Before His death, our Lord gave us important words of insight into His work on earth:
“I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus loved the church and gave Himself up for her. As the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep, Jesus — with His life blood — purchased for God humans from every tribe, language, people and nation.
After His resurrection, before He ascended to His Father, Jesus gave His followers a mission to fulfill:
“Go and make disciples of all nations.” He said, “The Holy Spirit will come on you and empower you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And as the followers of Christ take up this mission, they do it supported by a great promise from their Master: “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”
The One who is able to save us to the uttermost, sends His ambassadors to the uttermost parts of the earth to make disciples of all nations. And we witness and work with great anticipation of a final celebration of an international harvest of souls —people from every tribe, tongue and nation—worshipping the Lamb who is worthy!
Through means of the cross, God was reconciling the world to Himself—not counting our trespasses against us — by making the One who knew no sin bare the just punishment for our sin, that we might have right standing with God through Him. That was what God was doing through the cross!
Now God is making His appeal through us — the ambassadors of Christ — and we implore people (on Christ’s behalf) to be reconciled to God. “As the Father sent Me,” our Lord said, “I am sending you.”
Between the disappearing and the reappearing of Jesus we have a mission to fulfill — to go and sow the good seed of the Gospel in the world. One has said, “Christianity without mission is Christianity no longer” (John R. W. Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p. 324).
Christians are not here to meet, eat and retreat. We are a “sent people,” a people to “sowing and reaping,” an ever-present witness in a dark world, instructed by our Lord to capture strategic places of influence like well-lit cities on a hill which cannot be hidden.
But hold everything!
On a personal level, it starts with you — where you are! Please do not dream of foreign fields of mission until you are being His witness where you are. Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, — do you want them to join the final assembly? If you say, “I am not sure I want them there. I can’t even stand Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday with them.”
Perhaps then you should pray, “Let me see this world, dear Lord, as though I were looking through Your eyes. A world of men who don’t want You, Lord — yet a world for which You died. Let me kneel with You in the garden. Fill my eyes with tears of agony. For if once I could see this world the way You see, I just know I’d serve You more faithfully.”
An old hymn offers another great line. “May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek the lost to win, and may they forget the vessel, seeing only Him.”
John R. W. Stott reminded us that our mission is shaped by four things.
- Our model—the incarnation
- The cost—taking up the cross
- The motivation—our exalted and coming Lord
- The power—the ever-present, indwelling Holy Spirit
Once again, Jesus said, “I will build My church.” As we trace the steps of the early disciples as they obey the great commission, a clear pattern emerges from the New Testament. And we must follow (as closely as possible) the apostolic pattern. Trying new and different ways, which do not adhere to the pattern, could put you at cross purpose with the Lord who builds His church. If you pastor Christ’s Church, remember that it is the “flock of God” (I Peter 5:1-4).
Jesus identifies with His followers in such a way that what we do to or for them, we do to or for Him.
- Acts 9:4 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
- Matthew 25:34-40 – what you’ve done for them you’ve done for me.
- Hebrews 6:10 “…the labor of love you have shown Him by ministering to his people.
- 1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are Christ’s body and individually members of it.”
And as the pattern emerges, we must think of the church not merely as some universal, international, invisible body of believers from Pentecost to the rapture. No! We must relate to and serve the church as a local, visible body of believers.
We do not serve the Lord in the abstract. We serve Him through meaningful connection with a local fellowship of believers, which I would suggest to be the headquarters for discipleship.
The apostles and early followers of Jesus did not simply lead people to Jesus and leave them alone. New Christians were not merely directed to join a Bible study or fellowship group. Instead, evangelism was done with the express intent of placing believers in a local church. And the early church strategically targeted major centers of influence in specific regions:
- Jerusalem in Syria
- Corinth in Achaia
- Thessalonica in Macedonia
- Ephesus in Asia Minor
Local churches were established in these strategic cities of influence and when people came to Christ, they became parts of these churches. And each church was to function as a kind of headquarters for evangelism and discipleship.
Let’s answer the call and follow the pattern. Keep in step with the Master Builder, Jesus Christ.