Dallas Willard wrote that the
“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”
Over the last few months we have been thinking about our purpose as A church by thinking about the purpose Jesus gave to THE Church. On Sunday we thought about how Jesus between his resurrection and ascension spent time ”giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles” Acts 1:2 Jesus didn’t leave the Apostles in the dark about what they and subsequent generations of his followers were to do, he gave them instructions, in fact, its stronger than that, he gave them commands through the Holy Spirit. In other words, there are divinely inspired instructions for what we as the church are to do, what we are to focus on, what we are to make our priority, what is to be non negotiable in the life of the church.
Matthew of the four Gospels maybe put what it is as the church we are to do most clearly when he puts Jesus like this
19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28
Somebody has rightly pointed out that this is Great Commission not the Great Suggestion. Jesus here gives us one main command as his church “MAKE DISCIPLES” Sadly all to often the Great Commission has become the Great Omission in church life. We are going to make sure that is not true of Westlake. To modify what Dallas Willard said above, if making disciples is what Jesus said we are to focus on as a church then the greatest issue facing us as a church is whether we will become disciples and enables others to become disciples.
That’s why we have restated our mission as a church, what we exist to do, the whole purpose of our existence as being
“Enabling people to become lifelong followers of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and the good of the world.”
If we are serious about that being more than a slogan that sounds good and that we can stick on our website, we need to define what a “life long follower of Jesus” is and what they do. We have looked at the New Testament and the biggest survey of what discipleship is about and how people become and grow as disciples to see how we answer that question. That survey came up with 8 characteristics of a disciple of Jesus. Here they are
- Bible Engagement, 2. Obeying God and Denying Self 3. Serving God and Others 4. Sharing Christ, 5. Exercising Faith 6. Seeking God 7. Building Relationships 8. Being unashamed of the Gospel (Transparency)
Now those eight characteristics aren’t easy to remember and are a bit abstract so what we have done is to arrange them under four categories
So we are defining a life long follower of Jesus like this
“A lifelong follower of Jesus is someone who believes in Christ and is committed to belonging to Christ’s Body, becoming more consistently Christ’s Disciple and building God’s Kingdom.”
Which means that the job of the church is to EMBRACING PEOPLE so they can BELONG, ENCOURAGING FAITH, so people can BELIEVE, ENABLING GROWTH, so that people can BECOME more consistent disciples and EQUIPPING SERVANTS so that people can join God in His mission of BUILDING the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.
Everything we do in the future will have to fulfil one of those four categories if we are to enable people to become “lifelong followers of Jesus” We have organised these four categories into what I have called a virtuous circle. We have made it a circle to try and get over the idea that the journey of discipleship, this side of heaven, never ends. The circles is also meant to show that the four characteristics of discipleship are interdependent and reinforce one another.
BELONGING WITH OTHERS (community)
Means realising life is best lived when we belong together with other people in a community. We encourage people to get connected with others in small groups where we can experience deep, meaningful, loving and supportive relationships that help us handle us life better and mature as followers of Jesus.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12: 4-5
“Your problems are not just your problems—ultimately, they belong to the church body that God has placed you in. You are called to encourage, challenge, and help the other Christians in your life, and they are called to do the same for you.” ― Francis Chan,
BELIEVING IN JESUS (evangelism)
Means making Jesus our forgiver and leader in life, the forgiver of our past and the leader we follow in every part of our life in the present. Its about a personal relationship of trust, love and hope with Jesus, a life which Jesus described as “life to the full” It is a new life in which our past is forgiven, we have a purpose in the present and hope for eternity.
“But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
“The question is not whether or not we will be working to spread the gospel around the world, but what role we will play in this.” ― Francis Chan,
BECOMING A DISCIPLE (spiritual growth)
Means shifting the focus of our lives from being centred on ourselves to being centred on Jesus and other people. It’s a life in which our life is increasingly becoming more like Christ’s. As disciples of Jesus we are committed to relying on the Holy Spirit to love the people Jesus would have loved and do the things He would do if He were living our lives.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Matthew 16: 24
“Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are being transformed into His image. God wants to change us so much that it intrigues others.” ― Francis Chan
BUILDING THE KINGDOM (mission)
Means being committed to joining Jesus’ in his mission, the goal of which he called the Kingdom of God, to bring transformation into the world. Its about being Jesus’ hands and feet in serving people, our communities and world. We believe Jesus sends us into the world, in the power of the Spirit, to build God’s Kingdom by embodying and expressing it through who we are and what we do as individual disciples and as a Christian community.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22
“Christ sends us into the world to serve. For he came to serve. Not just to seek and to save, not just to preach, but more generally to serve… Now he tells us that as the Father sent him into the world, so he sends us. Our mission, like his, is to be one of service” John Stott
“Jesus gave himself in selfless service for others, and his service took a wide variety of forms according to men’s needs. He served in deed as well as in word, and it would be impossible in the ministry of Jesus to separate his works from his word. He supplies us with the perfect model of service.” John Stott
We know that there are certain things that we do as disciples which will produce these characteristics in us and so that is how we are going to design our programmes, activities and church year, to help us grow in these four areas, and so continue to grow as “life long followers of Jesus.”
I hope this explains in a bit more depth where we are coming from and why we have chosen out MISSION (what we are called to do) ….. “Enabling people to become lifelong followers of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and the good of the world.”
MAP (how we are going to do it) …. BELIEVING, BELONGING, BECOMING, BUILDING
I want to ask you to pray as what we need to do now is think about our Vision how God is asking us to implement this Mission. What is he calling on us to make our priorities ? What should we be aiming for church to be like in 2 or 3 years time? What should we measure so we know we are being successful?
If you have any questions please speak to me I’d love to have a chat with you.