Monthly Archives: March 2016

Green Light means “Going” or “Go”?

greenlightIn my last post I made mention that ‘Go’ kicks off the Great Commission and that there are some disagreements about the translation of this word.

Some people suggest that the best translation is “as you go” while others believe that “go” should be treated as strongly as ‘make disciples’. Which is it?

I think both are right. Granted, my Greek is not nearly good enough to justify my answer but let me give some examples to show why I believe it’s both and finish with what I think it means for disciples of Jesus Christ. two examples, Jesus and Peter:

Jesus, in Mark 5, crossed the sea, brought healing to a man with an unclean spirit, sent him to go and proclaim what God had done for him, got in the boat, and returned to the other side. Jesus went out of his way to meet this guy. Jesus did ‘Go’.

Jesus, in John 4 is walking through Samaria, sits down at a well, meets a woman, shares about the kingdom, she runs to her village and brings them to Jesus and many believe in him. Jesus did ‘as you go’.

Peter, in Acts 10, has a dream about a man called Cornelius, travels to Caesarea, shares the gospel with Cornelius (along with his friends and family) and they all come to faith. Peter did ‘Go’.

Peter, 7 chapters earlier in Acts 3, is walking to the temple to pray, meets a lame man at Beautiful Gate, heals him, which leads to a lot of praise to God which attracts a crowd so Peter breaks out with a mini-gospel message. Peter did ‘as you go’.

Jesus and Peter did both. They intentionally went out of their way to share the gospel (‘Go’) and they shared the gospel with those they came across (‘As you go’). They did both because it could mean both. With an attitude that says, “People need to hear the Good News”, the gospel is intentionally shared deliberately through planning and circumstance.

The problem with translations is that the translator needs to make a decision which way they will translate a passage, a sentence or a word. The vast majority of translations use the more forceful ‘Go’. That’s a great translation but it does lose something which ‘as you go’ keeps. If ‘Go’ is too forceful then it’s seen as something separate from ‘make disciples’. When ‘make disciples’ is kept at full force then ‘go/as you go’ becomes how we do it. If we overemphasis ‘go’ we end up sharing the gospel, getting a ‘yes’ response and then doing nothing else. Churches then end up with lots of converts but no disciples. People holding tickets to heaven but no life-transformation here on Earth.

When we emphasis ‘as you go’ we move away from the need to get out of our comfort zones, to cross seas, to travel to distant lands or even to enter into our communities and look for those God has already prepared to hear the gospel. ‘As you go’ can become an excuse to sit in church each week and play safe because ‘God didn’t bring anyone across my path this week.” Churches then end up with lots of well fed Christians that are fat on the Word but poor on the application. They know the truth but the truth fails to set them free. Truly knowing is applied knowledge. For that, we need to ‘go’.

We need both ‘go’ and ‘as you go’. When we embrace both views we develop outward attitude that says, “I’m intentionally sharing my faith whenever, wherever.” We pray for the circumstances to share and we plan to create circumstances to share. We pray for opportunities we pray for open communities. We embrace both views and build that into making disciples. We teach everyone to share. We expect everyone to share.

So what could this look like in your setting?

Let me suggest a simple idea that starts with ‘as you go’ and moves toward ‘go’.

In your small group (please tell me you belong to a group where you discuss your spiritual journeys) always finish with a prayer like this: “Father, throughout this week, how many times would you like me to share the Good News?” Listen to what he says and share the answer with your group. During the week look for opportunities to share the Good News that number of times. Seek to be obedient to what God is calling you to do. ‘As you go’ share.

If you find that you consistently share that number of times each week then praise God for your faithfulness and his faithfulness for bringing those people across your path. Keep up the good work. As they respond positively disciple them (not forgetting to help them to ‘as you go/go’ too). I don’t think anyone who believes in ‘Go’ will say anything negative about what you are doing. I am sure that they will say you are fulfilling the Great Commission.

However, if you find that you do not find people to share with then discuss this with your group. Perhaps you have fear of sharing the gospel and are not seeing opportunities. Grow in that area. Have the group help you to see with whom you could share. Maybe start with those whom you know. Draw an Oikos map of all those you know and look at how you could share with them. Seek to grow beyond your fears and live out the Great Commission.

Perhaps you are trying and still nothing is happening. In that case you may need to try ‘Go’ instead. In seeking out to ‘Go’ you could organise a PUSH into an area in your neighbourhood or into another town or suburb. Recruit at least one other person to go with you. If you aren’t ready to take the lead then join someone else who is doing it and partner with them.

When we start sharing then we will make sharing a core component of making disciples and then those we are training will start sharing too. Imagine your church where everyone is sharing the Gospel each week. Imagine yourself out sharing each week? Does that thought scare you or excite you?

Let me know how you get along. Do you find yourself consistently sharing the Gospel or is this an area for growth? Do you prefer to share ‘as you go’ or do you like the idea of ‘go’? If you don’t have someone to help you grow in this give me a yell and I’ll be happy to help. I’m not too good at this myself so we could help each other to grow.

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The journey begins with a single step

a-single-stepIt’s interesting that when Jesus gave us the Great Commission he began with ‘Go’. He didn’t have to. He could have started with the main thing – disciple-making. Or, he could have started with ‘Baptising’ or ‘Training’. He didn’t. Instead, he started with the most difficult and the most challenging part to disciple-making, the first step. ‘Go’

I acknowledge up front that there is disagreement among some as to whether Jesus meant, “While you are going [about your daily life] make disciples” vs “Go [intentionally and deliberately out of your way] to make disciples”.  I will deal with this in the next post but for now trust me when I say that the difference doesn’t matter. Jesus began with ‘Go/Going’. Jesus chose to tell us the most difficult step is to ‘Go/Going’.

We know that this is the most difficult step because it’s THE thing Jesus told the 12 Apostles, and then again the 72, to pray for just before he sent them out to preach the good news. Notice in the prayer what Jesus doesn’t say and what he does say. He doesn’t pray for more money. He doesn’t pray for buildings. He doesn’t even pray for more labourers. He prays that God would sent out labourers into the harvest.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2, ESV)

There is enough money to ‘Go’. There are enough buildings to ‘Go’. There are even enough ‘Labourers’ to ‘Go’. But they don’t. The labourers are not going. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to. I don’t think it’s because they are apathetic. I do believe that it’s spiritual warfare. If our enemy can stop us before we get out of the front door, for whatever reason, the battle is already lost.

Thom Rainer lists “Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today“. In my context I find 1, 2 and 6 to be the most prolific of reasons. There is no priority of evangelism. Laypersons believe that that’s what the staff are paid to do (and who taught them that – the staff!) and that most church ministries are not intentionally evangelistic. The other 12 are worth reading too. The bottom line, churches are not making disciples because they are not ‘Going’.

For a long time I separated out evangelism from making disciples. In my mind, evangelism toward a person is what we do before they become a Christian and discipleship is what we do with them after they become a Christian. My passion is making-disciples. Evangelism is probably one of my weakest gifts. I was happy to focus on discipleship and leave evangelism for those who are good at it. But God never let me off the hook. What God has shown me through the years is that evangelism is not separate from making-disciples but rather it’s the first step.

Years ago I read “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, ESV) Grrrr. I realised that even though I wasn’t a gifted evangelist I could still do the work of evangelist. And so I tried. And I failed. My heart wasn’t in it. I know that we are supposed to have a passion for the lost but it wasn’t there. I loved to see people grow in Christ. My passion was discipleship. And I tried and I fell short.

It took me a long time to realise that ‘Go’, evangelism, is a part of making disciples. Not just a precursor, but a central component of it. To take out evangelism is to rip out the heart of making disciples. Jesus made it the first word. Evangelism is not separate from making disciples – it’s the first step.

When we make discipleship and evangelism two subjects we lose the heart and soul of making disciples. We don’t weave evangelism into every step of the discipleship process. We take the most difficult part of making disciples and we side-line it.

When Jesus brought healing to the demoniac in Mark 5 Jesus tell him to ‘Go’. Jesus didn’t send him away on a mission trip. Jesus sent him away to begin his discipleship journey. Jesus gave him a path of progress (discipleship) that lies at the very heart of following Jesus, that lies at the very heart of living in the Kingdom of God. If we are going to see people transformed into the likeness of Jesus we need to reintroduce ‘Go’ as a crucial component of making disciples.

Application

I see three applications.

Firstly, every disciple who is seeking to fulfil the Great Commission needs to be a part of the ‘Go’. If you are in leadership it’s important to train everybody in church how to do this. You may not know how to do this yet but I will talk on this later and show just how easy it is for people to do this. It’s not nearly as difficult as we make it out to be. The hardest part is ‘going’. ‘Going’ is hard; Sharing is easy.

Secondly, when someone does put their faith in Jesus the first thing we need to do is to help them ‘Go’. Help them see who they can share with. Teach them to share the gospel. Send them out. They may have nothing more than their testimony and a simple gospel presentation. That’s all the demoniac had. That’s all the Samaritan woman had. Help them to fulfil Great Commission and get them out there.

Lastly, and this really should be the first step but I left the hardest part till last, you need to personally get out there and share. You need to ‘Go’. In the upcoming post I will share a simple way to do this.

For now, ask God to send out more labourers and listen for whom he asking to go. You might just hear your name.

 

 

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