Celebrate Salvation in the Church
Our world is filled with books, programs, and study guides. How does The Joy of Christian Discipleship fit into the already packed life of our church leaders and congregations? Is it an add-on, essential, optional, or unnecessary?
The Mission of the Church
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness… clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Matthew 6:33; 23:26
Jesus started his public ministry by calling an enlarging group of followers or “disciples” to himself. They were called disciples, because they left everything and became not just students or learners, but followers: people who applied and lived out what they learned. Toward the end of their years of traveling together, observing, and learning from their master, Jesus asked his closest disciples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” to which Jesus responded with these famous words: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus gave Simon the nickname “Peter” (which means “rock” in Greek) when he recognized and confessed Jesus as the Son of God. The question begged here is simply this: What kind of church does Jesus want his disciples to build that gives credence to our confession of his Lordship? We find the answer in the Great Commission that Jesus announced to his disciples when he appeared to them after his resurrection and just prior to his ascension:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The task of Christ’s church (the ekklesia or “called out ones”) is straightforward: proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ lordship and make disciples of everyone among the nations who heeds the call.
How do we “make disciples”?
It’s true that the first steps in making a disciple start with having and confirming a person as a converted or “born again” believer in Jesus, the Messiah (Christ). This is accomplished through revelation of God’s love, conviction and confession of sin, repentance and commitment to following Jesus. This phase in the new believer’s life, called salvation, is confirmed through baptism in water and empowered by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Following the early steps of salvation comes a time of cleansing from dysfunctional attitudes, behaviors, and habits of “the old (pre-converted) man” and renewal in the truth and purity of Christ’s ways. These steps, referred to as sanctification, are accomplished by the Holy Spirit through meditation, prayer, further confession, repentance, and mutual upbuilding in the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
By being cleansed of doublemindedness, sinful behaviors, and hypocrisy, we become strong enough in our faith to learn how to not only enjoy it but share the Good News with others – in other words, how to be links in the ongoing chain of the Great Commission. This is what the first three study guides in The Joy of Christian Discipleship Series are all about, starting with conversion to Christ in Saved, then progressing to maturing in grace in Sanctified, and reaching out to share with others in Sent.
What’s the problem?
Many congregations run into difficulty with “making disciples” through lack of knowledge and simple tools to use in carrying out the Great Commission. The failures begin with incomplete salvation experiences, inadequate support for pursuing the righteousness of God through sanctification, and lack of enough understanding about the Kingdom of God to be able to share about it. As a result, new believers are rare and many church-goers suffer and fall from the same moral afflictions that characterize their unconverted counterparts.
A proposed solution
Start by making disciples in small groups with the members of your own church using our Celebrate Salvation material. For many this may be a “refresher course” in subjects they already understand, but you’ll be delighted by the individual and corporate growth your members will experience when they have the opportunity to share their faith personally and intimately with others! And as a special bonus, you’ll be ready as a congregation to welcome new believers into your midst during the revival that’s coming and make disciples of them, too. While you’re thinking and praying about it, consider checking out our handout Starting Groups in Your Church