Our Mission as Disciples of Christ
To be and to share the Good News of
Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving and serving,
from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.
We are Disciples of Christ. A disciple does what her teacher does. When first called, Simon, Andrew, James, and John were told, “Follow me. I will teach you…” The notion of a disciple derives from Greek culture, where philosopher/teachers would gather a group of students who would literally follow them around, watching and listening and learning. Over time, some of these disciples would become serious enough students that they could stand in and represent the teacher. The most famous of these is the disciple Plato, through whom we know about Socrates. What would the history of western thought be without the contributions of Socrates. And without Plato, we would know little of Socrates. The same must be understood about Jesus and his disciples. John makes it explicit in Jesus Last Supper prayer when he says, “I pray not only for these (my disciples) but also for those who will believe through them.” (John 17) (Italics mine)
For the past 2000 years there have emerged succeeding generations of “those who would believe through them” who came to hear and embrace the Good News that God has acted in Jesus of Nazareth for the salvation of the world. Some of these also became disciples, students of the teacher who were serious enough that they sought to not only listen, learn and believe, but to act. Disciples allow their lives to be transformed by the teaching of their master. This transformation does not happen overnight. The conversion to a way of thinking may be sudden epiphany – you wake up one day, or hear something in a new way, and as if out of nowhere you realize this is a truth you must embrace. The larger story is most often that a gradual process of exposure to this “new way” has unfolded over preceding months or years. Consider even the Apostles, most of them were part of one or another renewal movement within Judaism that was looking toward some intervention from God. Some anticipated it to be spiritual as with the followers of John the Baptist including Andrew and Nathaniel (JN 1), while others looked for the political as is the case with Simon the Zealot (Acts 1:13). Among the messages of this narrative may be that the Gospel is both spiritual and political, and that both are valid starting places for the journey toward Jesus, though neither is an ending point.
Disciples lives are transformed by the life and teaching of the master, so that they come to resemble their teacher more and more. The word “Christian” means “little christs” for that is what we become, small copies of the original. It can also be understood as “of the house of Christ” or “belonging to Christ” as would have been used regarding servants. As Paul wrote to the disciples of Jesus who were in and around Ephesus: “come…to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. …we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Eph 4) Growing as a disciple of Jesus means growing to think, speak, look and act more like him every day. We are to think of ourselves as he did – a beloved child of God (MK1:11). We are to think of others as he did –lost and hurting siblings whom God desires to save (Mk 3:31-35). We are to think of God as he did – a loving divine Parent (MT 6) who has made us and is willing and able to set us free from the idolatries that destroy us. In John’s words, we are to “walk as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
The Gospels tell us that Jesus made two declarative statements about why he came:
From Mark1, “Let us go to the surrounding towns and preach the Good News there also, for that is what I came to do.” And his preaching was this, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe the Good News.”
From Luke 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind. To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The Gospel message is that Jesus understood his life as one chosen by God and sent to be and to share Good News, from his doorstep and beyond.
He would SHARE the good news by proclaiming the fulfillment of this promise found in Isaiah 61. He would invite people to receive God’s mercy freely given, to believe that they were already loved, and that a holy life was a response to and living out of that love, not a way to earn or keep it. He would SHARE the good news by allowing the power of love within him to go forth and accomplish healing in the lives of others (LK8). It is likely that this power from the Holy Spirit was made available to him at his baptism (MT3), just as Jesus promised that his disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts1). He would SHARE the good news by telling odd stories about the kingdom and love of God, stories that always seemed to turn back on the hearer any time they got complacent (MT22).
He would BE the good news by accepting and welcoming all into his presence and honoring them by even receiving their hospitality – both Pharisees who were often thought judgmental and self-righteous (LK7) and tax-collectors (LK5) and lepers (MK14), who were the lowest of the 1st century Jewish caste system. He would BE the good news by talking with the Samaritan woman and even allowing her to be the first evangelist (JN4). He would BE the good news by staying with the “woman caught in adultery”, right in the line of fire, so that her punishment would fall on him as well, and then releasing her from condemnation from God, other or self (JN8). He would BE the good news by accepting the consequences of his life – both his being and his sharing. This unavoidable consequence was the cross – unavoidable because systems of power in society (MT14:5) and within ourselves (MT23) are violently resistant to a radical grace that is available to all and doesn’t keep score. We want everything to be fair, and there is nothing fair about the Gospel. He would BE good news when the tomb was found empty (Acts 4:33)and life conquered death (2Cor 5:4). And finally he would SHARE good news when he extended the invitation we find in MT28 and Acts 1 –to go and continue the adventure of making disciples, and to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit that would be given.
Our mission is to be and to share
the Good News of Jesus Christ,
witnessing, loving and serving,
from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.
Well, that is some of what Jesus did. And if we are like him in what we say and do, then what is ahead for us?
How can we BE good news?
- We allow ourselves to be transformed inwardly (RM 12:2). The New Testament is clear that inner transformation is most important (MT 23), and that the inner may not always manage to transform the outer (Rm 7), but that does not call our salvation into question. What matters is our hearts, and only God can really assess our hearts (1 Sam 16). How does this inner transformation take place?
- Acceptance of God’s mercy, grace and love. You are loved. Period. (Rm 5:8-9)
- Giving increasingly more of yourself to the Divine Lover (Mk 12:30). This happens in various forms of prayer and study and worship. Different modes of communion work for different people. Some pray though music, others through spoken or written words, still others through a pregnant silence where we have nothing to say and are only longing to hear and receive. Jesus seems to have practiced all of these.
- Giving to God through giving to others. We are transformed by what we do, not only by what we feel, think or believe (James 2). The doing of love makes it real. (1 Jn 3:18) Whether we welcome in gracious hospitality, or serve those in need, or accompany our sisters and brothers on this shared journey, we are transformed in the process. All of these were practiced by Jesus, by his Jewish ancestors, and by his disciples.
- Allowing the light of God’s Love and God’s Word which comes to us through the scriptures to shine on our lives to bring healing to our brokenness and cleansing from our sin. We are all the same as sinners in need of a savior (Rm 3:23), the sick in need of a healing physician (Mk 2:17). We are all different in the nature and degree that our sins trouble us and cause suffering around us. The fact that we are the same is more important than the ways that we are different.
- What does a transformed life look like? Well, the short answer is “Like Jesus.” The long answer takes more time than one lifetime holds. In between is the journey of faith we live and the answer as it unfolds within and through us:
- The sermon on the mount (MT 5-7)
- ‘The fruit of the spirit’ (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 & Deut 5)
- Community (Lev 19; Phil 2; Col 3)
- Joy and Peace (Is 55; Phil 4)
To SHARE the good news flows out of the Being, at least in part. Intentionality is also required, for Jesus said, “GO, and as you go, make…” (Mt 28) Go and do stuff. We want not only for our lives to be transformed, but also to “always be ready to give an explanation for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) Some audiences are more receptive than others.
Circles of Intimacy: Remember that Jesus’ siblings seemed to think he might be crazy (Mk 3:21), and his hometown-hero parade turned quickly into a lynch mob (Lk4). Those who knew us as children often have trouble accepting who and what we have become as adults if it is anything other than what they would have dictated for us given the chance. Not so easy sharing the good news on your doorsteps sometimes. Paul suggested that even in difficult relationships and situations we can witness by our quiet life, and sometimes that is all we can do, and is enough (1 Cor 7:13-17). In other instances we are called to do more.
Circles of Influence: The next group of people are those with whom we have some shared influence – there is a mutual respect and appreciation, or a strong bond through common history, interest or passion. For Jesus, this group included the disciples of John, who he knew were already anticipating the coming of the Messiah and had a deep hope and interest in what God was about to unfold in their day (JN 1:19-51). You know their dreams.
The next two groups are Circles of Affiliation and Acquaintance: (LK 8-10)
Affiliation: The next group is those who you interact with perhaps on a daily basis. They are folks we know fairly well, but perhaps not who “remember us when”. These people have a familiarity that brings a level of comfort and credibility, making it easier to earn the right to be heard. They are people you know well enough that you would be aware when they were sick or had a family crisis. You know about some of their relatives. You know their hobbies and interests.
Acquaintance: The next area is our community and region, those with whom we cross paths during the month. Consider where you go in your week that you see the same people repeatedly. You know them by face, and they you, but may not know their name or much about them. You’re not exactly strangers. They would not be surprised if you walked up to them and started a conversation. You know something about them.
Fishing Ponds: Jesus came to Simon, Andrew, James and John and said, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Mk 1:17) Sometimes folks will think, “Everyone I know already goes to church, or I’m certain they aren’t interested.” Certainty about such things is questionable – perhaps they just haven’t been given the right kind of opportunity. And besides, we’re not looking to get people to church, we are wanting to join with others as we follow Jesus together. So “fishing ponds” are places we go to turn strangers into acquaintances. We will discover affiliations of common interest or experience, which then will lead to deeper conversations about life and loss, hopes, fears and dreams. This, then, is the place to engage conversations about faith. We can create fishing ponds at the church – Central Christian Church, Dallas has a dog park and FCC Arlington has a community garden. You can also go find a “fishing pond” in your community or beyond. Join a club. Frequent a local watering hole. Our “Invite Events” like the BBQ, Car Show, and Fall Festival are “fishing ponds”. Our mission work can serve the purpose of building relationships in this way. These activities include Family Promise, Allen Seniors Luncheon, Boyd Park, and Mission Trips.
Where will you “GO” to “BE” and “SHARE”