One summer during university, I worked for an inner city organization. There were three of us interns, and within our second week working there, we were put in charge of making sure the building didn’t fall apart.
Carl the operations manager had booked a three-week fishing vacation, so the plan was to get the three interns to look after the general maintenance of the 100-year-old church building that had hundreds of people come through its doors seven days a week.
Nothing could go wrong, right?
Before Carl left, we followed him around like we were chained to him, furiously scribbling notes about electrical breakers, coffee makers, security codes, and freezers. Our 20-year-old brains tried to understand exactly what he meant when he said words like “be careful of the mouse poison,” and “always wear gloves when you’re handling the sharps container.”
On the first day of Carl’s fishing trip, all three of us stared blankly at one another, feeling massively under-equipped for the task at hand.
I wonder if that’s a little how the disciples felt after Jesus ascended into heaven. They had spent three years living with Jesus, hearing his teaching, watching his miracles, seeing his relationship with the Father. They had watched him die, and were beyond astounded when he came back to life. Then, 40 short days after his resurrection, Jesus said this:
“‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-19
Then Jesus vanished into heaven. Cue the blank stares.
The call is clear: we are to share the greatest love story ever told, to all the ends of the earth. And then we’re to encourage people who believe to go deeper with God.
As Christians, we can often feel under incredible pressure when it comes to evangelism and the Great Commission. I’ve often thought I’m not doing enough to “further the Kingdom,” or have felt like I don’t have the gifting to carry out this task. But as Ed Stetzer says, “God gives work to us not because he needs the help, but because we need to be developed.” Only Christ can >build his Church, but he uses us to do it — for our benefit. Stepping out and talking about Jesus is scary, but it also strengthens faith and builds character.
I’ve found that sharing the gospel often takes time. Mutual trust, friendship, and love are essential to this process. Evangelism isn’t about ticking something off your Good Christian To-Do List. It’s caring for someone in the deepest sense; it’s sharing your reason for hope and joy, and your desire for them to experience the same.
Being a disciple, as I’ve mentioned before, doesn’t just stop at conversion. It’s understanding and obeying the teachings of Jesus in his Spirit’s power. It’s being transformed by the Spirit so that we become more like him in all that we do. As much as we need to seek to understand Jesus’ teachings during personal timewith him, we also need help from others who are more spiritually mature than we are. If you have been a Christian for a while, part of the command to “make disciples” means to help those who are younger in their faith to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. And it starts with being involved in a church community.
“An individualistic, do-it-yourself faith or ‘solo Christianity’ is guaranteed to fail,” writes Thomas Tarrants, vice president of the C.S. Lewis Institute. “That is why we must be an actively engaged member of a congregation of God’s people, where we have Christ-centered friends to walk with us and help us grow as disciples.”
When Carl left on his fishing trip, everything that could have gone wrong, did. The security alarm was set off accidentally, numerous times. The coffee pots overflowed every other day. The freezer stopped working (and for a ministry whose primary mission was serving meals, this was a very bad thing). But through all of the hurdles and despite all our mistakes, we still managed to keep the building running. People were fed, clothes were still given away, and nobody died.
Jesus’ command to make disciples isn’t easy. But he has given us everything we need, and through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, he will miraculously build his Church.