For many followers of Jesus, life in missional community can often seem like an add on.  “Why do I need to live in missional community?  I’m already being discipled and discipling other believers.”  Its a common question, and one who’s legitimacy I totally understand.

There is at least one thing the above question nails about missional community: missional community is about making disciples.   It was God’s original intention (Genesis 1:27-28), furthered in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and renewed by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20); humanity’s commission has always been to fill the earth with people who reflect the character and life of God in all things.  So, yes, life is meant to be about disciple making.

Still, I am left with a few cautious questions about our discipleship.  For myself much of the discipleship I have participated and perpetuated has been of a very specific type: once a week, curriculum oriented, usually weighted toward accountability and Bible study.  Not that these things are bad, but I have a couple questions:

  • How are you discipling the nations?  Jesus’ commission to his followers was to “go and make disciples of all nations”.  Obviously at that point “the nations” means people who aren’t following Jesus, right?  So who are you discipling who doesn’t know Jesus yet?
  • What is the point of purity?  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not questioning whether we should pursue holiness.  I’m questioning our motivation for it.  Is there a reason God has called you to holiness (even though we’re bound to fail)?  Why should we desire holiness?
  • Why do you need to be discipled?  Is it solely because Jesus says so?  Ephesians 1:19-20 says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us.  So why has God invested this great power in you?  What is the purpose for which he has equipped, empowered and commissioned us?

Discipleship is good–very good even!  We need to be discipled and to disciple others.  But at times our discipleship can lose its way.  We become isolated, we lose our purpose and sometimes our “gains” in the spiritual disciplines for example can become little more than spiritual merit badges, disappointing victories over an unclear enemy.

So, as the title suggests, how is discipleship on mission different?

More to come…

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Just wanted to leave a quick note up here on something I’ve been thinking about the last couple days…

Jesus has commissioned his church to make disciples of the nations right? Its pretty clear: “Go make disciples of the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Implicit in this–and also very clear–is the fact that Jesus is calling us to make disciples of people who are not yet his followers. In other words, Jesus is telling us that we begin discipling people before conversion.

Now, this is not always an easy pill for us to swallow, as more than a few of us have learned and live the understanding that discipleship starts after conversion. We’ve come to practice our confession that belief PREcedes discipleship.

Jesus’ Great Commission on the other hand makes just the opposite point: that belief, baptism and obedience all PROcedes from discipleship.

The Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)

“Make disciples!” Jesus says, “and then baptize them and teach them to obey me!” ” Wait, so they weren’t already committed to obeying you when they signed on as disciples Jesus?”  “Of course not!  Just look at my disciples!”

Hmmm…so what do we see in Jesus’ disciples?  Look at the two verses preceding the Commission quoted above:

So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated.  When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Unbelievable.  Not only is Jesus batting eleven of twelve–given that Judas betrayed him–he even has some who doubt him after his resurrection!  Yet Jesus and the Gospel writers have no problem calling these guys Jesus’ disciples!  Never mind their heresies, their stupid sayings, questions or persistent unbelief!  These are Jesus’ disciples who he is committed to seeing raised up as his hands and feet in the world through his restorative work.

When Jesus says “Make disciples” he isn’t talking about making those who have already arrived somehow arrive even more.  He is talking about seeing the most anti-Jesus person being made into his disciples–maybe even before they stop being anti-Jesus.  In fact, maybe Jesus spent tons of time around society’s outcasts because he was discipling them, showing them what God’s family is like and inviting them in to it.  That’s the kind of discipleship I want to participate in.

Discipleship is not a twelve week program for the initiated aimed at further separating holy people from unholy people.  It is a lifestyle wherein we invite others to join us as citizen of Jesus’ kingdom who are getting to know and live out of our relationship with the King.

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks what has come to be known as the Great Commission to his disciples:

The Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So how does this get accomplished?  How is it that the disciples will be made to be disciples of Jesus, baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?  A couple of things to keep as distinctives in answering that question:

  1. It will be accomplished by the one who has all authority showing up.  Who is the one to whom all authority has been given?  Let me quote Daniel:
    “I was watching in the night visions,
    And with the clouds of the sky
    one like a son of man was approaching.
    He went up to the Ancient of Days
    and was escorted before him.
    To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty
    All peoples, nations and language groups were serving him
    His authority is eternal and will not pass away
    His kingdom will not be destroyed”
    This is the one on whose behalf we speak!  His authority is at work in and through us!
  2. It will be accomplished through Jesus presence.  His power is eternal and his presence is continual.  There’s something to rest in!

Okay, so again, how do we make disciples of the nations that they would be baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?  Tell me if this is overly simplistic, but I think the answer is in the question: We make disciples of the nations by immersing them in trinitarian community. Together our life and words throughout the city serve as a canvas displaying God’s character, community and invitation to reconciliation to the nations.

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