Joint Service between Westborough and St Francis
Sunday Evening 1 February 1998
The text for this evening is Matthew 28:16-20.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."
I was asked to talk about 'Mission - at home and abroad', but I hope you won't mind too much if we focus mostly on 'mission' and leave the question of location to the end.
Why do I want to focus on 'mission'? Because it is central to our Christian lives. We worship and serve a missionary God. Jesus came - he was sent - to us. The fact that Jesus was a missionary sent by God is emphasised over and over again. We quote Jesus speaking in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father draws him" but what it actually says is "unless the Father - who sent me - draws him." The missionary nature of Jesus' work underlies everything he does in the gospels.
It is the nature of God to go - to reach out to those who need Him. Jesus embodies God's mission to mankind. He did when he was physically walking this Earth, and He does still today.
Every now and then, people tell me something like this: "I have a problem - I don't know what God wants me to do." The answer to this problem lies in this passage.
This is the mission of the Church. This is the starting point for discovering our purpose. This is what we are called to do, as individuals and as Churches. Everything which contributes to this purpose can be considered; everything which does not contribute to this purpose is automatically ruled out.
What are we are called to do? Go and make disciples of all nations. How are we to do it? By love: love God with everything you have and love your neighbour as yourself. In those two passages, Jesus gives us our mission and our method.
Just to clarify, when Jesus says 'make disciples of all nations,' He is not telling us to turn nations into disciples. Only a person can be a disciple, so we can translate the command: 'Go into all the world and make disciples everywhere.'
Nobody is to be excluded from the Kingdom of God. Everyone is invited, and everyone can play a part in building this Kingdom.
We are told Jesus was speaking to the eleven disciples. There were many disciples, or 'followers,' in those days, but these eleven people were special because they were disciples of Jesus.
Jesus may have been speaking to only eleven people, but it has been generally understood through the centuries that Jesus here is giving a commandment to the Church, in the person of the disciples.
The task is given to us, for we are a part of the whole church, and we play our role because we belong to the group to which Jesus spoke.
It is a task given to the whole church, not to some part of it, not to some special group, or to a few special people. We are all called to play a part.
Jesus spoke to a worshipping group. The call to work is given to those who worship, and we too need to make worship, not work, our first priority. I think it was AW Tozer who said, "The work of a worshipper will have eternity in it."
Jesus spoke to people who doubted. We do not need to be perfect or mature, we simply need to be worshippers who are available to him.
The commandment to make disciples is given to disciples. There is a spiritual principle here: we can only reproduce ourselves, we can only reproduce what we are.
Remember the command in Genesis: 'be fruitful and multiply.' And they multiplied after their kind.
We can make disciples because we are disciples, we can baptise because we have been baptised, we can teach them to obey everything because we have been commanded and we have obeyed.
In Ephesians 4, it is the apostles who equip the saints to be apostles, the evangelists who raise up evangelists, the pastors who raise up pastors.
Okay, this is very nice theory, but what does it mean in practice? What are we actually supposed to do? To answer this, we need to go back to the Ephesians chapter 4 ministries again.
To put this into practice, we need to be concerned about five things. To be effective, we should be concerned only with these things:
These five things together comprise our mission: if we as a church family do all this, we will be making 'disciples of all nations'.
To help you get started, I would like to suggest two areas in which you can become engaged in mission.
You need to pray seriously about the possibility of serving God abroad.
There is a massive need for Christians to serve in all kinds of ways, and God continues to call people to serve Him in this way. If you are not prepared to follow Him overseas if that is where He leads, then there is something seriously wrong with your discipleship.
Most of us are called, for most of the time, to serve God in mission at home. How do we do this?
The simple answer is: get involved. Be salt and light. Care about the local environment, get involved with local politics. Raise money for local charities.