Matthew 28:19 has been rightly emphasised by churches down through the centuries - 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'.
Nothing has changed - this mission remains our top priority. However, verse 20 is of equal value, and yet has received less emphasis.
28:20 'Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you to the very end of the age'.
It seems that by emphasising verse 19 and not verse 20, we risk getting new believers to baptism, but then leaving them to get on with things on their own. To work it out as they go along. If this mission to the world remains our most important focus, then we cannot afford to leave disciples of Jesus looking and sounding just like the world they have been saved out of. What gospel message is that going to preach?
The idea in the early church was that our distinctive, Christ shaped lives would be an attractive contrast to the lost world around us. Indeed, for the early church, this was exactly how it worked - transformed by the gospel, learning to walk each day full of the power of the Holy Spirit - no wonder people were drawn in and joined this new band of believers on a daily basis.
For us as a local church in Crawley, the mission to over 100,000 people around us who don't yet know Jesus, who maybe don't know so many distinctive Christians, and probably don't connect with a New Testament church, couldn't be clearer. We need to get in shape, Jesus kind of shape, and quickly! Bringing our lives into line with his teaching in his word, so that our community sees something authentic and attractive.
Genuine New Testament discipleship then is less about me getting my issues dealt with and feeling better about my life (although you will), and more about growing up and looking and sounding increasingly like Jesus to a world which needs our authentic witness.
28:20 Discipleship evenings are a simple attempt to do something about this.
We will meet on monday evenings during term time to work our way through Mark's gospel. In doing so, we will be learning how to read the scriptures, how to hear God speak through the bible, and how to apply what we are learning to our lives.
There will be a chance to deepen our prayer life too and to learn how to get filled with the Holy Spirit and exercise spiritual gifts together.
Each week, we will follow a simple pattern, with the idea that you can replicate that template on your own in quiet times, with your family or even friends in a small group.
In short, we want to make you into disciples that can make disciples of others rather than lock you into an unhealthy dependency.
Our expectation is that you will grow quickly, begin to see breakthrough in all kinds of areas in your life, learn to walk by the Spirit, and start to see real missional impact through your ordinary christian life.
Friends, there is too much at stake on this mission for us not to take this seriously. If there is anything in you that wants to grow, however hard a change it may mean - come and join us!
Tom Landrey, coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 80's described coaching as, 'making men do what they don't want, so they can become what they want to be.'
What kind of Christ follower do you want to be? Let's stop living in neutral, or even worse, unthinkingly getting discipled by the culture and attitudes of the world around us. Why not start living for Jesus, as you intended from the start? For the sake of the world around us, your friends, neighbours and work colleagues who don't know what a New Testament believer looks like- its time to grow up and take Matthew 28:20 as gospel!
See you at The Charis Centre, Mondays 7.30pm from June 9th.