Yesterday, I introduced my conversation on discipleship and I posed a question we should ask ourselves. I want to continue with the discussion of discipleship and what I believe is more personal in calling than organizational. We read this in Matthew 28:16-20:
The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (CSB)
First, I want to point out that the early church was no less human than we are today. Jesus approached them and they all worshiped, but some doubted. Pastors everywhere can relate to that observation, in the midst of powerful calling, community, and the glory of God, some will doubt. Guess what, that is ok and a normal part of the ministry. So pastors, be encouraged, it happened to Jesus too.
I grew up Assemblies of God and have great family history on both sides within the movement. My first ministry experiences were within the AG and I am forever grateful for my being involved with AG. Perhaps one of the largest, if not the largest, missions effort from any particular denomination comes from the AG. They do missions at a high level and are very successful at it. Why do I bring this up? Because it is very easy to lose sight of the importance of local discipleship when great and godly missions are happening around the world. Both are needed, but the shimmering reward of giving to something overseas or that will save physical lives by the hundreds and thousands will often overshadow the local grit it takes to disciple in our hometown.
It was easier to raise money for efforts overseas years ago, but a generation of young people and the erosion of our local neighborhoods have caused the church to really see the four circles a little more. (Acts 1:8 – Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth – ) Apply those circles to your own life for a moment. My Jerusalem is Berwyn, IL, my Judea is the Chicago area, my Samaria is the rest of the United States and the rest of the globe covers the uttermost parts of the earth. This exercise may seem trite to some, but it keeps me on mission. What am I doing in my Jerusalem?
I believe each believer should have a mission in all four areas at the same time. I do not believe that we use the four areas Jesus talked about in Acts 1:8 as an excuse to just stay home and tend to our neighborhood, but if we ignore it or make less than, we will get less discipleship locally. Local discipleship enables powerful efforts to send out to the rest of the world. Check out this article that dives into this a bit more here.
It really is not complicated to start in your Jerusalem, things like small groups at your church, paying forward at a local restaurant, building relationship with your neighbors, volunteering in your community. In my journal this morning, I challenged myself with this question. What am I doing in Berwyn, IL? Is it possible that discipleship is first a personal calling for you and I to live life with actual people around us and less about the church mobilizing curriculum and organizational efforts to reach people? If we as individual believers were eager and passionate about this, the church would experience revival and the organization of it all could not keep up.
Would love to hear from you on the matter and share your stories or experiences below.