How goes “The Great Commission” in your church?

The Matthew 28 passage presents us with “The Great Commission,” as these are the marching orders for our faith and practice! This is also the hallmark passage for evangelism and missions! This is the climax of redemption and the critical call of the Church. This passage contains the ultimate wonder of the universe-the incredible impossible, and the incredible triumph. Jesus was crucified; He died, and was buried.

 

The-great-commission

 

What does make disciples mean to your church? What has your church done with Christ’s most important call? Why do so few churches and Christians do this?

 

The history of man, his fallen state, the move of our Lord though history and our lives has interwoven to the finishing point. He lived on our behalf. He has died in our place to absorb God’s wrath and pay our debt of sin; now, He rises back to life, conquering death, and giving us victory and grace for a life of fulfillment and fullness (Psalm 16:11; 107:09; Isa. 26:3; John 14:21; Gal. 5:16; 22-23; 1 John 1:7-9; 3 John 4)! 

Let’s look at what this all means: 

“Make disciples” literally means someone who pledges to be a “learner.” Moreover, it is someone who follows another’s teaching, and adheres to it. It is a commitment and a process. It involves commitment, and time to undertake the learning, and, as a Christian, a yearning to imitate Jesus!  

This refers to what rabbis did, that is, take people under their wing and teach them the Scriptures and procedures of the Temple and life. Thus, they could then become rabbis, and so forth. There were few formal schools then; and, even after going to a formal school as Paul did, becoming a disciple was still paramount, as it is yet today! The Jews baptized, but not in the name of people, but rather, for repentance. Jesus is God and He saves; we respond by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Eph. 1:3‑14; 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:18‑2:16; 15:1‑8).  

The difference is that rabbis made disciples like themselves, with their traditions and beliefs. We are called to make disciples like Christ, and teach His precepts and ways!  

“Baptize” meant conversion and identification; the person was to become identified as a person of faith and as a follower of Christ. It does not presuppose a ritual, but rather a mindset. The physical act of baptism is essential (not for salvation), as it is a public showing of our faith and commitment. The specifics of how and when are not as important as the faith and obedience to follow Christ (Matt. 4:18-19).  

“Teaching” means to show what is in the Scriptures, how to understand God’s Word, what is God saying to us, and how to live by God’s Word. Personal instruction helps us understand and then apply His precepts into our lives. We are to live for Him and to serve Him. For the rabbi, this meant the Law, Commandments, and the Prophets. Now, it also means the teachings of our Lord.

“Observe.” We are called to learn what to believe and to obey. We do this by observing; it is cemented in us by doing! This passage is called “practical holiness.” Jesus calls us to observe (to learn and grow) and then to do it!  

“Always be with you.” The great comfort we have is that the God of the universe, our Creator and Lord, knows us, loves us, and will be with us! This also refers to Jesus being fully God. One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, which means “God is with us (Matt. 1:23).”  

To make this all work, the remaining disciples had to surrender their will to His in order to know who He was and what He was doing in them (John 3:30). 

We cannot make disciples of others until first we, ourselves, become disciples of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:13)! 

The disciples bore witness to His call to make disciples of all nations; they were His witnesses and His messengers. What will you do about this today (Acts. 1: 22; 4:2, 10, 33; 2 Cor. 5:20)?

 The key to implement this is to realize who Jesus is-and His authority! When we have acknowledged His authority, then we can allow His work in us. Then, He can use us in the lives of others. The opportunities and potentials are limitless (Luke 10:17-20; John 15:7; Acts 20:24)! 

What can you do to help your church see the veracity of The Great Commission and do a better job of knowing Christ so they can then make Him known? What would your church look like doing this? What would your neighborhood look like?

 

http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/?articleid=42799&columnid=4540

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The Consequences of not Knowing the Bible

The Church, as well as the airways, is becoming more and more filled with bad, false teaching from faulty models of biblical interpretation! 

At the same time, more and more Christians are not delving into the Bible for their spiritual nourishment, rather swapping it for “feel good” books that do not properly instruct and/or turning on the TV for the false teacher crowd-or else doing nothing at all for their spiritual growth. Bible studies, Bible based small groups where God’s Word is sought, delved into, discussed and used as challenge and talking points for a life that is transformed are shrinking and/or missing from most lives of Christians and absent from most church programs and happenings.

Endeavors that remain are being attended less and are lacking value and promotion. Additionally, we have the problem of busyness; church leaders-even pastors-are too busy to bother with Bible reading, thus leading from pride and presumption. The people in the pew are so overwhelmed in life, work, family life, and even at church that the Bible, which could solve their problems by showing them their call and God’s precepts, is the last place examined. In many American churches, we have lost our instruction book to the detriment of the Christian community’s spiritual formation, as well as the ability to know and model Christ to the community and world at large, leaving the people in the pew spiritually bankrupt and the neighborhoods with bad models of Christ and thus unreached.

When we do not garner our spiritual nourishment from God’s Word, the Bible, and instead trade it for our whims and mind-sets, we cheat ourselves and weaken our churches, holding back Christ’s work in us and our church’s life; we neuter God’s potential work to those around us too.

Thus, we swap what is good, legal tender for that which is counterfeit and thus leave nothing in our spiritual wallets but confederate notes that are worthless and thus of no spiritual or fruitful value to spend for life and ministry. To counteract these evils and stop Bible illiteracy, we must feed from God’s glorious and wondrous buffet of precepts for our faith and knowledge.

What can we do about it? This is actually easy; just take the time to read it through. Read and know the Bible!

It just takes minutes a day, less than half of a half-hour TV sitcom, to know our Lord and grow in Him for an effectual, transforming life and to dig out what He plainly and abundantly has for us so we have His spiritual spending power. Our reading of the Bible is not meant to merely learn its trivia; rather, we are to be rehabbed in Christ, be changed, renewed, and transformed.

We must take this remarkable currency of His remarkable and astounding precepts and spend it for our spiritual improvement and then for kingdom building. But, what gets in the way of our good buffet and spiritual currency? Simply ignoring God by ignoring or misusing His Word. 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? Shallowness and pretentiousness! These rotten fruits have taken our churches hostage, leaving our pews filled with ignorant, hurt, disconnected children of God who do not know His love or His ways and who make pathetic faith decisions and bad life choices, creating more dysfunction and stress in their lives and homes, and a church that is inept, dysfunctional, and impotent, with an incapacity to know and glorify the very Lord we are to be all about.

 

The Problem of Bible Illiteracy!

Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:1-2; 5:11-6:3; James 1:22-25

From our research and experiences, we have discovered big problems in our churches, the sheepfold of God’s chosen and precious creation. 

The sheep are getting skinnier and dumber (the people of God)! And, many of the shepherds (leaders and pastors) tend to be merely puffed-up, directionless, arrogant, imperceptive halfwits leading their flock away from the prime pasturelands of our Lord to rather feed on the garbage piles of the world and in turn, crafting obtuse sheep with inadequate nourishment and a lack of proper care. They are ignoring our great Shepherd and thus are relying on the way of the wolf and not on the way of our Lord!

The problems, as we have seen slowly creeping into the churches over the last one hundred years, are these: First, the mainline denominations were hit and sunk. Then, the Pentecostal communities (not all of course, but many) were hit and are like a listing ship, leaning into the ocean in a bad storm.

Now, the torpedoes of worldliness, trend setting, misguided management styles, and pride have set their targets on the conservative churches too, replacing the good food of the Shepherd for cheap chow and showmanship.

Therefore, the sheep have food poisoning and thus are too sick to move and do for our Lord. The main problem is not just the lack of Bible knowledge and understanding; it is the lack of even getting into the Bible. It is the refusal and laziness of not encountering our Lord and Savior through His primary communication platform: His Word, the Bible!

We are seeking anti-intellectualism at one end of our church spectrum and shallow seeker-ness at the other.

We are becoming overly scholarly to the determent of any impact from God’s Word, totally ignoring His precepts and replacing them with ours. Both spectrums give mere “sermonettes” that have no substance or effectual teaching. They give no kind of challenge or discipline that is necessary for authentic Christian growth, thus creating small-minded pew sitters who can’t even find their way around the Bible or even know the difference between John the Baptist and John the Disciple. While other churches may say they are Bible and conservative orientated, they too have moved away from the Bible with a fixation on business and consumer models for ministry, seeking a consumer approach to church, relying on strategies for growth instead of the pursuit of love, trust, and obedience to our Lord. Or, they are, as James tells us, merely reading the Word, not doing as it says (James 1:22). 

Remember, God desires us to be transformed agents of His Work and Word!  

How is your church accomplishing this? If it is not, your church is not following the Lord, it is not following The Person; rather, you are following a person or trend or worse! 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? A failed church and a meaningless life. As our churches give what they think are eloquent and edifying discourses, they are, in fact, delivering empty words and the image of a divine bell hop, not the Holy LORD whom we worship, lean on, and learn from and with whom we discourse.

 

 

All churches will have fighting and squabbling!



We are all in some process of sanctification and growth and we are not perfect—or called to be so. The question is, are we on the right road that delivers the fruit or are we just stationed at the fruit-stand and not restocking it? A prime purpose of the Church supposedly is to show and give out the Fruit, but many of us find ourselves empty. Are we making the effort to pick out the rotten fruit and throw it away? If you want to be successful in life, church, and ministry, you need to get this point: we are to be fruit makers. The primary purpose of doing church is not to just please ourselves, but to glorify and serve our Living God. Our lives as Christians are about how we live out His work and honor our Lord; we can best do this by applying our faith and growth in Him to display and give out this Fruit in our church relationships.

Having trouble? Take heart! Christ is the One who changes us and forms our Fruit. All we do is affectionately and in gratitude respond by faith and commit to His precepts. This requires our continual commitment to prevent our bad behaviors or body language from discouraging others from Christ and His Church.

Remember, Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel! The action from your faith will reflect our Lord and either build or destroy your church! Consider this; the fruits and character that we have been given freely cost dearly; they are not cheap. Jesus Christ bought them and then brought them for and to us, for our betterment and to His glory. We must not take for granted what cost Him so much!

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

What is in the Way of our Fruit Production?

When we become a Christian either by birth in a Christian family (to slowly understand Who and What Christ is and over time make a commitment to Him) or through evangelism as an adult (a quick response when ones realizes their sin and need for grace and then commits to Christ), a time must come when the reality of who we are in Christ hits home in power and conviction. The black, dirty slime of our minds has to completely change to the new, golden anointing oil of His Fruit, love, and precepts. This will transform us into practical applications of His will in His church. But, our faith just does not come about on its own; something wondrous must take place within us to transform us so we can trust. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in our Fruit of the Spirit production and cultivation. In other words, we must become the people of God in order to be capable and willing to do the work of God.

Keep in mind this Fruit is mutual; it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us motivated, especially in the leadership of the church and the common places of personal life! This is how the Christian life is to be practical and outgoing—not sedentary and inclusive.

Since God saved us, we in turn are compelled to show our response, to work in Christ’s behalf, to be His agents, powered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel message, even in our own church. This will allow us to have discipline and restraint with obedience to God and others. We must refuse to let distractions derail or remove us from His will and plan so we will not be held back with what Christ called us to do (Prov. 16:32; 25:28; Rom 13:12-14; 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:25-27; Col. 3:16; 1Thess. 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Heb. 12:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7).

This is why we at ITW and FASICLD are embarking on this new research project to see if our churches are truly displaying Christ or building temples unto themselves. Are we fruitful vines or thorn-bushes? This is entitled, The Fruit of the Spirit as a Biblical Mandate versus Actual Practice in American Churches. The initial results are not good; in fact, they are an abysmal testimony to failure resulting from not taking our lead from God, but seeking to be led from ourselves. Thus, in our wake is left a diseased-ridden and dysfunctional church; if we do not turn around, we will fail beyond measure.

Questions to ponder:

We are called to stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do! Remember, our Lord offers His encouragement for all those who are in Him to grow in Him!

What does it take for you to have a greater desire and ability to grow, practice, and apply your faith?

What does it mean to you to make every conceivable effort to put into practice your faith and fruit? How is this necessary for your life?

What have you received from Christ that drives your life? What is in the way? What are you going to do about it?

 

Remember, Christ is our Empowerment and our Example!

Is your Thinking Right? Are your Behaviors are Right?

Good theology is our right thinking of God’s precepts, including the knowledge of His Fruit. Our mind and thinking must be based on Christ and Scripture through which the Spirit guides us (2 Cor. 4:18; 1 John 2:17). If not, our culture and the pleasures of life will sweep us away from God’s best for us. This is our Christian life and purpose! This is the boot camp and the army is our duty in application. Yet, it is the least thing considered by the average Christian’s pursuit, especially those who never take ownership of their faith, who grew up in a church considering it as cultural and a duty rather than devotion and lifestyle. Thus, our churches become fruit-stands that have no fruit in them, just a shell of a building without His real substance, impact, and power penetrating. The danger is for the Christian to sit in a pew, learn all that he/she can, and take comfort in that knowledge, but never do anything with it. This creates the church that refuses to evangelize or reach others, or display Christ by their words and deeds. The Christian that refuses to share his/her faith usually is one who is not growing in that faith. Thus, faith and Fruit may be miserly trickled out on Sunday but no display or model of Christ is present on Monday. Be aware that you will be harshly judged; you are no better than the Pharisees! The proof test is do you use people, or serve them? Do you just gather information, or do you apply it (Hos.6:6; Mica. 6:6-8; Matt. 12 9-14; 23; James 1:21-27)?

In Romans 12: 1-2, we are called as church folks to passionately pursue God’s will, and that is to think rightly of His precepts. By doing so, we can make our faith real so it impacts others around us. This is what a collection of Christians is called to and should do to build a healthy, well-balanced church that glorifies Christ. The simple way we can do this is to see our lives as extensions of God’s grace and hands, so we are willing and able to be lined up to Him and be better used by Him. We are called to be a living sacrifice, which means we are to be living, growing, and performing Fruit agents of God. We are not alone in this essential matter. As Christians, we are transformed completely by the Spirit; this includes all we are and all that we are to do—our will, our plans, and our opportunities (2 Cor. 3:18). We cannot do this unless we give our selfish will and pride and past hurts over to Him (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)!

The incentive for us to surrender to Christ is that His Way is better than ours! He gave us a gift we cannot fathom, let alone earn the gift of grace and eternal life, so why would we not seek to please our Living Loving Lord?

When we are growing in Christ, we will be displaying Christ—our “reasonable service” as church leaders! Then we will have real ripe and pleasing Fruit; God’s will is for us to be willing and able to please and serve Him. This is accomplished when we are on guard so that the distractions of the sinful life will not entice, motivate, or divert us from Him and His plan for us! The call is simple: be willing to allow God to transform you rather than the world; simple? Yes, but it takes diligent effort and the trust we have in Christ to succeed as a church and as individual people of faith! When we do this, our thinking, attitude, and mindset will change and then impact all that we do in life.

How Truthful is your Church and Leaders?

As Christ’s disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Because faith is also in community and mutual, we each partake in Christ and need one another to grow further in our pilgrimage of Christian living. This is what your church needs to be about! In so doing, we share Christ and therefore proclaim Him to those who do not know Him. To be a good church, we are called to glorify Christ in all that we do! In this manner, as both a global Church and a local church, we must also demonstrate His love in how we relate to others. And know this: everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger, and of greater use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil. 2:12-13.

So, enjoy it! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others though them. Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!