Summary: In our quest to pray with and disciple our youth, the importance of the Great Commission plays a vital role. We want to follow it and pass it on reproducing disciples for Jesus.
BELONG AND FOLLOW
One Sunday morning an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out bible.
The Church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes and accessories.
As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide it. The preacher gave a long sermon about Hellfire and brimstone and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work.
As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor. "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worship." The old cowboy assured the preacher he would.
The next Sunday, he showed up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored.
The preacher approached the man and said, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church."
"I did," replied the old cowboy.
"If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?" asked the preacher. "Well, sir, God told me that He didn’t have a clue what I should wear.
He says He’s never been in this church!”
Who belongs in the church? According to this congregation the old cowboy did not belong while they believed that they did. Credit the old cowboy with courage because he believed that he also belonged and he came back. So who really belonged to the church? The truth is they all did. Whether poor or wealthy, employed or unemployed, sick or healthy, or young or old, God has chosen all of us to belong to his body, the church.
In the church there are those who belong and then there are those who belong and follow. Jesus does not call us to mere membership in his church but to active participation in what we call the Great Commission.
1. What makes a disciple?
The Great Commission was the final word given by Jesus to all of his disciples. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
There is an unusual order of events here that raises an eyebrow. Make disciples, baptize them and teach them. If teaching them comes near the end, what makes a disciple?
a) How a disciple is called – I believe our assumption is that when Jesus called Peter, James and John to be his disciples that they just automatically believed. Consider Jesus invitation to them “Come follow me…and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Would you have believed then? Believed what? Curiosity more than anything would make you get up and follow. That and the amazing authority and confidence Jesus had. And when he called Matthew, Jesus simply said, “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). My reaction would have been “Why?”
Jesus did not immediately ask for belief but for the opportunity to show these men something. In his case he wanted to show them himself, his identity. That took time, 3 years in fact. We might cautiously say that a disciple is not a believer but someone who is invited to discover a truth with you. When we consider the Great Commission we may be tempted to see an enormous task of convincing, persuading and changing people into dynamic believers. That is not our task. Our challenge is to invite people to investigate Jesus.
b) A disciple is a student – As our disciples investigate or study Jesus they have the opportunity to decide for themselves if Jesus is who he says he is. In fact, disciple means “student” and Jesus as rabbi is the teacher. Students receive assignments to put into practice and to discover whether the theory truly works.
In Junior High we experimented with the instincts of a mouse to navigate a maze. We dragged some cheese down the right path to see if the mouse would pick up the scent. Instead it climbed over the walls to try and escape.