The Why of Discipleship
Week Five: Why Going Might Look Like Staying
What comes to mind when you hear the words “The Great Commission?”
For many of us, these words evoke images of the great missionaries of the past two centuries. Missionaries like David Livingston, who ventured into the “Dark Continent,” carrying the light of the Gospel. Or Hudson Taylor, who preached to the East and played a key role in establishing the church in China. There’s also Jim Elliot, whose ministry met a tragic end at the tip of a spear, and Elizabeth Elliot, whose ministry began at the same fateful point. These names rightly come to mind when contemplating the Great Commission. However, the Great Commission is not solely intended for those who embark on journeys to the ends of the earth. It is equally a commission for those of us who remain on the home front.
For the last two centuries, we’ve placed a strong emphasis on the word “go,” all the while assuming that going was a call exclusively reserved for those daring enough to enter the mission field. However, the emphasis of the commission is not on the going but on the making. The going is just the means to an end, and the end is discipleship.
So then, what if going looked more like staying?
What if we went unto the uttermost parts of the children’s ministry hall? What if we entered each room wondering which little girl may grow into the next Elisabeth Elliot or what little boy may lead an entire country to radical faith in Jesus? What if we crossed the parking lot in search of the teen who will one day pastor our church?
The Church in America has been on the decline for decades, and the problem is only getting worse. Christian thought leaders like Carey Nieuwhof of the Art of Leadership Network and Dr. Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute suggest the decline is largely due to the evangelical church’s failure to disciple its own children.
When we view “go” strictly as an imperative for global missions, we may lose sight of the discipleship opportunities playing at our feet.
The Lord has blessed this old church with a lot of young families. Living Hope Kids and Momentum Student Ministries are busting out of the seams with kids. Each kid is a wonderful opportunity. Will we be faithful to the call to make disciples? The American church may be in decline, but this need not be the case here. If we are faithful to stay put and disciple those the Lord has entrusted to us, then I am sure he will be faithful to raise up little pastors and missionaries all around us.
We started out this series with a simple question. Why do we make disciples? As we have seen, we make disciples because Jesus modeled discipleship for us. His public ministry began with the command “follow me,” and it ended with the command “go.” Hopefully, you have heard his call to follow. Hopefully, you will be faithful to obey his call to go—even if going looks like staying.
An Inconvenient Truth
Pastor Brian Green
Pastor Brian Green
Week Three: Why We Leave Room for Failure
For many of us, the word disciple invokes images of icons venerated in gold gilding. The mighty apostles of Christ—men of faith and renown. Countless architectural wonders have been erected in their honor and for their namesake. Cities and even whole islands bear their names as well. Yet, if the only historical record we had to go on was the Gospel of Mark, we might not think so well of them.
Of all the Gospels, Mark places significant emphasis on the many failures of Jesus chosen.
- The disciples failed to understand Jesus’ teaching (4:13; 7:18).
- The disciples failed to recognize Jesus’ authoritative power (6:37, 52; 8:4).
- The disciples failed to comprehend the true nature of Jesus’ messiahship (8:32; 9:32).
- The disciples failed to act with humility and were often motivated by their own self-interest (9:38; 10:13, 37, 41).*
The gilded icons venerated in our imaginations tarnish under the pen of Mark.
As we can clearly see, Jesus left significant room for failure. Moreover, Jesus was constantly putting the disciples in over their heads—quite literally in the case of Peter (see Matt 14:30)! Of course, this begs the question, why? Why would Jesus choose these men and place a special anointing on their lives only to put them into situations in which they would repeatedly fail?
The answer is quite simple. The manifold failures of the disciples were rooted in one chief failure: the failure of faith (4:13, 40; 7:18; 9:19). Jesus had a special mission in mind for his disciples, and he knew he needed to develop in them a faith that would match that mission. Moreover, to develop their faith, Jesus knew he had to put his disciples in situations that would expose their faithlessness.
Of course, to our modern sensibilities, Jesus’ methodology seems counterintuitive. Indeed, most modern ministry models and philosophies seem preoccupied with mitigating failure at all costs. But what if failure is part of God’s plan? What if failure is the means by which Jesus will foster faith in us?
In the nearly nine years that I have ministered alongside Pastor Brian, I have come to appreciate one of his qualities above all the rest. Pastor Brian is an extremely patient man. Frankly, I didn’t always appreciate his patience. I would often grow increasingly frustrated when difficult situations and people issues seemed to drag out. However, in the passing years, my perspective has changed. More often than not, I have witnessed his patience yield abundant fruit in our humble little flock. Perhaps my perspective has shifted most dramatically because, on more than one occasion, I have been the beneficiary of his patience.
Eleven of Jesus’ twelve failures eventually turned the world upside down. Through his patience their many failures were converted into victory. Why do we leave room for failure at Living Hope? We leave room for failure because Jesus left room for failure—plain and simple.
*Listed adapted from Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, by Mark L. Strauss (197).