On August 2, 1997, during training camp with the Indianapolis Colts, God the Holy Spirit awakened my heart to see my need for Jesus. A former teammate named Steve Grant had shared the Good News with me for five years. Steve was passionate about reaching people with the gospel message because of the depth of his discipleship.
After my conversion, Steve told me to read the Bible and join the team Bible study. As a football player, I knew the key to my success on the field was to learn from those who had more playing experience and success than I did. Steve prayed, read the Bible, served the community, participated in fellowship with other believers, and was passionate about reaching my teammates who were not followers of Jesus. Steve loved lost people!
So I did what he did. I read the Bible like every day was game day and it was my playbook. I learned to pray, I gathered with others in team Bible studies, and I began to share the Good News with my teammates. I found that the more I shared my faith in conjunction with these activities, the more my faith flourished and my character began to transform.
But Then Something Weird Happened
Later, when my wife and I joined a local church and started attending Bible studies, something weird happened. Instead of praying and reading the Bible so Christ-followers could reach lost people, it seemed to us that being in Bible studies was more about Christians learning to protect and isolate themselves from the big, bad world and lost people. It appeared to us that growing in one’s faith was more concerned with guarding one’s family and self-preservation than in becoming missionaries. Some of the studies felt like an “us-four-and-no-more” club.
Jesus Said Go Make Disciples
In Matthew 28:18–20, ESV, in what is commonly called the Great Commission, Jesus said to his followers, “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.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says it this way, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
At the core of discipleship is an evangelistic thrust to reach lost people. Jesus told his Jewish disciples to reach Jews and non-Jews with his gospel. In today’s context, at your job, at the coffee shop, or at school, go looking for lost people to share the gospel with so they can become disciples, or students, of Jesus. A person’s passion to reach lost people with the Good News follows out of his or her satisfaction with Jesus.
A person’s passion to reach lost people with the Good News follows out of his or her satisfaction with Jesus.
Next, at the core of discipleship is an aim for cross-cultural engagement. Jesus told his Jewish followers to reach the nations (ethnos), and in Acts 1:8 he says go to “Samaria and to the end of the earth.” This would have been very uncomfortable for many Jews because of the hostilities between Jews and non-Jews. In our context in America, it is essential to our discipleship to reach people that are different than us. Cross-cultural ministry will stretch you like never before. The early Jewish disciples did not obey Jesus; they stayed in Jerusalem and only shared the gospel with Jews. It wasn’t until Acts 8:1 when God allowed persecution that the Jews eventually went to Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 8:1–5).
Third, Jesus’ followers are to baptize people who believe in him as a sign of their allegiance. In baptism we identify with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Finally, Jesus encourages his followers to teach new converts all that he commanded, which he sums up in Luke 10:26–27, ESV: “[A lawyer] said to him, ’What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” To be conformed into the image of Jesus is to grow in a life of loving God, loving one’s self, and loving one’s neighbor, which moves back to living out the Great Commission.
We need the classic spiritual disciplines so Christ can be formed in us. However, if we have an “us-four-and-no-more” mentality, Christ is not being formed in us fully, because Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
We all need inspiration and transformation. The Creative Arts Team at Transformation Church takes a short snippet from my sermon each week to provide inspiration that leads to transformation. If these weekly videos inspire you, share them!