Christ did an amazing job of finishing well His time here on Earth. He knew He was on the clock and there was much to be accomplished in a short amount of time. Two years. Approximately two years was all He had. Two years to leave the greatest impression of love, forgiveness, and hope. Two years to raise up an army, wielding truth as its only weapon – an ARMY in TWO YEARS! He did it; He did everything He set out to do, and then He died. But His story didn’t end there, in fact, not even His time on Earth ended there. Nope. He arose because death held no power over Him.
However, once death had been defeated, Jesus didn’t speed past the Earth; He didn’t hightail it to Heaven. Instead, He gifted us with another 40 days of his full, physical presence. 40 days to sum up His two years of ministry. 40 days to seal His message to the Earth. During those 40 days this was His message, to His disciples, and to you and me:
Matthew 28:18-20 “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.’”
Mark 16:15-16 “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel toall creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'”
Luke 24:46-47 “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'”
John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'”
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Great Commission: Go!
In five different passages, in five different ways: GO! This message was so important that it was reiterated by Christ often enough to later be written in all four Gospels and the book of Acts. This message, this sending, was it – the ONLY message from Christ to be included in all five of these books. I think that’s the writer’s equivalent of shouting ‘LISTEN UP’ into a megaphone!
So, let’s break this down a bit: two years teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training (2 Timothy 3:16) periodically to massive crowds, two years teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training a group of 12 (the disciples) frequently, two years teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training a group of 3 (Peter, James, and John) nearly non-stop…then, a little break (you know, in the tomb), and finally, 40 days to send those same people. Being that Jesus is a far better church strategist than any out there, how can we use this knowledge? It’s a simple (not easy, just simple) two-step strategy:
1. Make Disciples
2. Send Disciples out to Make More Disciples
Appointments or Apprentices
I believe many Christians (myself included) are failing on both of these steps. We tend to get a little bogged down in the doing, like Martha (Luke 10:38-42). We like to put out lists (I LOVE lists) of what needs to be done and we entrust others to sign-up. How easy it is to veer off into being doers of the Word and sacrifice being lovers of the Word. We sacrifice apprentices for appointments. We entrust that someone, somewhere will educate these new church-goers and we busy ourselves with finding them the right appointment, the right place to serve, the right Sunday morning ‘job’. And no, I don’t believe that ‘doing’ something is wrong, in and of itself!
How many of us have spent two years with even one intentional disciple? How many of us have let someone into the messes of our lives – not to cry, stress, and complain, but because we know that others NEED to see how someone in love with Jesus will handle those messes (the same messes that they might have)? I know that I am yet unable to fling my hand in the air in answering either question, at least not with the conviction and zeal that one day I hope to have. But, as a person who was someone else’s disciple/apprentice for three and a half years in high school, as someone who was allowed to be a witness to another’s Christ following, I can testify to the power and impact of following Jesus’ strategy. Without her non-stop guidance, I probably wouldn’t even attend church today, let alone write these words to you – on a church blog. Her love for God was contagious, but it was also, and maybe more importantly, intentionally taught.
So, have you ever been someone’s disciple, someone’s apprentice? If not, maybe it is time for you to seek out a spiritual mentor. If so, have you ever made a disciple? If not, maybe it is time for you to seek one out. If so, maybe it is time for you to send out your disciple(s) to make disciples of their own…which would then free you up to make some MORE disciples. Repeat IS(not as) necessary. Let’s trade-in some of our appointments for more apprentices.