Summary: The message Jesus committed to his disciples never changes, though the method of communication must always be subject to change.
The world's first text message was sent from a computer to a cellphone by British engineer, Neil Papworth. As reported by CTV News, Papworth sent the text message to his boss on December 03, 1992. It read: "Merry Christmas" and this single text message revolutionized the way we communicate. Since its introduction in 1992, though, text messaging, or SMS (meaning short messaging service), has become the preferred method of communication in the world today. More utilized that phone calls, email or even snail mail.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the book Diffusion of Innovations that describes how new ideas and technologies spread in different cultures. The model describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation by grouping how different people come to accept the innovation or technology. The first persons to use a new product or technology are called “innovators,” followed by those who are referred to as “early adopters.” Next come the early and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called “laggards.” I must admit, when text messaging first came onto the scene, I was a laggard. When it comes to technology, I generally considered myself an early adopter or at least an early majority kind of person, but texting was different. Seriously! Just pick up the phone and call me.
Something changed my mind, though. Want to know what it was? It was my desire to communicate with my daughters. It’s time to use my family as sermon illustrations again. My daughter’s preferred method of communication…their preferred method of staying connected is via text messaging. I would call them and they wouldn’t answer their phones. That was quite irritating, especially when I was paying the bill. Yet, they were constantly on their phones. I soon learned that if I texted them, they’d respond almost immediately. I could call…no answer. Text…boom! Answer right away. It’s how they communicated. Really, though…you’ve got the phone in your hand. Why can’t you just answer the silly thing? That was my reasoning. The only problem is my reasoning didn’t work with them. If I wanted to communicate with my daughters, I was going to have to communicate by their chosen means. I had to become part of the majority, even though I wanted desperately to be a laggard.
Sometimes the church can be a laggard when it comes to the diffusion of innovations. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be an innovation. It may have nothing to do with technology. It may simply be the method in which we communicate the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus gave the church a fairly specific command to connect with people. He called us to connect with people so that they would become disciples of his. It’s called the Great Commission, and we find it in Matthew 28: 18 – 20:
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We have talked about the seismic shifts that are occurring in culture. Certainly with technology…that’s what this message series has been about—staying connected. The entire Christian faith is about being connected. To be disciples of Jesus Christ we must be connected—first, to Jesus Christ, but then, to his body, the church. We need the fellowship of believers, yet in this culture where connection seems to be so easy, the church lags behind in making disciples.
It might first be helpful to understand discipleship a little better. The word Jesus uses in issuing the Great Commission means “a follower.” It doesn’t simply mean being a student. Someone said a student learns what the teacher knows, but a disciple (a follower) becomes what the teacher is. I wonder…and it’s only wondering out loud…if we’re having such a hard time making disciples because we haven’t become disciples ourselves? I said I was only wondering out loud. We’ve spent a lot of time learning what the Bible has to say, but how much time do we actually spend becoming what Jesus is? I’m preaching to myself, people. Jesus give us a directive to follow. It’s what he did while he was here. It’s pretty simple: go, baptize, teach. There’s an appropriate order, too. It begins with going.
I believe going is the most significant part of the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples…” I like to characterize the going as “living evangelistically.” Remember, at First United Methodist Church, Monroe, we desire to create a community of faith where disciples live evangelistically, worship regularly, study devotionally, serve faithfully and give generously. That’s the community we want to create, but it all begins with living evangelistically. As I’ve shared before, living evangelistically is not simply shouting “turn or burn” to one outside a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is living life in such a way that others see something different in us. It is to live a life of grace…a life of compassion…a life of hope…a life of forgiveness…a life of reconciliation.