"And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark." Acts 12:25
One of my favorite coffee cups has a cartoon of Moses returning from the mountain, carrying two tablets of stone. The caption, over one Hebrew standing next to his neighbor in the crowd states, "Oh, great. Another mission statement." I think that is hilarious. Spot on. Sad, but true.
The proliferation of and fixation on mission statements have done very little to fulfill the original mission statement of The Founder of the church. Jesus said, "Make Disciples!" It just doesn't get any clearer than that. Barnabas and Saul stayed on mission, and took John Mark with them to learn how it is done.
Jesus followed the Hebrew form of discipleship. It was built on relationship, and the development of character. The Greek form of discipleship was based on education and the accumulation of knowledge. Guess which path proves the most effective in the development of leaders?
Scriptural truth casts a dubious eye on the pursuit of education, as the sole source of enlightenment. Paul warned Timothy of posers who were..."Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Tim. 3:7
I have always been challenged by The Mission statement, "To Know Him, and To Make Him Known." My failure to carry it out is always rooted in my disconnection from Jesus, by pursuing information about Him. Seeking facts about Jesus is not the same thing as spending time with Him. Anyone who has ever logged a few intense semesters in seminary can serve as my expert witness on the veracity of that statement.
The Mission remains the same. MAKE DISCIPLES! The people who carry it out change, from generation to generation, but the mission statement is not up for review. The Mission is like a baton passed from one runner to the next. It doesn't have the capacity to change, but it does have the capacity to be dropped. Pass it. Don't change it. Never drop it.
Potential disciples will disappoint you. Some just don't make the cut. Others take more time than others to bear fruit. Barnabas and Saul would disagree, when they inspected John Mark's fruit. Their disagreement led to the dissolving of their partnership. Paul joined Silas and stayed on mission. Barnabas took John Mark under his wing, and developed a disciple. Years later Paul would write to Timothy, his younger disciple...
"Make every effort to come to me soon...Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service." 2 Timothy 4:9,11
The result? The team changed, but The Mission was not dropped. It was passed on. Jesus was made known, and disciples were made. This is the end game.
The Mission is not so much about collecting a crowd of listeners, as much as the developing the character of disciples. Many churches base their strength and health, solely on the average number of people who attend their services on Sunday. Could be true. But....
Note to self: Stop it! If you think this is a sign of excellence, you deserve to be operated on by a surgeon who showed up for class, but never did his homework. Stop it!
The Mission is MAKE DISCIPLES. Disciples have the character of Jesus. This takes time, and it is developed in the climate of prayer. Churches or Christians that grow over night into sensational expressions of a movement of God should be inspected carefully. Look at The Root and The Fruit. Anyone who is rooted in Jesus will bear His fruit.
Note to self #2: Anything that grows over night in your yard is usually a weed.
The Mission is about character, not crowds. The Holy Spirit is on a mission to knock YOU out of YOU, so YOU can be filled with JESUS. This is why discipleship begins in YOU, but it ends in the death of YOU. To get over yourself, YOU must die to self, and be filled with The Spirit.
The Holy Spirit releases the character of Jesus in disciples, and convicts them of any sin that keeps them from staying on their personal mission of being conformed to the character of Christ. Abiding in Him, leads to being like Him, not just knowing about Him.
A disciple looks and acts like Jesus. Squeeze a disciple and Jesus comes out. Squeeze next to a person in a pew, or sit in their favorite spot, and you will find out what a church member does when they are put under pressure. Big difference.
Telling someone about this process is easier than living it out in front of them. Discipleship can get pretty messy. Developing character is not done in the classroom. It requires homework, and there is a lot of lab work, with few failed experiments and explosions along the way.
My life verse is my guiding light in my own, on-going mission of being conformed to the image of Christ, and leading others to be His disciples. It will take a life-time.
"For I am confident of this very thing. That He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
The Mission was birthed in intercession. Jesus prayed for His will to be conformed to The Father's will. The Mission is sustained and maintained through intercession. Paul prayed for his disciples, "always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all." Philippians 1:4
The Mission requires that we should do no less, than Jesus, and no more than Paul. Make Disciples. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!