By Paul Gordon • January 4, 2023
There is nothing more important than who we are, what we do, and how we do it in this one and only life on earth we have. When it comes to the church there is only one path, one purpose, one calling.
More than likely, you have seen a mission statement for a church. Many of them share the same ideas, in that they represent the commands of Jesus to the Church.
After his resurrection, Jesus called his disciples to gather. They did what disciples do. They followed. We may not always understand. In fact, the passage in Matthew 28 says that while they worshipped, some of these followers called by the resurrected Christ, doubted. Regardless of how strong, weak, informed, or ignorant our faith is in any moment, the Christian must still follow Jesus. As the disciples listened, Jesus gave the infant Church its marching orders. Commands that remain in effect to this day.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)
The church is commanded here by Jesus, but it is not commanded to go, as is often the mistake we make in translation. In the language of the New Testament writers, Koine Greek, “go” is not written in the imperative. It is a participle. It might read as “while going…” or “since you are always going.” The central command, the central imperative verb, is the call of the Church to “make disciples.” This is to be done all over the world – all nations or peoples. This is to be done throughout our days, in all spheres of our lives, as a continual manner of living and being.
Faith in and following after Jesus, or discipleship, sets us on a journey with God. The first step of that journey – following – displays our identity. We no longer follow after the concepts and constructs of this world, but instead follow after an invisible, eternal, all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful Creator – God in Three Persons.
Once we take that first step in fixing our gaze not on the things of this world, but on its Creator and our Savior, Jesus, the Bible tells us that we, as disciples, are to be baptized. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality. We, who were dirty because of our own sin, are cleaned because of the purity of our Savior who died for our sins and rose to conquer sin and death. When we as believers are baptized, it is not the act of baptism itself but rather faith that purifies us. Peter teaches us this when he writes, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). The pronouncement of baptism tells the world who we are as we walk away cleaned, risen to a new life. We are now immersed in, covered by, and assumed into the life of the Father, the life of the Son, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (Terra Nova will be baptizing several disciples on August 7th, 2016 at both the Troy and Saratoga sites.)
At Terra Nova Church we express mission as “making more and better disciples of Jesus Christ.” It is a call for us to be disciples of Jesus and to do the work of making disciples. For the Christian, the dynamic balance of being and doing is ongoing. We are called of God to respond through a vital informed obedience in our lives. We learn more about Jesus, believe more, know Him more, and live as servants of his. We become better disciples with head, heart, and hands. Through a growing faith walk, with prayer and reliance on him, we find opportunity to lift, encourage, and inform others regarding faith in Christ. We do all this while we go, everywhere we go, whether it’s to baseball games, parks, offices and city streets, in apartments, houses, or hotels, we seek to see and share Jesus. The revelation of Jesus is what changes the follower. This command continues until there is no more following. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
There will be a glorious moment when the trials and struggles to seek and to follow, to be sanctified and cast away the idols our hearts churn out tirelessly, cease – when he appears. Until then, Church, be disciples, and while you are being disciples, make disciples.
Terra Nova Church on discipleship HERE
Pastor Ed teaching on vision, values, strategy and mission of discipleship at an Acts29 Network event in Dallas, TX HERE.
For resources on understanding mission, vision, values, and strategy, read Aubrey Malphurs book, Advanced Strategic Planning.