A Disciple-Making Church

Today we are in the fourth message of a five-part sermon series in which we are looking at our church mission statement. In case you haven’t memorized it yet, or even if you have, let me read it for you: “Shaped by the gospel, and for God’s glory, we are a family of disciple-making worshipers.” The last half of the statement is “we are a family of disciple-making worshipers.” Our emphasis this morning is on the phrase, “disciple-making.”

Our primary text today will be from Matthew's gospel, Matthew 28:19-20. But before we read the passage I want to make just two comments about our church mission statement.

First, we want you to know that the mission statement we have adopted does not in any way supersede the Scriptures. The statement does not add to the Scriptures and nor does it contradict the Scriptures. Instead our mission statement flows from the Bible – it is not just consistent with God’s Word, but it finds its basis in God’s Word. We will, Lord willing, see this clearly this morning.

The second thing is this: just because we have a church mission statement does not mean that we, as a church, are experts in fulfilling the parts of the statement. What I mean is that when we say we are a family of disciple-making worshipers, that does not mean that we believe we do this perfectly or even close to perfectly. In fact, on the topic of disciple-making I would give us as a church maybe a C. This means that we can do better, there is much room for improvement, and so adoption of this mission statement is not defining all that we are, but is instead defining who we hope to become as a church. Do you see that? We don’t have it all together, we are not the model church of all churches. We are instead flawed believers who, I hope, are committed to following the Lord more and more – because we have a long way to go in this process of being a Christian. So today don’t hear me saying we have it all together regarding disciple-making, but instead that we believe disciple-making is very important and we are committed to getting to a better place as a church in this regard.

Okay, so are we all good with that? Good! Now, our text will be Matthew 28:19-20 as we consider disciple-making as a marker for church activity and function. Here it is:

Matthew 28:19 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 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For believers this is a common passage and a very important one. In Matthew’s gospel these are the final words spoken by Jesus to His followers. That fact alone should make us consider its importance. Last words are not always important, because often times when people speak their last words they don’t know they will be their last words, if they did they would consider them more carefully. For instance, Elvis Presley’s last words were, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Okay, well, nothing inspiring there for those left behind. But for some others, they seemed to know they were speaking their last words. The blues singer Bessie Smith’s last words were, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.” William Henry Seward, who was the architect of the Alaskan purchase, was asked if he had any final words and he said: “Nothing, only love one another.” Others have had words of comfort and love to those near them. John Wayne’s last words were to his wife, he said: “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” Some simply expressed surprise. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, simply said, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow." And Bo Diddley simply said, “Wow!”

Jesus, knowing all things, the one who never allowed a stray word to come from His lips, left us something significant in these final words from Matthew 28. Just think about it: His last words here, His last instructions in this gospel, His words were a command for us, and at the same time this passage also contained much-needed, in fact critical words of comfort.

Matthew 28:19 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 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The command is this: "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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." And the comfort? "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The command to go and make disciples is where we get the fourth phrase of our church mission statement. We are to be a disciple-making church. I want us to talk mostly about that this morning and we will see it in two parts. The first part has to do with evangelism and the second has to do with progressive sanctification or learning to live as a Christian. We will look at both, but before we do, I want to say that the comfort part is super important, because we can’t do the command, we can’t obey the command except that Christ is with us, in us to empower us to do the command. If He were not with us always, if we did not have the promise and understanding that He is with us always, we would utterly fail to live out the command to make disciples, because we cannot do it on our own. We are unable to fulfill the command except that Christ be in us, empowering us to obey. By the way this is true of all commands, you can forget obeying unless He is in you and you in Him, and you are relying on His strength moment by moment.

So as we talk about disciple making, don’t think so much about yourself, your abilities, your skills, your strengths or weaknesses, your personality, don’t think so much about you, but think about the truth that Christ is in you and He can and will enable you to obey for His glory. He said, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, let’s look at disciple making in two parts. First from an evangelistic perspective. Evangelism is sharing the gospel of salvation and playing a part in the salvation of those who are lost without Christ. When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” this would be the first step in making disciples.

Romans 10, beginning in verse 14, tells of the important role we have in evangelizing the lost:

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

It is an awesome thing that we get to be the ones who speak God’s Word, who read it and explain it to people and can become a part of leading our neighbors to Jesus Christ. We are commanded to go and do this. We are inviting people into the family of God, the family in which we belong.

We see many examples in the Bible of direct evangelism. In Acts chapter 3 verse 19 Peter says this: "Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out." Jesus said:

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Evangelism is in part explaining from the Bible the exclusive message of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is an exclusive message that there is one way to God. One true message of salvation. By the way, though this message is “good news,” and though it presents the solution to man’s greatest problem, this does not mean it is popular or will be received well.

There is a new phrase going around now, and it is the phrase “religious bigotry.” This phrase is being used by politicians, news media, and regular people of all persuasions. Not just liberals or not just conservatives, but by people of all political and philosophical persuasions. You may be called a “religious bigot” if you say there is one way for salvation, because by saying this you are at the same time saying that all other ways are wrong. Religious bigotry is being defined as elevating one religious belief to an exclusive position, thereby condemning all others.

This is interesting because it does not speak of mistreating people of other religions, only holding a belief that their religion is a false one, or one that does not lead to peace with God. We should never mistreat people of other religions, in fact we are called to love them, for they are our neighbors, let’s be clear about that. In fact, we are to be like the good Samaritan who sacrificed greatly for his neighbor, that is what we should do even for those who are of other so-called faiths. But at the same time, we believe that salvation is only through Christ, it is through Christ Jesus alone.

Evangelism clearly states the gospel. I love Ephesians 2, which so clearly describes our pre-salvation state followed by new life in Christ.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So there is this matter in disciple making of one coming to Christ, this is what we call justification. It is a once for all time event of repenting of sin, and by faith believing that Jesus has paid the price for our sins, will cover our sins and will dwell in us by His Spirit. This is because Christ’s work makes us right with God and at peace with Him so that we can enjoy Him both now and forever. But after this one-time event of justification there is more. The “more” is what we call “progressive sanctification.” What is this? It is the process by which God works in us to make us more like Jesus Christ. This process begins at the point of justification and continues through this life.

So when Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you," the "teaching them" is us, working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, helping others to live lives more like Jesus Christ, live lives doing those things which are pleasing to God as stated in the Bible, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

And so we, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, are to be in other Christians' lives teaching them to observe or live by all the things that Jesus taught. This is us being involved in each others' lives for the purpose of progressive sanctification.

Now, that sounds pretty simple. Simply helping each other to clearly see how to apply God’s Word to everyday life and circumstances. Some of you have faced real trials and struggles this last week. How do we help each other in those trials? We do through God's Word. That's what discipleship is about. Simple? It may sound simple, but let me say a few things about that.

In order for this to happen, for each of us to help one another know how to apply God’s Word in our lives, we must first of all be willing to do this. We must love each other enough to be involved with each other. Sometimes this may be that others ask for our help, but other times we may see someone struggling, or perhaps they have a blind spot, or we notice sinful living and we are willing to speak up. This can be scary at times. But we are commanded to encourage and admonish one another in God’s Word.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom

Are you afraid to do this with your brother and sister in Christ? If so, you need to love them more than you do now. God says that perfect love casts out fear. Do you fear? Then love more, love them more.

Again, let me say that as humans we are so unable to do this on our own, and this is what Jesus said: I will be with you in this. "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Another thing that may hold us back is we may say: "But I don’t have time to be involved with other people." Well, Jesus does not put a time imperative in this passage, He just says do it. And the doing of it should be in your normal walk of life. As you go, make disciples. As you live, be involved with people. As you walk, obey the Lord. God can monitor your time.

Another issue we may have is we think we are not smart enough or not educated enough to help others be more like Jesus. Well, if that is the case, then you can study God’s Word more, we can all learn to disciple others, from the most seasoned Christian to the newest Christian. But wherever we are, as we learn more, we can at the same time share what we already know that will help others, right?

Here is a question for all of us: are you discipling someone else? It doesn’t have to be a church program, but it should be a way of life. Now, having said that, as church leaders we are looking at ways that we can better facilitate discipleship through things like small groups, Sunday morning classes, special times of fellowship, and such, but don’t wait on a program. Start now if you haven’t. Tell someone of God’s ways, of salvation, of Jesus Christ. Talk with other believers about God’s commands, of living life in Christ, of walking in a way that is pleasing to God. Start now, make it a habit, take Jesus' last words seriously. We can do better, and God is here to help us do better. By faith we can do better, by trusting in Jesus and His strength we can do better. He is here for us, He is with us.

Matthew 28:19 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 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”