Discipleship: What’s Next? Part 2: Church

Last week, I started a two-part series titled, “What’s Next?” This was in response to having hosted the missions team from The Garden. Part 1 was titled, “Discipleship.” My reasoning is that before we can do anything for God, it’s important to know who we are. It’s important for us to know that as Christians, we are all disciples. We are all apprentices, learning from our Lord, our “oyakata,” Jesus Christ.

Today is the second half of the series titled, “Church.” Now that we know who we are, it’s important to know what we are called to do. The church provides the context for which our actions, with the help of the Holy Spirit, flow in and through our lives.

So, if our message today is regarding “church,” we need to know what “church” is. Or more specifically, what is the church called to do? So here’s my question to you. What is the church called to do?

(ask and elicit answers, take notes)

Of course, there are many things that the church is called to do. But everything flows out of an overarching vision, and so it’s important to not lose sight of the vision. Vision helps us to maintain our focus, so that whatever we are called to do, we should know not only what that is but also why we should do it. I believe one passage in the Bible really captures this vision.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

Before he ascended, Jesus gave a charge to his disciples, the church. This charge continues today almost 2000 years after it was first given, and it remains the vision of the church: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught.

But let me say this on the front end. My focus today is going to be on only one aspect, because I feel that the church needs encouragement in this aspect the most. The church actually does a pretty good job of the other aspects. So, let’s focus on this one aspect today, and that is…

TODAY’S FOCUS: GO and MAKE DISCIPLES

Let’s unpackage this further, because there are two parts to this aspect. The FIRST PART is, “GO!” We have to go! There isn’t a more simple and action-oriented directive. Go! Last week, we talked about how action is key. It’s not good enough just to know what to do. It doesn’t matter how much “good” you know. Knowledge means nothing if it is not followed up by action. And this is the action that God is calling us—his disciples, his church—to do…GO!

Another way of saying this would be, “DON’T STAY!” Don’t just sit around and do nothing. Don’t stay at home. Don’t be a “puutarou” or a “puuko,” both physically and spiritually. Being shy is not an excuse. Being afraid is not an excuse. Not liking people is not an excuse (that’s me). We are called NOT to stay put, to be sedentary, to be a “hikikomori.”

This has actually become the main reason why many churches have been losing strength over the last 50 years. We have become spiritual “hikikomoris.” We have become afraid of the world tainting our “purity.” We have become afraid of interacting with the world and its negative influences. In essence, we have become so focused on protecting ourselves, that we have forgotten what we’ve been called to do, and that’s to GO!

(example of light and darkness: which is stronger…darkness or light?)

The world’s negative influence is represented by darkness. Our Christian influence is represented by light. Our influence is supposed to be stronger than that of the world. God knows that. That’s why he called us to go.

But I think many of us have forgotten that. We act like darkness is more powerful than light. We act like the world’s influence is more powerful than God. We act like our Christian influence is weak and insignificant. And that’s not good. That’s an insult to God.

As we sang earlier, let it shine! Don’t hide it! Don’t let the enemy snuff it out! Let it shine! Go! Let your light shine! Go exert your Christian influence!

And as you do this, the SECOND PART will follow, because as your Christian influence grows, you may start seeing people around you being drawn to your light, to your character, to your lifestyle, to church, to Jesus. They may start showing interest in Christianity. They may become Christians. And as we learned last week, being a Christian and being a disciple are one and the same.

So, the SECOND PART is, “MAKE DISCIPLES!” We are called to make disciples of all nations. If God has given you a specific calling to a specific people group in a specific nation, then you must GO! That’s what Mayu and I did. We felt a specific calling to witness to Japanese people, and we went! GO! If God hasn’t given you a specific calling, yet, then your calling is to make disciples here in Japan. But whatever and wherever your context may be, we are all called to make disciples.

To make disciples is to join God in the work of the salvation of souls. Of course, it is God who saves and he alone, but we must be his mouthpiece, his hands and feet. The church is called to be the physical, tangible representation of Jesus and all that he taught. Which means, also, that each and every one of us is called to be that same physical, tangible representation of Jesus and all that he taught.

That’s why it’s so important for our character, attitude, speech, and actions to reflect Jesus and all that he taught. Because if we don’t, our influence looks just like the world’s. If we don’t, our influence looks more like darkness than light. And we don’t want to do that, especially as representatives of Jesus.

As our Bible study topic recently said, “Walk worthily!” Walk in a manner that is worthy of Jesus Christ. Your character, your attitude, your speech, and your actions should accurately represent God’s holiness, goodness, mercy, and love. Moses failed to do this, and God’s judgment was that he couldn’t enter the Promised Land. It’s actually a sad story (Numbers 20).

THE OTHER ASPECT: BAPTIZE them and TEACH them to obey everything Jesus taught

The church is good at doing this. Through Sunday services, Bible studies, prayer, and fellowship, the church is doing this. Definitely, we should keep on doing this, because all of this helps us as believers in shaping our character, attitude, speech, and conduct. We need to keep doing this, with enthusiasm, purpose, and joy.

If your Christian life and service has become an unenthusiastic routine, go back and remember the vision. Our active participation, not just attendance, but our active participation in church helps us grow in our character, attitude, speech, and actions.

(example of difference between attendance and active participation)

So, our active participation in church helps us grow in our character, attitude, speech, and conduct, AND growth and maturity in these areas are absolutely important in becoming an accurate representative of Jesus and a positive Christian influence for God. As Christians, we have a serious responsibility to be accurate representatives of Jesus, to be a positive influence for God.

As Christians, we already have eternity with God in heaven. But our representation of Jesus, our Christian influence, could be the difference maker for the people you know, between eternity with God in heaven and eternity without God in hell.

(example of eternally lost love and hell)

What is the church called to do? What are we called to do?

(End with going back to the things that the people said the church is called to do. Help them to see the works are all linked to the vision of the Great Commission.)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20

(pray)