A Going Church
These last few weeks we have been considering who we are as All Nations Baptist Church. This week we will consider the last of three things we do- we go out into the world.
Who are we?
We are and seek to be a simple, local, faithful Church
What do we do?
We confess the gospel of Christ, grow in the Lord, and go out into the world.
…to equip the saints for the work of ministry…
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
If you go to a Christian college for four whole years, the seniors often begin to say this: I’m ready to move out of the Christian bubble. This isn’t to say that the Christian bubble wasn’t good for a time of discipleship, but after four years of often intense Christian interaction, the college students feel like something has been missing. They have lived on campus or with their parents, participated in student life, and hopefully have involved themselves in a Christian church, but there is very little interaction with unbelievers. I went to Christian college, and it did feel like this. The problem is that nearly no Christian calling is relegated to serve Christians alone. Even pastors who preach and teach, whose calling is especially directed towards study, prayer, teaching, and equipping the church also meet with and connect with non-Christians.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus instructs the disciples, who will form the core of the early Church, to go out and make disciples. All Christians are to go out from their assemblies and should seek to make disciples. Paul, from a different perspective, says a similar thing. When he is instructing the Ephesian church about their leaders, he says the leaders are to do their part and this will equip the church for the work of the ministry. Part of this ministry is for life within the Church. The other part of this ministry is accomplished by going out and making disciples of those who are not currently disciples.
I have mentioned this in a recent sermon, but American culture is structurally opposed to this. We live in our bubbles: it is realistic to not know our neighbors. We may not actually know our coworkers. We may not know our classmates. This reality is because of the simple technological structures that have been quite beneficial to improving our lives. We live in bigger homes and have larger yards to have recreation than most people in history and than most people in the rest of the world who live in apartments of various kinds. Most people don’t use their properties for economic production of any sort. This is a huge sign of luxury, but for our purposes here, it is emblematic our separation. The physical distance between us and our neighbors is huge. The relational distance between our coworkers is also huge since we could easily live 45 minutes away from each other. This leaves little natural relationships outside of the ones that we invest in. So the great commission calls us not only to invest in the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ, it also drives us to pursue relationships so that we can make disciples of those who are not.
The hospitality book we read last summer was very beneficial in thinking about one avenue for making disciples. Although we do not expect every person we invite into our homes to become a disciple of Christ, we do hope to be hospitable and so share the love of Christ in the hopes that some might respond to the message of God’s word. For those who work, we can eat food with our coworkers and develop relationships this way and pray that the Lord would open doors. For parents, we pray that the instruction we give our children will be seed planted in well tilled soil. And for any of us who have family who don’t know the Lord, we pray that our integrity and words would be sweet and direct them to the Lord of all truth.
Although we may throw the seed of the word, we entrust the growth ultimately to our God. He is the one who transforms hearts and minds. We must never forget that it is God who turns hearts and not our own persuasion. Yes, we can think about how best to ask and answer real questions that people might have about the faith, but we ultimately entrust the work of the word to God. It has been quite common in the past 200 years to manipulate people into a ‘decision’ without expecting proper evidence of conversion. We have neglected the doctrine of conversion taught in the scriptures. We must instead be wary of manipulation and be aware of the long road of the work of discipleship. It isn’t something that happens overnight: it is a work of the church throughout a whole person’s life. May we never neglect this difficult and slow work of making disciples and may we trust in God who is at work through his word to bring people to himself.