Hi again, John Cress here. Have you ever been literally lost, physically disoriented, having no idea where you are, where to turn, what road or trail to take? To feel that gut wrenching, lonely desperation of being utterly without hope? What could possibly be worse than being lost?
This one thing: Being lost when no one is looking for you. The common term used by Christians to label non-Christians is "lost people." The term comes from Luke 15, where Jesus told three parables in a row: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. The meaning in these stories is to be loved and treasured and sought after.
Unfortunately, too often this term, when used by the church, infers impure or unclean. Often to the church, when it calls somebody "lost," it implies judgment, especially as compared to calling them "missed" or "valued," which is how Jesus used them when he described the sheep and the coin and the son.
Ellen White wrote, "The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service and its mission is to carry the gospel through the whole world."
It's clear that God is sending us into the world to be agents of His love and His grace. But many of us have not yet engaged in this call. The result is that many who are lost have no one looking for them.
Jesus gave to challenging pronouncements for His disciples, the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22 and the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, have these two proclamations on which to hang our mission: to love God and man, and to go and make disciples.
The Southern California Conference is committed to the goal of developing healthy disciple-making churches who are committed to the missional calling of God to be agents of love and dedicated to making disciples.
Two questions need to be answered by our churches.
- What is a disciple?
- And, number two, what is our mission plan?
Far too long, the church has viewed the Great Commission primarily as teaching, as educating. We assume that our job is finished once people are instructed in the doctrines of the church.
Instead of discipling people, we simply taught them Bible facts. Discipleship became classes. We were satisfied with education rather than transformation. So we wound up with many members who knew a lot about doctrine but did not have maturity in character or a vitality in the connection with God. Many new members were baptized, but not discipled.
For this reason, the Southern California Conference encourages its churches to move away from a membership model of a church where the member is the center of the church and its primary reason for existence, with a focus primarily on the insider and their needs. This model focuses on baptizing members, but not growing and building people as disciples. Too often this model leads to a spectator mentality, where only a few are involved in ministry.
In its place, we would suggest a discipleship model where God and His mission are at the center of the church and its primary reason for its existence, where the church is a foundation for the proclamation of the Three Angels message and the catalyst to grow the Kingdom of God. The church exists to serve the least and love the lost and develop fully engaged disciples of Jesus Christ.
In order to accomplish this change in culture, we encourage our church boards to engage in a discussion concerning the church and its mission. What's the framework of your mission? How does it relate to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment? How are your ministries focused on the mission of the church? In addition, engage in a conversation about what it means to be a disciple. What does a fully engaged disciple of Jesus Christ look like? How can we develop disciples in our church? What are the elements that need to be developed in people to grow them into fully engaged disciples?
As we consider what it means to be a disciple, several of us considered four words that are descriptive of disciples: Believe, belong, become and bless.
First, we are Christians because we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we are Seventh-day Adventists because we believe in certain biblical teachings that is a framework for our biblical worldview. But believing is not enough. The Bible tells us that the devils believe!
In fact, Ellen White writes in The Desire of Ages, "Many of us take it for granted that they are Christians simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. Many men profess faith in truth. But if it does not make them sincere and kind and patient, forbearing and heavenly minded, it is a curse to its possessors and through their influence, it is a curse to the world."
So a disciple is not only somebody who believes, but a disciple is somebody who becomes.
Being a Christian is not about education—it's about transformation. God doesn't want us just to get us into heaven. He desires to get heaven into us so that we can become transformative, irresistible influence on those who are desperate for grace in this world. In addition to believing and becoming, God wants His disciples to belong.
The apostle John writes, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the Sons of God" (1 John 3:1). A disciple belongs to the family of God, and as such, they're invited by Jesus into the body of Christ.
The book of Acts tells us that those who were baptized were added to the church. We are part of a community of believers, a community that has a mission to accomplish, which brings us to our last word that describes fully engaged disciples.
A disciple is committed to blessing those around him, especially those who are disenfranchised, discouraged, broken, and in desperate need of grace. They do this in a way Jesus did it.
You see, Jesus said, "I did not come to be served, but to serve. For even the son of man," Mark writes, "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life as a ransom for many."
In The Ministry of Healing, a description is so clear of the method we should use. "Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed them His sympathy, He ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow me.'"
So may we rise to the missional call of Jesus found in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. And may we embrace Jesus's call to become disciple-making churches.
God bless, and we'll see you in the next video.