Here’s the thing – the Great Commission (Matthew 28) isn’t super explicit. Where exactly am I supposed to go? Are you sure I’m supposed to go? What if I’ve already gone – do I still need to go? How often do I go? When do I get to stay and make disciples?
The Great Commission starts with the word ‘Go.’ This little Greek word actually means, “as you are going.” I don’t think Jesus command was intended to be a one-time command – it’s an ongoing way of life. As you are going, living, working, doing yard work, attending parties, and raising kids – make disciples. The idea of “go somewhere else” (like on a mission trip) to make disciples is limiting. Yes, we should send people to other places, but for those of us that are here – we should still be going.
I’ve written before that much of Jesus ministry was, “as he was going along.” His ministry is intentional, strategic, monumental, and it all happened as he was going along.
If we’re going to take the latter part (making disciples) of this seriously, it means we may have to alter the kinds of lives we are living. That is, you can’t be making disciples if you’re living at breakneck speed. You probably aren’t making disciples if you aren’t resting. And, if the way you live (how you treat people and spend your money and time, etc) isn’t compelling, you probably won’t get too many followers.
So, let’s go, or keep going, and just think about how we’re going in a new way.
Rob Bell has created quite a stir with his new book, “Love Wins.” I propose that our response to Bell’s book says something about how we view the power of the gospel.
Bell, in his typical style, asks provocative questions. The most controversial question he asks in the book is, “is hell forever?” Since the book’s release, I hear two common reactions to Bell’s book, both of which say something about what we really believe about the gospel. Whether or not you have read it, I think these responses are still telling for what we believe (and how people from the outside view the church).
The first response goes something like this, “Rob Bell is leading people down a dangerous path. He’s asking questions that he doesn’t give answers to, leaving the door open for someone to believe something that’s untrue.” My response is – do we believe there are questions Jesus cannot handle? Don’t you think God wants us to know truth more than our pastors do? Don’t you think He can still be glorified (and maybe even sees an opportunity) when we ask honest and tough questions? I hope Christians are more known by our invitations than our answers (John 1:43-46), by the way we welcome than the way we recite or defend – I think the gospel is big enough to handle that.
The second response is, “If hell isn’t forever, then there is no need for evangelism.” This exposes what we really believe a life with God is good for. If we believe the sole purpose of bringing people to Jesus is so that they have a ticket to heaven, we have seriously missed the power and scope and depth of the gospel. Ask yourself, “Even if everyone went to heaven, can I still think of a reason to introduce people to Jesus?” I hope so. I hope Christians believe their savior did and is doing more for them than just getting them a ticket to heaven. This response has forced me to think about how I can articulate Christ has done for me, beyond what he will do for me after I die.
There are a dozen conversations to be had about the content of Bell’s argument. Let’s have them! While we do, I would venture to say the nature of our reaction (anger? defensiveness? fear? opportunity?) says something about what we believe about the gospel.
In the resurrection, we’ll probably hear Jacob tell a story about a rock pillow and a ladder. Daniel will talk about lions and Ruth about a threshing floor. Noah will talk about a boat, Jonah a city. David a sling, Paul some fish scales, Peter a storm, Mary a tomb, Elijah a whisper, Elisha an axe, Esther a beauty contest, Isaiah a coal, Joseph a dream, and Moses a bush. The story of God’s interaction with mankind is compelling because he is so creative in every story.
Yet, many of us expect God to only connect with us in the same old ways. We get discouraged when we can’t connect to him best in a way we think we’re supposed to. Sometimes, if we don’t like singing or journaling, we feel less spiritual. Very few of our church gatherings empower us to explore how God may connect to us in different ways based on our personalities, the things we’re good at, things we like to do and in our everyday world. He says that he knew us from the womb, don’t you think he has a unique plan to connect to each of us? I wonder if God looks differently at things we don’t think or label as particularly spiritual (i.e. rocks and ladders and beauty contests).
Even more so, very few of our evangelism and outreach strategies are designed with the belief that God can (and does) use incredibly diverse ways to connect to people. The journey to God only goes through one door: Christ. And, can’t he bring us to that door in a number of different ways?