Only one chapter after this, the summary. So here is, effectively, the last chapter of the Learning to Walk project. As before, your comments are welcome and appreciated as I try to fine-tune this resource.
When I was a kid, I thought my job, as a Christian, was to attend and support the church. In my thinking, they were the ones who heard from God. They told us what to believe. They had the mission. They organized the ministry. They made the decisions. We (the congregation) were just there to support their work for God. I’ve learned a lot since then.
When Jesus gave his last charge to his disciples before he ascended into heaven, he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). This instruction, which we call the Great Commission, gives us a very different view of our place in the church.
The reason Jesus stated that all authority belonged to him was that he was sending his disciples out in that authority. That means that you are empowered by Jesus Christ to make disciples. The same power that healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the mute speak, drove out demons and by which Jesus rose from the dead, has called, anointed, and sent you to carry the message of the Gospel of Christ to the world around you. You are not under the authority of the church (as an institution); you are in the power and authority of Jesus Christ with the church.
That authority and empowerment is given you for a purpose: to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Take ownership of that mission.
Remember back to the beginning of the book, we looked at John 17 and said that eternal life is to know God, personally and intimately. That is eternal life. As you live eternal life, the most important command is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31). To bring that home, it means our greatest charge is to know and love God, and through the living of our lives in relationship with him and by the word of our testimony, to make him known to others. That is your mission. When you exalt (reveal and proclaim) God in this way, it is used by God to convict and call those in whom he is already at work (e.g. Acts 2:22-37).
With church structure playing such a big part of church life these days, it’s tempting to think that you need permission from the church (institution) to do ministry or reach out. That’s not necessarily true. It is good to work with your church fellowship, but Jesus already commanded you. You are commissioned and empowered by God himself, and the church is here to support, encourage, and even partner with you. Take ownership of your mission, you are the church.
Another temptation is to think that since you are now saved, your job is over. Others can come to Jesus and you won’t hinder them, but they can find him on their own—if they really want to know, they can ask. That inward focus is deadly because it considers only self, which is the heart of sin.
The church is not a social club that facilitates every Christian amenity to keep Christians comfortable on the church campus. Our mission is to carry the light (love, truth, and reality) of Jesus into the world. That’s our job as a group, and that’s our job as individuals. We need to take ownership of it. If you love God, you will want to make much of him. When we love God, we will love what God loves, and so we will want the people we love to know God, who loves them ultimately and completely. Own your mission to stand in the gap between God and those who are still lost to him. Let your life be a bridge that unites them.