A key component of the mission of the Church is equipping members for discipleship. What exactly does that mean? Is today’s Church focused on the right priorities? With so many people leaving the Church, it is worth our time to take a deeper look.
(Matthew 28:19-20) 1NIV New International Version Translations– “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
From the directive in Matthew, there are good clues to help with a definition of “equipping.” The word “go” indicates that the product of the Church’s efforts is to send people out into the world around us. There is also an outward component, baptizing. Baptism is for those who have either acquired or have a knowledge of God’s Truth (Romans 10:17; 1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 11:6). To gain such knowledge requires equipping teachers who know God’s Word. Then passing it on. That sounds simple enough but there are complications. There is always a danger that the message is being tailored for acceptance rather than to God’s Truth.
(2 Timothy 4:3-5) – “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
The pressure to sustain or grow congregations is real. Technology and music needs to wow worshipers and bring them back each week. Christian education can resemble fellowship rather than learning. Sermons must engage but not be divisive. All this while our world is busy teaching counter messages. Many denominations are responding by adopting worldly opinions so as not to offend. Christ’s church was not meant to be a place that accepted everyone’s opinions. God’s Kingdom is NOT a democracy where everyone gets to vote on policy. Repentance is disruptive. God’s Word is disruptive.
What might be good clues to make sure God’s Truth is being taught?
(Romans 1:19) – “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. “
Clue One: The basic reality of God is plain enough. Paul says, “Open your eyes and there it is.” God is well organized, loves diversity, is powerful and real. To deny God is to deny Truth!
(Romans 2:13-16) – “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
Clue Two: Some things are hard wired in us by God. Most people know there is a right and wrong. Our conscience tells us this. The conscience is like a law written in the human heart. Our world tries to tell us to ignore God, think only of yourself. What Truth will you chose to believe? It starts with us!
(John 1:!4) – “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The ultimate Truth is Christ. He must be forefront in all we do. Christ didn’t come to make people happy, He came to give people life, everlasting life. Discipleship, equipping people is all about moving Christ to the front of your life!
Clue Three: God gave each of us reasoning and the Holy Spirit (revelation). Truth is knowable. Truth is not a mystery.
(Proverbs 4:26) – ” Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.”
God expects us to think, to use common sense, to be discerning. The world is not a reliable teacher. It will take observation, prayer, and knowledge of God’s Word to become an effective disciple. Hard work for the Church and for the future disciples of the Church.
Clue Four: God provided us a complete text book. It is the best “user manual” for life ever written.
(2 Timothy 3:26) – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
Successful completion of the church’s mission requires all disciples to:
- Know and believe that All Scriptures are from God. No selective cutting and pasting allowed.
- Believe and rely on the Scriptures for their decisions. Disciples may offend some people. Remember, it is not about pleasing our world, it is all about pleasing our God!
As the most widely published book ever, external evidence supports the Bible as a book that you can rely on. The Bible’s has the benefit of about 40 main contributors. Thirty were in the Old Testament and ten in the New Testament. Within a few generations from its first writings, there were thousands of copies made. External evidence also includes many archeological discoveries. The final evidence of Scripture’s authenticity is that, although written over 1,500 years, it tells one consistent story. No human being could account for that. It’s an amazing example of the power of God.
Clue Five: It takes Jesus, front and center to equip disciples. One of the clearest and the most well know verses in the Bible is “Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Notice Jesus says, “I.” Jesus Christ is not a religion. He is not a ritual. Jesus did not come to give us rules and regulations. It turns out that God’s Truth is a person! Jesus came to forgive and “equip!“
Other religious leaders all say they are looking for the truth. Some say they are teaching the truth. A handful say they point to the truth or are a prophet of truth. Jesus says “I am the truth.”
What do you do with the truth once you have discovered it?
(2 Timothy 2:15) – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Consider that the average person spends 2 hours a day on social media. They spend 3.5 hours watching television, and 8 to 9 hours sleeping. Add in working, transportation time, meal prep and leisure time. Soon you begin to see one of the problems. One to two hours in church once a week can be overcome by life itself. Can you become equipped in an hour or two once a week? Jesus even tried to simplify the message:
(John 13:34-35) – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Is Jesus’ simple message enough? The world’s message is counter that of love. It is divisive, always separating people into groups. Whether by political, color, domination, economic, or heritage, love is never the goal. Winners and losers, hatred are the goals for the world. Power and corruption rein supreme. In Scriptures, a disciple is to be a learner who endeavors to obey what they have learned. To be a disciple of Christ, to become “equipped,” one must:
- Love God with all their whole being (Matthew 22:37)
- Love their families and neighbors as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39)
- Keep themselves holy and pure (Ephesians 1:4)
- Be unified with each other (1 Corinthians1:10)
- Be wise and understanding about God’s Word (Ephesians 5:17)
- Set themselves apart from the world (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
- Be prepared for the spiritual battle ahead because they must live in the world (Ephesians 6:10-20)
How would you answer the question, why are people leaving the church? Is the mission of Christ’s Church too hard? Has the world moved on? Should we no longer worry about God’s Truth? Is the Church focused on the wrong things? What about those who cannot afford to be financially generous, living on fixed income, hear the pressure to give, but are too embarrassed to come, and my very favorite, those who do not want to be confronted with their “sin?” Are the demands just too much today? Our generation and the next generations have a few big decisions to make!
- Do you believe that you are called to be a disciple for Christ?
- Items to Explore: This is a hard question. Where does your inner faith point you? Paul says there are different gifts and do you know your gifts? Do you believe that all people are called to be disciples? Are you comfortable with sharing your faith and teaching others about the God’s Word?
- Discipleship seems to be dependent upon a knowledge of Scripture. What do you do to learn as much as you can?
- Items to Explore: We learn God’s Word many ways. Do you attend worship or watch online regularly? What about supplemental Bible Study? Are you an avid reader of inspirational material? Do you allocate personal time to reading God’s Word?
- Can you tell someone how your life was before Christ, how you grew to know Him and turn your life over to Him, and what life is like now?
- Ideas to Explore: Testimonies do not have to be dramatic. Everyone has a story that relates to someone else. Being a disciple is about a willingness to share your experiences. It is also about living for Jesus. Do you really know what that entails and means?
- If someone asked you to define “God’s Truth,” what would you tell them?
- Items to Explore: Can you be honest about sinful behavior and tell a family member or close friend how God may not approve of what they are doing? Without being judgmental, how would you point out “sin?” Are you apt to avoid controversy so not to offend someone? Can you draw a clean line between sinful behavior and Godly behavior?
- What keeps you from expanding your commitment to discipleship?
- Items to Explore: Time, beliefs, fear?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations