Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Those are the final words presented in Matthew’s gospel, which we looked at last week as we concluded our study through that book. As I was praying and thinking about where to go next, I felt strongly that we, as a community, may benefit from hanging out on those words for a while. So, we’re going to begin a short “topical” study that focuses on this mission Jesus set before us as his followers. Some of the things I want to consider will be: What characterizes the world in which we are to pursue this mission? What is the nature of this mission? What will it look like in real life? What does it mean to have Jesus present with us? Do I have to get weird now?
I think there have been few things that I’ve felt more uncomfortable and awkward with than “evangelism”. My whole Christian life I’ve known that the mission given to us by Christ is to go make disciples – to invite others into the kingdom of God. But so many of the evangelism programs that I’ve participated in over the years have left me feeling more like a salesman than anything else. I’ve memorized “conversation starters” that I was supposed to spring on unsuspecting strangers in restaurants or stores. My words inevitably became ill-fitting and I’d usually excuse myself without having “closed the deal”, walking away feeling bruised and inadequate and yet frustrated because I was clearly not being myself. If this is what evangelism is, then it is the introverts nightmare. Have you ever had experiences like that within the church?
What I want to do is consider how our life of following Jesus, of submitting to his reign over our lives, is a large part of how we will fulfill this Great Commission. How being present with Christ and having Christ’s presence IN us becomes the meeting place between heaven and earth. I want to look at our present culture and start to understand it more than critique it, so that we can be observant for where Jesus is already at work in our world and join him. That will be what we focus on as we start our study this Sunday.
As you look at 21st Century American culture, what characteristics stand out as negatives to you? What positives are you able to observe? As you’ve observed it, how much weight does our present culture give to supernatural things? Of course, imaginative stories of superheroes and ghosts are the main ingredients of movies and TV…but culturally, what would you say our culture puts its trust in? How might that effect their interest in our Good News about an invisible, Creator, God and a resurrected Savior? What sort of challenges can you envision with that set-up?
Author Lance Ford wrote: The gospel of God’s kingdom reign is not only good news in and of itself—it is good news because it creates a new people who are good news. How might that enlighten us as to how we would approach our culture with the gospel?
Hopefully, this series will challenge AND encourage us. Trust me, I have no interest in fostering some unrealistic program to save souls…I’m hoping we become people who are stoked about being good news.
Hope to see you Sunday!