Thoughts on Making Disciples 4
When I say, The work of making disciples must begin with non-Christians, it's not at the exclusion of Christians.
Over the years, I've offered, separately, a number of reasons for going to non-Christians. Let me try to concisely put them down here together. The first reason, I mentioned last week. The big story of God and humans can be summed up, as Jesus does in Luke 15, a father who has lost a beloved child. We are living a story of loss, redemption and restoration. Jesus was the price. And so the scriptures are an outpouring of his heart -- a steady, unstoppable river toward the lost.
Second reason is that Jesus not only explicitly tells us to do so, he himself goes to the lost to make disciples. We overly fixate on world missions when we read, Go make disciples of all nations... Yes, certainly this statement includes the ends of the earth, but it does not permit us to leap frog our non-Christian neighbors to get there. The Great Commission passage in Acts (1:8) says as much. Jesus further clarifies to whom we are to go by putting in the instructive qualifier of baptizing them... Imagery of baptism being birth, birth a metaphor for salvation.
Jesus exemplifies this by going, not to Jerusalem or to synagogues but to Galilee and the surrounding towns. He chose people like Simon the fisherman and Levi thetax collector. And took them to places like Samaria, Gerasenes, the Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon where he had an encounters with desperate people for whom faith was near.
The third reason is that there is a bottom line reality. ...that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.
Reason four is pragmatic. When we commit to going into the non-Christian world to make disciples, we get Christians on the way. When we say "We'll stay here and make disciples of Christians first, in our churches, then we'll all go into the world," we never go.
Good number of the people I've discipled have been Christians. Even with an extreme bent toward the non-Christian, I've discipled many Christians. The Timothys - theuncircumcised, half Greek, believer who went with Paul into the world. And we're back full circle: Making disciples starts with non-Christians but of course, not at theexclusion of Christians.
I don't often ask people to trust me. Hell... I mostly don't trust myself. But on this one, I'm asking. Trust me. Making disciples has to begin with non-Christians. From where we're currently standing, we can't lean hard enough.