as we are going through life, as you said, in our homes, our work, our neighborhoods, etc. Biblical community is to keep us grounded and encouraged but is not meant to take us out of the world where we have no impact…just further strengthen us to go back into the world.
I’m becoming more convinced that with so much need out there, we’d be better served to abandon our buildings and programs that only create a bacterial Christian-culture, as you put it, and encourage our resources to meet needs directly.
Jesus was never into building an empire. He was into building an eternal kingdom by subverting the existing empires. He taught harder messages when the crowds grew and thinned out the crowds to those who truly wanted to count the cost and follow him. What we’ve been building for 40 years plus is an empire of sorts that has taken us away from the culture, kept us from influencing it, built a comfortable retirement home where we have activities that we can do with the other Christian residents of our particular facility, where we produce horrible art (music, drama,etc) that influences no one but those already in our club, and makes us more and more irrelevant to others.
The proof is in the declining participation in Christianity and the fact that Jesus is not being lifted up in our culture the way it has been in the past. People are looking for geniune Christianity and are rejecting as a culture the consumer/corporate model we have built. The “come hear” approach you mention is dead on. Let’s kill it once and for all.
I look forward to seeing the direction we go for ABF’s/Small Groups, etc after this post. In fact, let’s do coffee sometime and discuss. The brain trust is back!