Growing up in church I heard Matthew 28:19 about a million times – after His death and resurrection and as He is about to leave the disciples to go back to heaven, Jesus says, “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.” Often, this verse was associated with missions trips or perhaps sending money to missionaries in foreign lands.
I often struggled with “The Great Commission” as it is called, because although I do hope that someday I will have the opportunity to minister to and honestly just witness what is going on in third world countries and foreign lands – for the most part, I don’t feel a strong urge to missions. For a time I thought maybe it was inner cities where there are drugs, and poverty, and violence, etc…but we feel like God has called us here – suburbia, USA and the dream in our heart is actually to have more land…be quiet, small town folks. That hardly seems like someone going out into the world and making disciples of all nations.
A few months ago, though, our pastor talked about what it means to be a disciple. A disciple is the root word of discipline – it means a learner, a follower, someone rooted and grounded in a way of life and a relationship with their teacher; Emulating and becoming like their teacher.
LIGHT BULB! Making disciples of all nations does not mean that I am only called to spread the gospel to those who have never heard it before in foreign lands – yes, I hope and pray that someday I will have that honor, but for now, I am planted here – and for the most part, you’d be hard pressed to find someone in small town Texas that hasn’t heard the gospel…they most likely know it by heart…
But what is hard to find here are people sold out to the call of God on their lives. It’s hard to find people who see the freedom and beauty of an intimate relationship with our creator, what a gift Jesus blood was for us, and how a life following the Word of God is a life of passion and purpose and peace and joy and….I could go on for days!
It hit me – it hit us, actually (Scott and me), that while, at least in this season God may not be calling us to preach the gospel in foreign lands, we are never at a loss for people around us who are turning away from the church and a life of faith. They have not seen the freedom and relationship with God, and all they have seen is the crusty, old, legalistic, stifling ways of the religious church – oh but we have seen the freedom, God has shown us His face and spoken to our hearts, He has stirred us. And we can stir others! We can live our lives to His glory and encourage others, we can draw them back into the fold and reflect the love that God has poured out on us. And who knows, maybe my next door neighbor needs a revival of the soul to find her call to minister to the bush.
Making disciples of all nations doesn’t mean you are a failure of a Christian if you are not called to be a missionary. There is a mission field right here…the new testament is filled with stories of Christians trying to show the freedom in Christ to those who knew and kept the “law” but did not live by the Spirit of the law. God has called us to make disciples by encouraging each other and teaching each other what the spirit of God is like; Helping each other to recognize His voice. When you know His love, following His ways makes sense.
The Message translation says this:
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”