After the resurrection, Jesus gave four commission statements to His followers. Take a moment and read them.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. -John 20:21-22
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” -Luke 24:46-49
While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1:4-8
All of these commissions hold within them two specific ideas: make disciples and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, as leaders and members, we opt for numerous other pursuits for the church. We must decide carefully how we will live as church members. Here are five ways that we could possibly do it.
1. Undertaker. For the church that is in trouble, we simply manage the decline and comfort those grieving the loss. Rather than make disciples, we simply make memories. Members yearn nostalgically for the proverbial “golden age” of the church and quietly await the day that the doors are closed for good. The church becomes a mausoleum of memories.
2. Caretaker. The church that is in perpetual plateau of ministry impact and non-growth. The church huddles up to hold on to what they have. Ministries are done in a fashion that is to the preference of members rather than applicable to the mission field of the community. The leader is asked to be a chaplain to the members rather than make disciples in the subculture they’ve created. The church becomes a museum of old ministries.
3. Ticket-taker. The church is growing, but in a deceptive kind of way. The numeric growth can be accompanied by a steady stream of people exiting the back door. The church attempts to have the biggest whatever ministry widget to gain the attention of a crowd. It leverages its efforts so families can show up and drop off the right people in the right ministry area so that everyone can get something. It results in making consumers instead of disciples. The church becomes a shopping mall of religious products and services.
4. Risk-taker. We move to the church where crossing cultural boundaries is celebrated, but only done in short bursts. One or two week mission trips are offered. Going over to “neighborhoods not like our own” is regularly done. But no one ever leaves permanently or moves into those places. The risk that is required is from those we temporarily visit in other places. We ask them to take the risk of dropping their culture in order to welcome the American or the middle-class suburbanite into their community. Or, we ask them to take the risk and join a church of our own preferences; thereby leaving their culture behind. We don’t ask for discipleship but for compliance. The church becomes a meeting of docile conformists.
5. Grace-giver. But there is a better way. The church is designed to give, not take. Christ calls us to die to self so that He can have the preeminent position. We are not here to make memories, dependents, consumers, or conformists to an earthly culture. Jesus does not want you to commit your energies and abilities to His mission. He wants you to give your life. Our work as the church is to give away everything we have because of God’s grace and by God’s grace. It is His plan for us to do so. It is in positioning ourselves as givers that we can make disciples of all nations. The church becomes a movement of Spirit-filled, disciple-making disciples.
The passion of Jesus is the saving of souls. He has sent us and filled us with the Holy Spirit in order to be a partner in His global mission to the lost. It requires repenting of the world’s pseudo-joys and seeking the Spirit’s power in your life. But, His grace is given to you so that you can walk this path and give the grace of the gospel away to others. As I recently heard J.D. Greear say, “God can do more with one willing vessel than all the talent of the universe.” Choose to be the willing vessel through whom God accomplishes His global mission of salvation for the nations.