The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church – Part 1

Growing up I played a lot of team sports. Mainly, I played baseball and soccer. On most of the teams I played, there was a fair amount of camaraderie and unity. I’m sure if you’ve ever played team sports, you have felt that as well.

The cause of that camaraderie and unity comes from a singular mission and devotion. You are all in it together. You are all working towards the same goals — to win the championship and to become the best athlete you can be. Those goals bring a team together. I’ve experienced that, and I’m sure you have experienced that as well.

But for all the camaraderie and unity I have experienced as a part of a team, nothing brings us together like Jesus. When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become the people of God. He is our Father and we are His children, which makes us all brothers and sisters in the Lord. It makes us all a family. If you think about it, that is amazing in and of itself because the people of God, the church, is comprised of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. We are a diverse yet unified group.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that unity when I meet another Christian. It doesn’t matter where I’m at. I could be half-way across the world or down at the local Starbucks. When I meet a fellow believer, there is an instant connection and bond that’s formed. I immediately feel comfortable and connected with them. The reason we feel that connection is not only because we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, but because we share a common mission and devotion.

What’s the unified mission and devotion of the church?

Over the next several posts, I’m going to answer that question, as well as I’m going to look at what empowers our mission and devotion.

What is the Unified Mission of the Church? (vs. Matt 28:18-20)

In Matthew 28 Jesus gives our mission. In verse 19 He says,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:19a)

Our mission, then, as believers are to “make disciples”. That’s what we are to do.

What’s a disciple?

A disciple is someone who follows a specific teacher or leader. When Jesus tells us that we are to “make disciples”, what He means is that we are to cause others to follow Him.

The way we make disciples is by telling them the good news about Jesus so that they would want to follow Him too. You see, we aren’t in the business of forcing anyone to follow Jesus. Instead, we are to convince others that following Jesus is what’s best.

Following Jesus is what’s best for us. 

Jesus has saved us from the Father’s punishment by taking our punishment for us. That’s necessary because we are sinners, who live in rebellion to God. We rebel against God and sin when we forsake His commandments and way of doing things for our way. As rebels, we deserve God’s punishment, which involves the Father’s wrath being poured out on us for an eternity in Hell.

The good news, however, is that we don’t have to experience Hell, nor do we have to live at odds with God now. We can experience eternal life and a relationship with the Father now that involves His blessing, protection, and Fatherly care. As well as we can experience freedom from the bondage, the stranglehold, that sin has on our lives. The best part is that we don’t have to pay or work for these benefits. They are freely given by God. All we have to do is humble ourselves, which we do by believing that it’s Jesus work that provides eternal life, a restored relationship, and freedom from sin’s bondage. Specifically, His work on the cross, where our sins were placed on Him and He was punished in our place. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus, the Son of God, God incarnate, the perfect God-man, who deserved no punishment because He never once rebelled against His Father, was punished in our place so that we can experience the benefits of the gospel!

When we realize and experience what Jesus has done for us, we should want to tell others the good news so that can experience what we have and are experiencing. Freedom from sin, hope in the future, joy in a restored relationship, Fatherly care and blessing, true love.

Not only should we want to tell others the good news, but that’s the mission Jesus has given us. He tells us that we are to be disciples who make disciples.

We make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. 

Going
The first of those is “going”. Again, in the beginning of verse 19, Jesus says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:19a)

Going tells us that we aren’t to sit stagnantly. We aren’t to just let folks come to us. Instead, we are to go and find folks to tell the good news.

When Jesus tells us to go, He doesn’t just mean for us to go on a mission trip, or go and be a missionary in another country. Those things are necessary and we should do them, but that’s not all that Jesus means when He tells us to go.

Instead, He has in mind that we are making disciples as we are going about our day. So whether we are living in Africa, China, or Decatur, we are to make disciples as we are going about our day.

Baptizing

Along with going, we are also to baptize those who believe the gospel. That’s what Jesus tells us in the remainder of verse 19 when He says,

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19a)

Now, you have to know that Jesus doesn’t tell us to baptize others because baptism saves. Instead, He tells us to baptize because Baptism shows a person’s commitment to follow Him. In other words, it’s a way of telling the watching world that we are aligning ourselves with Jesus as His follower. That’s why baptism is done publicly instead of privately.

Teaching

Along with going and baptizing, we are also to teach those who believe the gospel to obey all God has commanded in His Word. Look at the beginning of verse 20. There Jesus says that we are to:

“[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you.”” (Mt 28:20a)

This command isn’t just for Pastors. It’s for everyone. We are all commanded to teach others how to follow Jesus. That tells us, then, that making disciples isn’t just about leading someone to make a profession of faith. Making disciples involves much more. It involves us teaching others what it means and how to follow Jesus.

Before you start to rethink my earlier comment that this isn’t just a command for pastors, know that you can teach in many different ways.

  • You may teach in a formal setting like a church service, Bible study, or Sunday School class.
  • Or you might teach your family through conversation at the dinner table or a regular family devotion.
  • You might also teach others at the church by joining the discussion during Sunday School or Bible study.
  • Or you might get together with another church member for lunch or coffee and talk about what God is doing in your life.

There are a number of different ways you can teach others, which means it’s possible for all of us to be teachers. In some sense that’s encouraging, but in another sense that’s scary because it means that we are all either teaching others how to be or how not to be disciples of Jesus.

So that’s our unified mission and how we can accomplish it.

Looking Forward

But you know, we don’t accomplish that mission in our own power. Instead, we receive a power outside ourselves that help us make disciples. We will talk about what empowers us as believers next time.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you a disciple who makes disciples?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church

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How to Continue as Salt and Light in a Corrupt Society

“In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” (Ps 11:1–7)

David wrote this Psalm when Saul was seeking his life (1 Sam. 19). Knowing that Saul had a hit out on David, led David’s friends to tell him to flee to the mountains. It was his only hope of safety. The society was corrupt. The judges in the king’s pocket. Everyone was against David and out for his life. If he wanted to survive, he needed to leave and never come back.

Against all odds and in the face of great danger, David did the opposite. He didn’t leave, instead, he stayed. The reason was because he took refuge in God, trusting that His righteous judgment would prevail.

We too should trust in the Lord, even though our society is trending more and more liberal and anti-Christian. Even though the foundations are being destroyed (becoming lawless under lawless leaders), we can stay and not flee. No matter what men do, our God still sits on His throne in heaven and judges the evil in our world. We don’t have to flee or hold up by ourselves. We can confidently be salt and light in a godless society, trusting the Lord to care for us even if men are out to get us.

Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but our God is great. He is the Creator of the heavens and earth. He is the just Judge who reigns over all, and nothing happens outside of His control. We should, then, place our faith and trust in Him, running to Him as our refuge.

Question for Reflection

  1. Is God your refuge?

Resource

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Apologetics: A Reasonable Defense

Ask most church goers what it means to do apologetics and you will most likely be met with blank stares, an explanation about how we are to apologize to others, or tales of boredom as they tried sitting through a lecture or trudging through a book full of philosophical arguments. While the study of Apologetics can take you off into heady arguments, that’s not all Apologetics is.

Apologetics?

Apologetics simple means to offer a reasonable defense. At a minimum, that requires us to tell others what we believe and why we believe it.

Be Ready Always

As Christians we are called to do just that – offer a reasonable defense for our faith. Peter makes this clear when he says,

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Pe 3:15–16)

The context in which Peter gives his command wasn’t peaceful. Christians were living in exile, experiencing ostracism for their faith, and suffering persecution. Yet Peter tells them not to fear or cower, but to be ready to offer a reasonable defense for the hope within. Christians, then, in all walks of life, locales, and cultural climates must be ready to offer a defense of their faith.

Tied to Our Mission

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands His disciples to go and make more disciples. In order to be obedient to Jesus’ command, we must be able to tell others what and why we believe what we believe, which means we must spend time preparing ourselves to offer a reasonable defense.

“When we become Christians, we do not leave our mind in the parking lot. We are called to think according to the Word of God, to seek the mind of Christ and an understanding of the things set forth in sacred Scripture.” – Burk Parsons

So if your neighbor notices you are a Christian and asks what you believe, you should not only be able to answer his or her question, but you should also be able to tell them why you believe it. Hearing that means many of us need to get busy learning what we believe and why.

Suggestions to Get You Started

The first place we have to start is with God’s Word. It is the foundation of our beliefs because it is the place where God reveals who He is, who we are, what He has done and is doing, and how we are to live. There are a variety of tools to help you read through the Bible. Here is a great list.

Next, I would suggest looking into the Theology and Biblical Theology books listed on my Book Recommendation page. These will give you both an overview of the biblical storyline and a deep understanding of the theology and doctrine of God’s Word.

Lastly, take a look at the New City Catechism. It is a quick way to build your doctrinal and theological knowledge.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you know what you believe and why?
  2. Are you ready to give a defense?
  3. How will you prepare yourself?

Resources

With Gentleness and Respect by Burk Parsons TableTalk Magazine January 2016, pg 2

An Apology for Apologetics by Stephen J. Nichols TableTalk Magazine January 2016, pg 6

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