This is Part 2 of a two-part blog on Preparing for Mission: What is Mission?
As a Christ-centered leader, your primary purpose is to focus on the mission and to equip those you lead to do the same. In part one of PREPARING FOR MISSION: What is mission? We explored “mission Dei,” and what God’s mission means for you and for the church.
Mission: It Matters Where You Start
Fundamentally, when it comes to mission, it matters where you start. The mission is God’s mission. Although we do a lot of talking about it, the mission is not the church’s mission. And even though you are the leader focused on the mission, it is not your mission. To start with anyone other than God is to misunderstand “missio Dei” and is to lead people away from a “loving and sending God” to “how can we get people to do what we want them to do” God.
It is God’s mission, and we are invited to participate in it. As we explored in Part 1, God’s love is the one true and authentic principle of the church. When the church is loving the people in the community it is fulfilling God’s mission, God’s purpose. The church itself is not only a product of God’s love but is compelled and destined to share God’s love. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith who follows Jesus.
So, a working definition of mission for the church is a community of God’s people who define themselves by God’s love, organize themselves around God’s love, and who become agents of God’s love in the world.
With God’s mission for the church in mind, let’s look at Matthew’s call to God’s mission.
Read: Matthew 28:16-20
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, this scripture is Matthew’s way of telling his followers how to live the “holy” set-apart life, the life of love. Jesus is sending his followers out to love others into being his followers.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The biblical definition of the word authority is understood and used to describe the power or responsibility given by God. In this case, it is the power or responsibility given to Jesus. From Matthew’s perspective, that authority was to teach and instruct the way to live before God a “holy” life, a life set apart by loving one another.
Therefore refers back to something earlier. In this scripture, it refers back to Jesus having authority. In other words, Jesus is our authority regarding “holy living” or the set-apart life. Jesus gives us instructions on how to live as his followers. The instructions are as follows:
“Go and make disciples of all nations…”
The word “go” literally means “as you go.” It carries with it both presence and movement. The idea here is that wherever you are at any particular time or place is the time and place. For example, as you go (wherever you are) to the office, to school, to the grocery store, on vacation, etc. These are the times and places you are set apart to live a life of love.
The word “disciple” means “student.” The word occurs over 250 times in The Acts of the Apostles. Every reference is connected to a person, and overwhelmingly that person is Jesus. So, to make disciples is to make students or followers of Jesus.
Now, some people misread the word “make” as coercion, but that is not what Matthew means by “make” disciples. Matthew is concerned about the “holy living” as developing healthy relationships.
So, how do you make disciples? You make disciples, followers, and students of Jesus, the same way Jesus did. You love people. You bless them, help them, and care for them. Just as with Jesus, (agape) the well-being of people becomes your priority.
You might think of a disciple as a “grace-filled follower of Jesus who puts faith into action.” You practice the love of Jesus so you might become like Jesus. When you read the Gospel of John, you discover that the followers of Jesus are known by the way they love one another. So, to “make disciples” means to love people as you have been loved. It is to engage in the love of God in the places you live, work, play, and associate with people.
The word “nations” literally means “ethnic groups” or “people.” It is an all-inclusive word. It includes everyone. So, wherever you go, you work for the well-being of everyone you encounter.
As you go
As you go, wherever you are, you love people, you work for their good, so that they will love as they have been loved and grow into becoming “grace-filled” Jesus followers who put their faith and love into action.
“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” …
Baptizing – The words “to baptize” carry with them something more than water baptism. “To baptize” means to dip or to immerse. As you encounter people, you love them. You dip them, you immerse them in the love of God.
Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – The words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit refer to the movement of God. We are instructed to immerse those becoming Jesus followers in the movement of God. We are instructed to saturate them in God’s love as experienced in and through Jesus Christ. So, wherever you are or whatever you are doing you have the opportunity to love the people you encounter. You have the opportunity to invite people to learn of Jesus and to immerse them in God’s love in such a way they too will love everyone. The movement of God is the agape of God. God’s love made real in and through your relationships.
“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”
Teaching – The word “teaching” in this place refers to what Matthew wants us to know about “holiness.” It is what we learn as followers of Jesus. It is what the movement of God is all about. At the very heart of “holiness” or “righteousness” is relationship, relationship with God and with one another.
This “holy living” or different living means a right relationship with family, friends, strangers, and enemies. It includes being proactive in how you treat others. You act on behalf of others not because they have acted on your behalf but because you have been loved by God in and through Jesus.
This “holy living” means having integrity. It means being as good as your word. It means you can be trusted when you let your “yes” mean “yes” and “no” mean “no.” It means that you are not conflicted but integrated in your living. How you act and relate to others grows out of who you are, from the convictions of your heart.
This “holy living” does not get tripped up on things but seeks first the kingdom of God. The “holiness” of God is not focused on buildings or furniture, but upon people whether they have money or not.
This “holy living” means your caring for others becomes so natural that you care for everyone the way you would care for Jesus. You care because that is who you are, a grace-filled Jesus follower who is putting your faith into action.
This “holy living” means being proactive in forgiveness. It actually means to forgive as many times as it takes to restore the relationships that are being broken. It is the relationship that is important.
The words “to obey” mean “to observe” or to “pay attention to.” To obey “these things” refers to the teaching on “holy living.” To obey these things means to observe or pay attention to this holy living. It is easy to talk about this “holy living,” but it is not so easy to live it. To “obey” or “pay attention” means to do or to live these things. It means to make these “holy living” a part of our daily living.
“Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
The greatest part of this “holy living” is that you are not left alone to do these things. The Risen Christ is with you. God does not leave you to fend for yourself. The very birth of Jesus is announced as “and they shall name him Emmanuel which means, ‘God is with us.’” The mission of making disciples is God’s mission. You have been invited to participate in God’s mission. If God calls you, God will equip you. When God calls and equips, God will be with you, even to the end.
So, the mission of the church, according to Matthew, is that wherever you go, love others with God’s love, invite them into God’s love, immerse them in God’s love, and model God’s love for them. You make disciples the way Jesus did. You love people. You work for their good. As others experience God’s love through you, they will begin to love as they have been loved. This is “holy” or “righteous” living. It is working for the well-being of all people. It is God’s mission of love.
This is Matthew’s description of “missio Dei” God’s mission.
Today, wherever you go, be aware of God’s mission in every situation and circumstance. Look for opportunities to model God’s love for those whom you lead.
Reflect upon this story, told by Spring Bowlin, as an example of a simple act of love. She said, “My heart was warmed at Wal-Mart during lunch. The gentleman, in front of me in the checkout line, had his items scanned and the cashier had given him the cost of his purchase.
“He took a handful of change out of his pocket and laid it on the counter. As he attempted to count out the coins, he became frustrated when he miscounted. Then, aware of me and others waiting behind him, he became embarrassed. He looked back at me apologetically and with hands and voice shaking he said, ‘I’m so sorry.’
“The cashier patiently helped him separate his change on the counter, looked up at him and said, ‘No need to apologize, Honey. This is not a problem. Let’s count out the money together.’
“Although he continued to apologize, both the cashier and I assured him it was okay. With the cashier’s help, he completed his transaction and shuffled away.
Bowlin said, “I looked at this wonderful woman and said, ‘Thank you for being so caring and patient with him.’
“She shook her head and replied, ‘You shouldn’t have to thank me for helping someone who needs a little care and compassion. What’s wrong with our world is, we’ve forgotten how to love one another.’
Bowlin said to herself, ‘I want to be more like her.’”
So, today, watch for opportunities to be an instrument of God’s love. Become aware of the people around you and how you might model God’s love in difficult situations and circumstances.
In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is love. When the church is loving the people in the community, it is fulfilling God’s mission. The church itself is not only a product of that love but is obligated and destined to extend that love. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that follows Jesus.
So, wherever you go, as you experience God’s love, remember to share God’s love so that others will want to be like you. Love, agape love, is God’s mission for you, me, and all creation.
O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me in Jesus. Make me a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen
Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. With whom did you experience God’s love? In what situations were you able to model God’s love? How did you express God’s love? With whom do you need to celebrate the love you experienced in and through them?