Every coach knows the value of fundamentals. Not only does each season start with the basics, but coaches rehearse them over again as the building blocks of the game. Many early season practices have started with an exasperated coach restating the basics with a Lombardi-like version of, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Form, stance, positioning.
Hitting the cutoff man. Every time.
It’s skills taught to small children when learning their sport that, years later, will separate the winners from the losers at every level. If you can’t do the fundamentals with excellence, then you will never be successful—at least not for long.
Could the same be true in our efforts at evangelism and disciple-making? Are there certain basic fundamentals that we must master in order to expect missional impact?
Easter Monday provides a good opportunity for reflection on the basics. For many, this weekend was a special weekend. It was different – bigger than most Sundays. There’s something stunningly spectacular about reflecting on a vacant tomb and a triumphant Savior. And most churches attempted to take advantage of the spiritual opportunity that yesterday provided.
But, on the back side of such a weekend of celebration we are left to consider the missionary implications of the resurrection for every other day of the year. The resurrection stands as a permanent reality that must shape the living priorities of every kingdom disciple. We can’t merely swing hard for a single day of hyper-intentionality in missionary action and then wait another year for a suitable plate appearance. In fact, the effectiveness of yesterday’s missionary output was largely predicated on a churches’ ability to practice the fundamentals of missionary living in the fifty-one weeks previous. The likelihood of a wanna-be player coming out of the stands and taking an inside slider deep to center field is almost nil. Hits, rallies, wins, and championships are won by players, not fans – and they’re won by players dedicated to practice the fundamentals.
Here’s what I mean.
Fundamental #1: Faith-filled Prayer
Those who leveraged Easter for mission likely spent time praying for those who were far from God. They prayed for the Spirit to bring conviction of sin and clarity on the work of Jesus. They prayed for their churches, especially for those who would labor to preach and call others to repentance and faith.
So, why stop now?Faith-filled prayer is a missionary fundamental for kingdom-disciples. Because we believe that the work of salvation is an act of God’s power and not of human ingenuity, we implore the Father to save those we love as a regular pattern of our lives. We ask God to sensitize our spirits to see the spiritual opportunities that surround us. We ask for boldness to speak with conviction when our feet of clay would rather walk away from the opportunity teed up in front of us. And so, we pray. We are keenly aware of our human limitations, and at the same time, we have a growing awareness of God’s unlimited authority. So, prayer becomes the natural reflex, the muscle-memory reaction, of a people on mission.
Fundamental #2: Intentional Relationships
There’s no shortage of blanket appeals for church attendance around Easter. Every church does something unique to take advantage of the unique inroads that this weekend provides for those who might not naturally engage with churchy things. Post cards, dramatic extravaganzas, colossal Easter-egg hunts, and wily social media campaigns – all designed to entice spiritually reluctant neighbors to experience “church.” But, the most effective mission around Easter always happens through personal relationships. It’s friends and family with whom we’ve lived with intentionality for some time. We’ve built trust, shared our stories, and now we’ve invited them to come and hear more about Jesus and meet our church families.
So, why stop now?Intentional witnessing relationships are a missionary fundamental for kingdom-disciples. Continue to live with the same intentionality, trusting that God is always at work in unique ways drawing those you might never expect to engage with the truths of the gospel.
Fundamental #3: Jesus Centrality
Pastors, if they were wise, likely took advantage of Easter to present a clear message of Jesus crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins. They did not try to do too much. This wasn’t the time for an intellectual treatise on the intricacies of a highly nuanced theological hobbyhorse. What people needed was to see how the Bible, history, and everyday disciples testify to who Jesus is, what He came to do, and why that matters for our lives.
So, why stop now? Jesus centrality is a missionary fundamental for kingdom-disciples. Why go back to overcomplicating the simple beauty of Jesus in our methods to evangelize and disciple those who God saves? What people need most is a foundational basis to help make sense of their lives. They need to see that there is hope for their despair – that there is good news for their desperation – and that his name is Jesus. This simple method should continue to frame our disciple-making methods.
Christian discipleship, at its best, is the simple act of trusting God (prayer) to use intentional relationships to point people to Jesus in ways they can see and understand.
Is there more?
Of course. In the same way that there is more than stickhandling to hockey or blocking drills to football, there is more to Christian mission than the basic fundamentals. We can and should layer these practices with a host of practices the Bible commends to help others grow to know and love Jesus. In doing so, however, if we forget to employ the fundamentals of kingdom disciple-making, our “advanced tactics” will always lead us to a missional breakdown with little spiritual fruit to celebrate.
Let’s master the fundamentals of mission. Let’s forget about the illusion of hitting a grand slam once a year, and instead try playing small ball. Bunts. Singles. The odd standing double. Day in and day out, ignoring the junk and swinging with discipline.
If we do, next Easter season will look entirely different.
Jeff Christopherson is an author and Chief Missiologist of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He also serves as Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute, a partnership of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and the North American Mission Board.