Monday 14 December 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (37/50) – His Commission to Disciple All Nations: The Great Project

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the thirty-seventh of the fifty emails, this one written by Helen Parry.

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, baptising 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 will be with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Matthew 28:18-20

With a world-changing chapter Matthew rounds off his gospel. Jesus bursts from death to life, and the church is commissioned to turn the world upside down.

In a sense this is a briefing for the work that was to follow the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which empowered the church for its mission. It was a briefing that told them what their mission was to be, that also tells also what our mission is to be.

It is, so to speak, a briefing sandwich – the meat: Jesus’ command; the bread, without which the whole thing would fall apart: Jesus’ affirmation and promise. Entitled and enabled by his authority (28:18), and encouraged and strengthened by his presence (28:20), his people are sent into the world.

And indeed it is to the world that they are sent – to all nations, not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles – to likely and unlikely people.

Jesus commissions them to make not simply converts but disciples, followers of Jesus, wholly and unconditionally committed to him. Learners, always learning through following. But the command is not so much to be a disciple (after all, that’s what Jesus’ followers were already – they had left all in order to follow him) but to make disciples of others. Might the lack of this be something that is contributing to the leakage of people from our churches? This, after all, remains the task of the church, whether through specific discipleship teaching or through individual mentoring.

Interestingly, ‘make disciples’ is the only command in these verses. The other verbs are all present participles. ‘Going’ is what Jesus actually said: going about your everyday life with new values and a new sense of purpose, or following the Lord’s call to the ends of the earth – make disciples. And integral to the process of making whole-life disciples are both baptising (and thus initiating them into the church) and teaching ‘everything’ he has ‘commanded’.

This then is our mission – to be whole-life disciples who make whole-life disciples.

Will we embrace it?

Helen Parry

For further reflection and action:

1. I need to do a health check on my own life – am I truly a whole-life disciple, or are there areas of my life that I am reluctant to surrender to Christ’s lordship?

2. In making plans for the future, how will this Great Commission influence my decisions?

3. Are there Christian friends, or members of your church, whom you might more intentionally seek to disciple?

4. If you feel that you need someone to mentor you, can you identify someone you might approach? What is it that makes them ‘fit for purpose’?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great piece, but don't you think 'The Great Explosion' would have been a better title?