The most important question a congregation must ask is, “What is our mission?” In other words, for what purpose do we exist?
Answering that question gives direction for everything else done by that congregation – its focus and its direction.
So what is the mission of a congregation? Some would point to Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus, after having told his followers that all authority in heaven and upon the earth had been given to him, says, “Therefore, go, 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 keep all which I have commanded to you.”
And their answer to the question? “To make disciples who keep all which Jesus commanded.”
But that answer is not fully correct. It’s actually shortsighted. And, it forgets very one important aspect as to what it means to be a disciple who keeps ALL which Jesus commanded.
What is the full, not shortsighted, answer? “To make disciples who make disciples.”
If new disciples are not shown, trained and do not experience new disciples being made by watching older disciples do it, then those disciples have not truly been shown what it means to be a disciple because they, most likely, will not make new disciples as Jesus commanded. And if older disciples are not actively and intentionally making new disciples, then those older disciples do not truly know what it means to fully be a disciple of Jesus, which is to make new disciples who then make new disciples.
When Jesus told these followers to teach new disciples to keep ALL which He had commanded to them, that also meant the last command – this one we know as the Great Commission.
And, honestly, this characteristic of what it means to fully be a disciple of Jesus, meaning making other disciples, is one that is often either lost or disregarded by many congregations and current disciples of Jesus.
And this characteristic must be recaptured; it must become the most important thing to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus or everything else becomes pointless.
Whatever terminology you want to use, what the mission of a congregation, and thereby all followers of Jesus, boils down to is not only living like Jesus wants you to live, but showing that to others as they learn from you and calling others into a relationship with you to learn what that means. That means inviting people into your life who may not necessarily be a believer so s/he can witness how you live a life of faith and draw him/her into faith. And then teaching him/her to emulate, imitate, how you live a life of faith and how you draw others into belief in Jesus.
That means inviting people into your life who may not necessarily be a believer so s/he can witness how you live a life of faith and draw him/her into faith. And then teaching him/her to emulate, imitate, how you live a life of faith and how you draw others into belief in Jesus.
The leadership of a congregation, both formal and informal, must be demonstrating what it truly means and looks like to make disciples who make disciples. The leadership must call people into disciple-making relationships in which they teach and show through real life how to make new disciple-makers.
Anything less falls short.
We must recapture this crucial piece of the mission – making disciple-makers.
And it is the small picture which must be the focus. That means each disciple is encouraged and challenged to have two people, one for each shoulder, who are invited into that disciple’s life to see how a life of faith is done and how that disciple calls to others to come into a believing relationship with Jesus. Then, as those disciples at the shoulders learn and become ready to branch out on their own, meaning they will invite two people to stand at their shoulders to learn from them, that disciple will not only imitate what they learned, but also innovate upon it.
Then, that original disciple-maker will find people to replace those who branched off on their own. It’s not that s/he will cut off that original disciple from contact, but the level of contact will diminish, say, going from weekly to monthly and then to quarterly, and so on.
This is the pattern Jesus established and this is the pattern that apostles such as Peter and Paul followed.
It must once again be our pattern.
Our mission isn’t to make disciples; our mission is to make disciples who make disciples.
Anything less is to fall short in following Jesus.
And many followers have ground to make up.