Being, Not Just Making, Disciples

by | City Lights

          We describe the mission of our church this way: “To make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.” We’ve known other churches who use this as their mission statement, and we thought it was a good summary of Matthew 28:18–20: “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.’”

          Hopefully you can see the connection between our mission statement and Jesus’s climactic instructions to his Apostles, the initial members and appointed leaders of the New Covenant church. (The “multiply” part of our mission statement refers to our commitment to raising our children in the knowledge and ways of the Lord [Eph 6:4] and to our desire to see evangelistic churches established among more and more people groups). We see Jesus’s words here as summing up the reason God has sent his church into the world. Our “mission” as it relates to the world around us is focused on proclaiming the things this passage emphasizes: the authority of king Jesus; the gospel call to repent, believe, and be baptized; the sufficiency and authority of Scripture for every area of faith and practice; the presence of Christ through his Spirit until his return. Proclaiming these things and instructing others in them, with the desire to see more and more people following Christ, sums up our church’s mission.

          But…our mission does not sum up our identity or our calling as a church. In other words, there’s more to being a church, to being a Christian, than “doing ministry” or being “on mission.”

          That’s because before we are disciple-makers, we are disciples ourselves. Ours is not fundamentally to proclaim, but to believe. Ours is not primarily to teach, but to learn. Ours is not mainly to make disciples, but to be disciples. Of course, these things should never be separated, but they should be distinguished—much like a house and its foundation cannot be separated; still, the integrity of the foundation merits primary attention.

           Our commitment to following Jesus cannot be boiled down to activities aimed at getting others to follow him. He is worthy of our worship and sufficient as our heart’s desire—regardless of whether anybody else joins us or not. We are subjects in Christ’s kingdom, by the grace of God. We are recipients of the gospel that brings salvation and of the baptism that marks us out as God’s beloved and holy people. We are in the process of learning to observe all that Christ has commanded. We are invited and compelled to trust in and rest in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, the down payment of our inheritance.
           All this is to say that we have been called to worship Jesus Christ as Savior, King and God and to call others to do the same. The disciples worshiped before they were commissioned (v. 17). Our “mission” statement focuses on the latter—to make, mature, and multiply disciples—but this will shrivel up if it is not an outgrowth of the
former, more foundational calling of every Christian: to be and be maturing as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

          So what about you? Are you a worshiper of Christ—not just in public, not just in private—in the personal and in the public sphere, are you living and growing as a disciple of Christ, your Savior and King? Regardless of whether anyone joins you or not?

          And if so—will you also heed his call to try to get others to join you? Are you seeking and striving and praying to participate in the mission of Christ’s church: to lead others to faith in Jesus, baptism into his church, and a growing understanding of his Word and his ways?

Are you a disciple?
Are you making disciples?