Last week i, together with the other members of our ministry leadership team, had the privilege of being challenged by two brothers; one a dear friend for almost twenty years – Elbert Smith, and the other, a new friend – Steve Wright, now serving at the church that was my home for many years. These two men “book-ended” our time as a ministry leadership team as we gathered and sought the Lord for His continuing direction for the days ahead for the church family we have the awesome privilege to shepherd. Interestingly, the two men have never met, though they do know of one another. So they hadn’t compared notes, and we had not coached them on what the other was speaking about. But the voices we heard from were really one voice – and though it was “still and small”, it resonated loudly in our hearts, our souls and our minds. It wasn’t a new word – but it was a timeless word.
You see, we as a church are seeking to “follow Jesus… to see generations and nations transformed by the gospel.” And the two primary questions these brothers placed before us were:
Are you seeking merely to reform unregenerate behavior through programs and strategies, or are you truly seeking to make disciples?
And, before you attempt to lead others to make disciples, are you truly being and making disciples?
We were reminded out of Acts 19:10 that our Lord used a small gathering in an upper room to, in turn, make 8,000 – 10,000 disciples, who, in turn, communicated the “word of the Lord Jesus” through the power of the Holy Spirit to “all who dwelt in Asia” (estimated to be twelve million people) in a matter of “two years”. And the Lord didn’t use football stadium crusades or broadcast or social media. He used His followers who were being His disciples and who were, in turn, making disciples. He used people just like He had the woman at the well in Samaria; people whose lives had been touched by Him and who couldn’t wait to tell others about Him.
In our context in Metro Richmond, there could be as many as one million people who do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ – and many of whom – even in Richmond, Virginia – have never heard the “word of the Lord Jesus”. Will we be content if we as a church see 100 new believers baptized this year or will our hearts be broken for the thousands who enter into an eternity separated from God having never heard His gospel? And yes, what about the billions of people globally who have not yet heard the “word of the Lord Jesus” – many in places where there is no gospel witness?
And what is that word? His Word says:
God created us to have relationship with Him (Genesis 1:26-28; Isaiah 43:7). But all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). Our sin has separated us from the God who created us – in life and for eternity (Romans 6:23). But God made a way – the only way – for our sin to be forgiven – through His Son (Romans 5:8; John 14:6). And through His forgiveness of our sin, we can enter into an unbroken relationship with Him – in life and for eternity (Romans 6:23). In order to receive His forgiveness and enter into that relationship with Him, i must believe and repent. i must turn from my ways and turn to Him as my Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10,13).
Yes, the simple fact is if i would follow Jesus, i must first be a follower of Jesus. If i would be a “maker” of disciples, i must first “be” a disciple. And if i am “being” a disciple, i will be “making” disciples. No new revelation. No astounding new strategy. Rather, the timeless “word of the Lord Jesus” being shared with everyone we encounter.
If you have read this, you’ve now heard the “word of the Lord Jesus”. If you have not yet followed Jesus and would like to know how, i would love to talk with you! If you are already a follower of Jesus, i would challenge you that a part of being a disciple is making disciples. Don’t forget the woman at the well: The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone (John 4:28). The people in the “village” are waiting to hear!