Intentionally reaching the next generation and making them into disciples who make disciples.
Is it what God wants His Church to do? Is it biblical in its origin? Does it reflect the spirit of Jesus’ work? Does it allow room for every person to be involved? Does it point us in a direction that meets the needs of our specific situation? Can it be measured? Does it leave room for God to decide just how large He wants to make us? Can you explain it to someone who asks, “What does that mean?”
I believe the answer to all these questions about our vision is YES! So, what are you doing that intentionally reaches the next generation and makes them into disciples who make disciples?
By putting it into those words, we make it clear that it’s not “someone else’s job.” This process of discipling means that the moment I accept Jesus I accept the role of helping the next person who will find Him. It isn’t for a paid staff person. It isn’t for an elder or Sunday School teacher or small group leader. It’s for every disciple. Put on the uniform and accept the position!
Neither is this vision some extremism or some lofty idealism. Every disciple making other disciples? Yes! It’s the very most basic purpose of the Church. It’s what Jesus left us to do! (Matthew 28:18-20) It’s one of those situations where “you’ve got one job”! Everything else the Church does flows from this goal of making disciples.
It is also more than just learning. In my office hangs a signed print of a watercolor by artist Paul Nash Giltner. (I was named after her father, Stanley Bouchard.) It’s titled “The Forgotten Goal.” Paula has done hundreds of works of art. This one is more difficult in nature. It presents a scene of an apartment building in flames. People are in their apartments, over the flames, desperately waving for help to those below. Some watch in horror from the street. The fire department is also on the scene, a large truck parked nearby. Hoses have been deployed and are attached to a fire hydrant. Three firefighters stand, with them in hand. Three other firefighters are standing by the hydrant, holding an open book, engaged in debate over it. I always figured the book is entitled something like Basic Firefighting to Save Lives. Meanwhile, one of the firemen stands in the gap between them and the desperate victims with a gesture that seems to say, “C’mon, Guys, really?”
Over the years, I’ve spent some quality time gazing at that picture. It is a good reality check for the Church, and for each of us as individual members of it. There is a time to learn from the Book the most basic techniques to save lives. There is also the necessity of maintaining and sharpening our skills in ongoing study of the Book. Its words must be a regular part of our every day, and burned into the core of our very selves. Saving lives is not something you attempt without some understanding of how it’s done. We should be able to rightly handle the word of truth, to refute false teaching, and to be able to give an answer for the hope within us. But when God places you on the roster, and you’re on your duty shift, it’s time to set the book down and go to work. I find it far too easy to make study and learning an end in itself. We can fall into the temptation to stop at “knowing” rather than taking action with what we’ve learned. After all, study itself can be challenging and fulfilling work. You can even attain to levels of knowledge that make you able to win arguments, speak convincingly, and silence your foes! But if you never take what you’ve learned and employ it to save the dying ones around you, your learning has been in vain. I speak this to myself as I sit and look at an entire wall full of books I have read and used in study over the years. I feel inside me the urge to learn more and more, to make new discoveries, and to re-install all that my leaking mind has lost. And this I must do! But if I spend all my life energy on that discipline alone, and never put it to work to make others into disciples as well, it has been an empty pursuit.
Discipling is not something that “we should get around to someday” at CCC. This is not some new insight here. The Church must reproduce itself or cease to exist. If you have chosen not to be a part of this discipling process, you have in effect determined that 20 centuries of Church history have existed for your sake – that those who come after you are of no consequence. Christians martyred under Nero, Galerius, and Diocletian, rather than offer a pinch of incense on an altar and declare that Caesar was Lord, kept their faith and died to pass it along to others. Many others, ordered to give up their copies of the Scriptures, and John Wycliffe, ordered not to make it available to the common person, chose to suffer or die rather than deprive you of the Scriptures you carry around in your cellphone today. Was all that for just you, and now, is supposed to end with you? “C’mon, Guys, really?”
So, let’s resolve it, again and again:
to intentionally reach the next generation and make them into disciples who make disciples.