By Gary L. Johnson
“Clean your room.” Do you remember saying that to your child or being told that by a parent? It’s straightforward. Clear. Easily understood. A parent simply expects the child to clean his or her room. Nothing more.
As a dad, I remember telling my sons to “clean your room” over and over again. Yet, instead of actually cleaning their rooms, what if my sons gathered their friends together and discussed what “cleaning your room” means, or they spoke of various cleaning methods, or even memorized the phrase, “Clean your room.” As a dad, all I wanted them to do was to actually clean their rooms.
Something similar can be said of our relationship with God, our Father. He told us—long ago—to “go and make disciples.” Yet, all too often, we sit with one another to discuss what that phrase means. We explore different methods to “go and make disciples,” and many of us—including me—have memorized that which we call the Great Commission. Still, our Father simply wants us to obey this command.
Missions for All of Us
What if we spent more time making disciples than discussing disciple-making? The Great Commission requires that we “go.” In some way, we must go and enter the world of someone who is not a follower of Jesus. We often equate this with world missions. We invest resources in sending people to other people groups in other places. Yet, every single Jesus follower is a missionary.
Missionaries travel not only across oceans to the other side of the world, they travel across the street and around the corner to reach neighbors who are far from God. As missionaries, we might walk across a room—at school, at work, even at home—to reach someone in our family or circle of friends with Christ.
The need is great for each of us to serve as missionaries. Of the 7.6 billion people in the world, 4 billion are not Jesus followers. Stated more clearly, 10 of 15 people are not saved; 2 of every 3 people need Jesus. Does that statistic reflect our family or circle of friends? You and I are missionaries to them. Moreover, if our entire family is in Christ, it’s time for us to widen our circle of friends with individuals who are far from God.
The Power and Pattern
Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Notice the power and the pattern. The same power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (see Romans 8:11) is the power that enables us to be missionaries, witnessing to those we love and for whom we care.
Fifty years ago, on September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a startling announcement during a speech at Rice University. He said. “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Being witnesses for Jesus—first to our family, then to our friends, our community, and beyond—is not easy. We choose to be witnesses for the Lord, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Though it will be hard, take heart. The Great Commission comes with a Great Companion, who promised, “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” The Great Companion—the Holy Spirit—came to us, is in us, and empowers us.
Also, notice the pattern in Acts 1:8. Beginning in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth, the followers were to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. The geographic movement appear as four concentric circles: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. We can use the same pattern—template—for serving as missionaries. We are to take Jesus to the people in our lives who are yet to become Christians; beginning in our own homes, reaching then to our extended family, then into the neighborhoods where we live, and finally to the schools and workplaces where we go day after day.
Three Practical Challenges for Elders
What if, as elders, we lived as missionaries? Would it make a difference in the congregations we serve? Could we impact the lives of yet-to-be Christians with whom we are doing life? Yes, undeniably so. As a fellow elder, let me share three practical challenges that are good, better, and best.
- A good challenge is for each of us to support the International Conference On Missions this month. Think of a way to invest in the conference, whether financially or by personally attending.
- A better challenge is for each of us to go on a short-term trip to encourage and assist missionaries who are serving the Lord on the field, whether locally or globally.
- The best challenge is for us to “go and make disciples” of those individuals who are near and dear to us—when we do so, we lead by example. Perhaps then a great awakening will take place and our congregations will become a wave of witnesses sweeping across town and around the world.
Our Lord said, “Go and make disciples.” Don’t merely memorize the verse, and don’t just sit and discuss the methods of doing so. Let’s get up and go.
Dr. Gary Johnson serves as an elder/senior minister at Indian Creek Christian Church (The Creek) in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is a cofounder of E2: Effective Elders. Gary offers resources and coaching as he works with elders to lead with greater focus and confidence.