Description / Transcription
It’s coming up on a year since I came and preached a candidating sermon here in March. Preached on Leviticus, as some of you may remember, as I had a couple say to me “maybe you don’t want the job, [laughter] preaching on Leviticus.” And in that candidating process and since now being here, I’ve had several people ask me “so Pastor, what is, what is your vision for the church?” And it’s a good question, it’s a fair question. I understand why people would want to know where do you think we’re going, what do you see, do you see things that you want to change, do you see new things that you want to do, where do you think we’re going? It makes sense you’d want to know what the new guy’s about, where he wants to go, what’s going to stay the same, what might change.
It’s a good question, and yet it can be a hard question, in particular when you’re still getting to know a place and a people. On the one hand, you don’t want to be too specific, sounds a little underwhelming: “My vision is for the parking lot to be re-striped,” or something. Or “I want Yankee Candles in every bathroom.” Okay, that, that doesn’t quite ring right.
Or if you’re too broad, it doesn’t say too much. “Well, my vision is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Well, yes, we know that, we are Presbyterian, we all agree with that, but what does that look like?
So having said that and not wanting to be so specific nor so general as to say nothing in particular, I wanted to take this Sunday, at the beginning of Missions Week, to preach a sermon that has to do both with mission, you can see from the text, which most of you are very familiar with, but also about the church’s vision. If you are visiting here, we’re very glad for you to be here, and I don’t often preach messages that are just sort of drilling in for us and our vision, but this message is going to be a little bit like this. And hopefully you will conclude that it’s not really my vision, the pastor’s vision, the session’s vision, it’s Christ’s vision.
And Christ’s vision for the church has everything to do with Missions Week and it has everything to do with our future as a congregation. For all the different kinds of people in this church, all the different gifts that you have, all the different interests and passions, I would hope we could all agree that our vision for the church, in fact, the best vision for the church is the one that Jesus gave before He ascended into heaven. This is the vision Jesus gave to the disciples and by extension to us as His disciples in Matthew 28.
Now why take that other than by tradition, people often take that as sort of the marching orders for the church. Well, there’s good reason. It’s not only the climax of Matthew’s gospel, everything crescendoing to this moment where Jesus says “all authority has been given to Me.” But it’s Jesus’ final words. I think all of us recognize that if we’re given that moment to say a final word, that we want it to count, that we want it to mean something.
Now I don’t know if you’ve seen some of these famous epitaphs on tombstones, and some of them are sort of humorous, sort of strange. One of them I read one time said as last words “I told you I was sick,” [laughter] so that’s not what you want. Hopefully, you would do better than that.
Jesus, before He ascends into heaven, is giving to his disciples and to us. “Here’s what I want to leave you with,” this small fledgling church, “here’s what I want you to be about.”
And so we read it in Matthew 28. And even though you’re familiar with it, I invite you to turn there in your Bibles. Matthew 28, beginning at verse 16: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”
I have three questions for us this morning. What is the Church’s commitment? What is the Church’s commission? And what is the Church’s confidence?
If you ever meet one of my preaching professors someday, you can tell them about that organization there. Three C’s, three questions.
First, what is the Church’s commitment? Now, we’ll get to the most famous part here in verses 18, 19, and 20, but before we get there, don’t, I don’t want you to miss the Church’s commitment that comes even before the Church’s commission.
So we’re at the end of the book of Matthew. What do you know about Matthew’s Gospel? Well, we’ve seen Jesus born of a virgin, Jesus tempted in the wilderness, Jesus proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, Jesus heal, Jesus cast out demons, Jesus worked miracles, Jesus suffered and died on the cross, and now at the end of chapter 28, Jesus has been raised from the dead. All of that has happened in Matthew’s gospel, and now for the first time in Matthew’s gospel, the 11 remaining disciples, Judas has betrayed them, the 11 remaining disciples are gathered together at the mountain to which Jesus directed them, and what do we see them doing, in verse 17: They worshiped.
Now we read, yes, after that some doubted, some are still wondering what’s going on here? This is all very strange. They’ve not yet been clothed with power from on high at Pentecost. But they’re worshiping. Their faith is weak, but this initial response is monumental. The first and most defining characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ is that we are a people committed to the worship of Jesus Christ.
So don’t miss that. Yes, this is Missions Week. Yes, this is a sermon, at least in part, about missions. But we are not first of all a people on a mission. We are first of all a people on our knees. Sometimes we can think, okay, this is all about God’s giving us a lot of things to do, and He does give us commands and things to do, but before that we must recognize all that He has done for us. If, if, if what you walk away from a vision sermon, a missions sermon, is simply “wow, we, we’ve got a lot of things to do,” and you don’t have undergirding that God has done everything for us, therefore we can go out and live this life for Him and testify to His grace, you, you, you won’t, you won’t make it in the Christian life. That sort of deficit motivation, that sort of just “hey, get your act together, go out there and do better.”
So first of all we need to see ourselves as a people not even on a mission, but on our knees. You remember that famous line from John Piper in his missions book Let the Nations be Glad. He begins the book by saying “missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Worship is ultimate. Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church; worship is. There are no more mission trips in heaven, so mission cannot be ultimate. Worship is ultimate. We engage in mission because there are millions and billions who have not heard of Christ, have not bowed the knee to Christ, and are not yet worshiping Christ. That motivates the mission. Our worship of this Christ and our desire to see the multitudes know and worship this Christ.
So when we think about corporate worship, what we’re doing here together Sunday after Sunday, yes, it’s true we, we, we may have other aims, we may want to accomplish certain things. I gave you a long list of announcements. I barely have a sermon left after all those announcements. So, so is that the point? To get information across? Well, we do that. Do we gather because we need to fund raise? We need to tell you about things that the church needs money for? Well, giving is an act of generous worship. Are we here so we can edify the saints? Yes, we want to do that. Are we here so that we might evangelize anyone here who doesn’t know Christ and present to them the saving news of the Gospel? Yes, we, we want to do that. There’s lots of things we want to do on Sunday.
But don’t think that corporate worship is ultimately a means to some other end. No, this is the end. Worship is what we will be doing for all eternity. Now, it’s worship in heaven very broadly conceived. You say, “Well, I don’t even particularly like singing very much.” Well, there’ll be other ways you’ll be able to worship God besides singing, and you know, maybe you’ll learn to like singing when you get to heaven.
Worship is what we made for. Worship is what the triune God deserves. Worship is our goal, our aim, our privilege, and our end. So that’s the answer to the first question, what is the church’s commitment? Our commitment is to be a people who worship. And I sense that about all of us and I, and I hope and pray that it only continues to grow, that we love to come together and sing and pray and hear God’s Word preached, morning and evening. We love to come together to do it.
And that children in our congregation, who sometimes must be dragged along, and husbands who sometimes have to be dragged along [laughter], and parents, perhaps, who have to be dragged, that we would find growing within us a desire not just “well, I ought to be here and I have to be here and this is what good people do in Charlotte on Sunday,” “I want to be here.” That your, the climax of your week would not be Friday night and the movie you get to see, it would not be scampering out of here because then you get to watch some football, it would be this opportunity we have to bow before the risen Christ and worship Him. Every Sunday is a Resurrection Sunday where we celebrate that the tomb is still empty and Christ is still king.
Our commitment is worship.
Second question: What is the church’s commission?
Now, to understand the way the Great Commission works, I have good news for you. You need a grammar lesson. Ah, exciting. You need to know the difference between imperatives and participles. Mmm, this is why you look forward to coming to corporate worship.
Greek. The New Testament’s written in Greek. Greek verbs have different moods. That’s just the grammar. Not happy, sad, friendly, but moods. They are called indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative. This morning I’m going to talk about imperative. Imperative verbs are commands. They tell people to do something. “Throw me the ball” is a command. “Throw” is a verb in the imperative mood. There’s lots of imperatives in the Bible: “Love one another, be patient with one another, do not commit adultery, do not steal.” Commands — sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. You get that.
Participles. Greeks loved participles. The New Testament loves participles. And there’s a very elaborate system in how they’re used, but at its most basic, a participate is a verbal adjective. It’s partly a verb that’s doing something, it’s partly an adjective that’s describing something. So a participle denotes an action, but it’s a modifier. They modify nouns, sometimes they modify verbs.
In English, let’s just make it simpler, in English you can usually spot participles because they end with “ing.” So, “after closing the door, please turn off the light.” “Turn off” is an imperative, it’s a command, do that. The phrase “after closing the door” is a participial phrase, closing the door, closing, so closing, eating, running as Forrest would say, those are all participles. “Eat your steak, chewing and swallowing every piece.” “Eat” is the command, “chewing and swallowing” are participles, they describe the means by which you eat your steak, namely you eat your steak chewing.
So as you can see from just some simple examples, there are different kinds of participles. This is why there are different ways to translate the Greek. Greek will tell you that verb is a participle, but participles are used in many different ways and you need the context to help you figure out how they’re being used.
So what does any of this have to do with the Great Commission? Glad you asked. Some of you may already know, the Great Commission contains one verb in the imperative mood and then three modifying participles. Now we don’t want to make too much of it because a participle can have the force of a command. All of these participles have the force of an “ought” to them, but it’s important that we realize that in the Great Commission there’s one main command, and then it’s further explained by these three participles.
Umm, okay, we’ll just see whose brave. Audience participation. What is the one verb that is in the imperative mood in the Greek? [inaudible] Wrong. [laughter] Not “go.” You have three other choices. [inaudible] Which one? [inaudible] Make. Make disciples. There you go. So, good, 50% barely passing. [laughter] You’re gonna phone a friend, you were gonna check a lifeline.
Now, again, you can read commentaries and read the grammar and certainly it’s, it’s not a wrong translation that “go” has the, the, the force of a command, but you can look in the Greek and it is “make disciples.” You could translate the Great Commission “going therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching.” In other words, the going, the baptizing, and the teaching help to describe how we are making disciples.
So I want to look at these. So first this command, “make disciples.” This is the imperative in the Great Commission. Now notice Jesus did not say “make converts.” Now, that’s a good thing. He did not say “ask for decisions,” though it’s fine to ask for decisions. He did not even say “go out and get professions of faith.” He said, rather, “make disciples.” So this is something more than just “go out and get somebody to raise their hand and say yes, I’m a Christian.” The Great Commission is not less than that, but it is more than that. The command is not “go get people to ask Jesus into their hearts.” The command is “make disciples,” to disciple.
Disciple is a learner, but it’s more than just an academic learning. It’s a whole life learning, a disciple is someone who sits at the feet of Jesus, to learn from Him, to be like Him.
So to make disciples means that we who follow Jesus are to reproduce ourselves so there are more people who follow Jesus. So the vision Jesus has for our church is really quite simple: Discipleship. Jesus envision people who think like Jesus, look like Jesus, live like Jesus, and worship Jesus who then help other people to think like Jesus, look like Jesus, live like Jesus, and worship Jesus. This is what the Church will be about, but it’s not something that you just can sequester off to religious professionals. “I’m here, I’m living my life, I will give to the church so that the pastors, maybe the elders and the staff, they can make disciples.” This is for all of us. All of you have a role to play in making disciples.
And it means that as a church we want to think about our ministries through this grid. We don’t want to have a Sunday school program just because, well, churches have Sunday school programs. Or we need someplace to put the kids so that the adults can do stuff. No, we think “how is this ministry helping to make disciples?”
The goal of our communities, from college up to senior adults, the goal of our youth groups, the goal of our covenant groups, the goal of women’s ministry and men’s ministry, must always be “make disciples.” Now in that you’re going to have fun things and you’re going to have teas and you’re going to, you know, go out and shoot things and fish for things and you’re going to have games, but all of it is to serve the broader purpose “are we making disciples?” How is this ministry moving people from darkness into light, moving people from spiritual infancy to maturity, moving people from maturity to multiplication?
Any other vision of the church will be too small. Only the goal of discipleship is big enough to fill the whole world. So it’s not about your ministry, your niche; you may have a ministry, you may have a niche; but all of it is toward this larger aim that we make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Now you notice it says not just make disciples, “make disciples of all nations.” The Greek word is “ta ethne,” nations. You can hear our word “ethnicities.” It is not a word that means “political nation states.” That would have been an anachronism; they didn’t have the United Nations, they didn’t think of political nation states in that way where everyone had well-defined borders, and you needed passports to come in and go there. Nations, rather, is a people group term.
Why have we been praying on Sunday night for unreached people groups? Why don’t we just pray for nations? Well, because there may be close to 200 geo-political nations in the world, but just because there is a Christian in Nigeria doesn’t mean that all of the people groups of Nigeria have been reached, because there are more than 10,000 people groups in the world. So this word “ta ethne” is Jesus’s marching orders to the Church, “make disciples of all nations,” of every cultural linguistic people group.
And there are lots of experts and missiologists who study these things and there’s different ways to divide, but there’s thousands of them. And thousands have been reached, and thousands have not been reached. We make disciples, we go where Christ is not known.
So everyone has a role to play in the Great Commission in this work of making disciples. Some will go to foreign lands, cross cultures, learn a language, and make disciples there. Most will probably stay and be in our culture but no less are we called to make disciples here. Some will be missionaries, all will be witnesses, and all should be engaged somehow in disciple making, with your children, with youth group, with students, with neighbors, with your covenant groups.
I don’t, I don’t agree with the language that says “well, our nursery is a mission field.” I think “mission” is reserved for sending people to a place where Christ is not known. “Mission,” we’re, we’re sending out. But it’s certainly true to say that in our families we have an opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission, to make disciples. We have children who need to be taught, need to be baptized, as we will see, need to be brought up in the way of the Lord.
So the one command Jesus gives in the Great Commission, the imperative, is “make disciples.” Not simply converts or decisions, but multiplying, obedient, mature disciples.
And to show what making disciples means, Jesus uses three participles. So first, “going.” This describes the step in making disciples. We go. In one sense this was a specific command for the disciples because they had to go out from Jerusalem, and the book of Acts recounts their obedience from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. So there is an element that is unique to the disciples.
But it’s also for all of us. We know that it is a command continuing because Jesus promises “I will be with you to the end of the age.” So the command must go as far as the promise extends, that is, to the very end of the age.
So do all of us need to go somewhere? Well, mmm, sort of. You may have heard the saying before that the Great Commission gives you three options. Go, send, or disobey. Those are our three options as Christians. You can go, you can be a part of sending, or we can disobey. But all of us are called to be a part. We are all supposed to be mobilized for this great task of world evangelization. Going to the nations.
We need to know that the command to make disciples hits a plural “you.” So the King James has “go ye,” “go y’all, therefore and make disciples of all nations.” So the commission is not to be fulfilled by an individual, but it’s a commission to be fulfilled by the Body of Christ, His disciples, and now the Church. So corporately we are charged with going, though not all of us will go in the same way. I’m a pastor, I’m not a missionary, but I want my life to count for missions. I want this church to be absolutely on fire for the cause of global missions. So some of you will minister mostly in your Jerusalem, that is, nearby, culturally like you. Or Judea. Judea are culturally similar, geographically a little more distant. Or Samaria. Who were the Samaritans? The Samaritans were geographically near, but they were culturally different from the Jews. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or to the ends of the earth.
So though you may not personally become a missionary, you still must be obedient to the Great Commission, in your Jerusalem, in your Judea, in your Samaria. And even if you never become a missionary, we get to get out of our Jerusalem and Judea and bear witness to Christ and make disciples where we are.
Both the Old and the New Testaments are concerned that all nations worship the true God, the heartbeat of God is a missionary heartbeat in both testaments. Just think of Genesis 12, that Abraham would be a father of many nations. And you connect that with Galatians 3, that by faith in Abraham’s seed they may inherit the Abrahamic blessing.
So God’s missionary heart is shown in both the Old and the New Testament, but there is something of a difference. I don’t want to exaggerate the difference, but generally speaking, the impulse in the Old Testament is “come and see” whereas the emphasis in the New Testament is “go and tell.” So the Old Testament the general impulse is “we’re gonna worship, we’re gonna get it right, the nations are going to come. They’re going to want to see what’s going on here and people are gonna stream to us.” It’s “come and see.”
Now that’s still true. We are a city on a hill. But there is a further emphasis in the New Testament. Not only “come and see,” okay, here we are, we’re doing a good job at church, but also “go and tell.” Go out.
So this means that we are not reinventing the church’s worship to be acceptable to nonbelievers. We want to be sensitive, we want to explain, we don’t want to use jargon, we don’t want to be unwelcoming, we don’t want to be offensive, we don’t want to be shoddy or distracting. We want, if someone is uncomfortable here, they are uncomfortable with the Gospel. Not uncomfortable because we’re rude or we’re strange or they don’t know where the restrooms are.
But worship, worship is designed for God to be carried out by worshippers. We design worship for people who do worship. It is a service designed to honor Jesus Christ, not to appeal to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Now that means that our job is to go out. Yes, we want to invite people here. Yes, it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to hear the Gospel proclaimed at church. Yes, there’s many opportunities.
But the, the evangelism that needs to take place and the engaging with our neighbors here in our community, is not going to happen just by having the best service possible Sunday after Sunday and telling people “hey, we’d love for you to join us.” We need to go out, we need to find where those conversations are. We need to be, if you, some of you, you’re already addicted to coffee, so if you go to the same place every day, why don’t you get to know the name of the young lady who’s making you your $15 latte. Umm, you are, you are, you know, helping to provide her retirement fund, so get to know her, and as you get to know her, see what opportunities there might be talk to her. You have, all of us, you have people in your lives who need to know Jesus. Are we willing to talk to them, to get to know them, to ask them questions?
God’s not saying “okay, this week you’ve gotta go out and you’ve gotta win the sales trophy for the quarter.” No. Witnesses. Not salesman. Witnesses. Not closing the deal. Witnesses. Can you tell people what you’ve seen and heard? Can you tell people what God has done in your life? Can you tell people what you know about Christ from the Bible? Can you love people with a contagious Christian hospitality so they want to know more? Going.
Here’s the second participle: Baptizing. Make disciples by going and by baptizing. The word “baptism” implies two important steps in the process of disciple making. The first step implied is initiation. Baptism is the sacrament of beginning. It marks out a new Christian as beginning down this road of discipleship, and it marks out children of believers as marking out this new road of discipleship. It marks out individuals in families at their initial point of following Jesus. So for children born into a Christian home, that’s why we baptize them, and for those how have never known Christ, that’s why we baptize them. It is a badge of discipleship.
So discipleship is not less than making a decision for Christ, it’s, it’s more than that. It is walking with Jesus. Baptism is that sign. We don’t often think to recall our baptism. If you’ve been baptized, you’ve been given the sign that says you belong to Christ. You are a disciple of Christ. You have been given the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to mark you out as one who is seeking to follow, learn from, grow, worship this triune God.
So baptism is a sign of initiation. It’s also a sign of inclusion. We hear a lot about inclusion in our day. This is the good kind of Gospel inclusion. We do want to be inclusive in the right ways and exclusive in the right ways. It’s a sacrament, not only of beginning, but belonging.
Paul’s strategy was not primarily to hold rallies. His strategy was to plant churches, to establish local congregations of believers who could be incorporated into the body of Christ. And so we baptize them as a sign that they are disciples of Jesus and that they belong to a body of others who follow Jesus.
So we make disciples by beginning, by belonging. It means that the sign that holds us together as a church is the sign of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism and then coming together to renew that covenant at the Lord’s table. It does not say that the sign that holds us together is we all root for the same sports teams, or that we all make about the same kind of money, or that we all have the same level of education, or that we all think about current events in the same way, or that when we go into the voting booth we all vote in the same way.
You may say there’s elements of discipleship in all sorts of things; that’s true. But it happens very easily in churches, that even when they preach Christ, what really, what really holds the church together is, is something secondary to Christ. What really binds us together is we all look the same, or we all dress the same, or we all school our kids the same, or we all sort of like the same staion on the radio, read the same books.
What unites us together, we should be able to look out on Sunday and we should be able to see there is no earthly reason why some of these people are in the same building together. There’s only a supernatural explanation that these people would be coming together on Sunday because God did something in his life, in her life, in their life, and they’re so different, but they’ve been baptized into this triune name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, marking us out as disciples.
And then the last participle, teaching. Teaching. We do not downgrade the importance of biblical knowledge. We do not apologize for being a theologically-minded church. We do not set up false dichotomies that pit evangelism against edification. Now certainly there are churches which are very heady and they do no outreach. That’s a problem. But the problem is not learning theology, the problem is not growing in godliness, the problem is not Bible studies.
I think if we were just looking at these participles, going, sort of initiation, including baptizing, and then teaching, we’d probably say “yeah, maybe we’re doing the best on the teaching part, maybe we are,” and we should never apologize for that. We only want to grow in it as we grow, so we don’t, we don’t lift up one participle by tearing down another. We say “praise God, we want to grow, one disciple at a time in the lifelong process of being taught all that Jesus has commanded,” which includes 500 explicit and implicit commands. If we are a fully committed disciple of Jesus Christ, we will teach each other.
So you want to say “I want to be a part of the Great Commission, but I do just do children’s ministry.” What? Just do children’s ministry? Aren’t you teaching those children to do all that Jesus commands? You say “I want to be a part of the Great Commission, but right now I’m absolutely swamped being a mom, with all these kids.” You don’t think you have an opportunity to teach those kids all that Christ has commanded them? That’s why the Great Commission is so wonderfully freeing. It is big enough to fill the whole world, and it’s small enough for every single one of us to play a part.
Do you see how all three of these elements are necessary? If we baptize and teach, but never go, well, we’ll build up disciples, and we’ll be mature people, but we won’t be making new disciples.
If we go out and teach, but don’t baptize, well, we’ll tell people lots of interesting things and we may make some converts, but we won’t actually be building churches.
And if we go and baptize, but we don’t really teach, we may have converts, and we may even have a big church, but it won’t be the sort of church that Jesus wants.
Mature disciples who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. That’s our commission.
And very quickly, with this last question then: What is our confidence? This is a big vision. It’s a big enough vision to keep us busy for the rest of our lives, big enough to give us all something meaningful to do. Every single Christian here has something meaningful and eternal to do with your lives. Whether you can barely get out anymore or you are so overwhelmed with life you don’t have time to sign up for anything at church, you all have something meaningful and eternal to do. Because you can all be a part of making disciples, teaching, praying, belonging, including.
And here’s our confidence. Look at verse 18: Jesus came and said all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
So Jesus is not sending us out into the world to do something impossible. Impossible by ourselves, yes, but not by His strength. He has all authority. You ever stop to think what an astounding claim this is? Think of a passage like Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord, that is My name. My glory I will not give to another.” The Israelites were steeped in this understanding, Yahweh says “I do not share my glory with anyone.” Then Jesus comes along and says “here, all authority.” He’s making Himself equal with God, “all authority has been given to Me.”
And if you know Matthew’s gospel, you can see how this is a climax. You remember when Jesus heals the paralytic and says, you know, take up your mat and your sins are forgiven. And you know what they’re upset about? How does He have authority to forgive sins?
You remember later when He’s encountering some of the Jewish leaders, and they want to ask Him a question. Hey, tell us by what authority you do these things. And He does not fall into their trap. He turns the tables on them and says “well, you tell Me who John the Baptist was and what he was doing and then I’ll answer your question,” and they don’t and so He doesn’t.
And you remember what is recorded after the Sermon on the Mount? That after Jesus finished preaching, it says that the crowds were astonished, because He preached what? He preached as one who was really, really smart? He preached as one who had the best illustrations? He taught them as one who was really, really relevant? It said they marveled, they were amazed, because He taught as one who had authority, not as their scribes and Pharisees.
This has been a growing theme in Matthew’s gospel. Who is this man who dares to speak with such authority? And surely, it’s no coincidence that Jesus summons them to a mountain, a sermon on a mountain, a transfiguration on a mountain, and now a final ascension on a mountain where Jesus declares “all authority has been given to Me. Therefore, going I want you to make disciples.”
That’s our confidence. Our confidence is not that we’re smart enough. Our confidence is not that we’re Presbyterian. Our confidence is not that we’ve been to Bible studies. Our confidence is we belong to Christ, and all authority is His. We are only bearing witness to His rightful reign and rule over the hearts and souls of men and women, and He has promised us at the end of verse 20 “I’ll be with you.” Yeah, but what about tomorrow? “No, always.” What, what about when I get that phone call that the tragedy has happened? Then, Lord? “Yes, always, always, to the end of the age.” That’s our confidence.
So I just want you to think, as we close here, you know, one of the ways to get vision is to go forward to look backward. So I think about, let’s say we’re here in 10 years, we’re having a service, and we’re looking back and we’re giving thanks for what God has done with and through and in Christ Covenant to make disciples. What are the sort of things that we look back and we say from 2018 to 2028 we’re giving thanks? I hope that we’re giving thanks for an increased awareness in your life that you have a role to play in the Great Commission. You don’t have to wait for a program to start. You can have people over to your house. You can even use paper plates, it’s okay. The house can even be messy. Because you know what? The person coming over? Their house is messy, too, and they’ll feel right at home, and if they don’t like messy houses, they’re in the wrong church.
I hope that we grow in that. I hope we can look back and we say “you know what? We’ve sent more out.” I hope that we can say our missions’ budget has increased exponentially. I hope we can say we have more missionaries who are going, and they’re going to the hardest to reach places in the world. I hope we can say that some people here, even during this week, were raised up to go to the mission field. I hope that we can look back in 10 years and count dozens of interns who have come through here to be pastors in the PCA, or to do campus ministry, or to work with music, or to work in the marketplace. I hope that we have more missions, more missionaries, pastors, interns. I hope that we can look back and celebrate baptisms of Covenant children and yes, baptisms of new believers, adults folded into the life of the church. New members. People who find a home here. People who find that the only entrance requirement is faith in Jesus Christ and brokenness and repentance over your sins, and they find a family here. I hope we can look back and we see the teaching that we’ve done, and there are more Bible studies, and there’s more good theology.
You know, from the very beginning, the vision of this church through all the pastors, beginning with Harry, the vision of this church was to be a resource church. You know how many churches in the PCA have 1000 people worshipping on a Sunday morning? There’s 1500 PCA churches. You know how many PCA churches have more than 1000? Last I counted, 20. And this is one of them. That’s not to say, mmm hmm hmm, yes, Christ Covenant. It’s to say, O Lord, to whom much is given, much is required.
I was just speaking at a PCA women’s training event. It was great to see two tables of women here from Christ Covenant and to see Bible studies that women here had written were being used and leadership of Susan or Connie or others were helping to steer things. We have such a role to play, and always have, as a resource church and as Presbyterian, in the denomination, that we want to be constantly asking how do we let resources slip through our fingers? How do we give away our best ideas, our best people, our best things?
And what about teaching? What about the 850 pound student gorilla we have in our parking lot called Covenant Day School? Now, we’re going to make different decisions on where we send our kids to school and some make different decisions. It’s not affordable for all, we understand that. But it’s the church’s school, and we want to celebrate it, and we want to build it up and we want to see that that is a place from K-12 that is sharing in this vision that we have, to make disciples of Jesus Christ, teaching them what Jesus has commanded, giving them a way to look at the world through the eyes of Scripture.
And I hope we will look back and see that worship is rich and rooted and biblical and heartfelt and Christ-honoring. And I hope we will look back in 10 years and say, you know what? Our confidence is even less in ourself and even more in Christ and His Word. And how will we see that? It will be because we pray more.
So let us be diligent, brothers and sisters. Let us be devoted to this great vision of the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations, going out to find them, baptizing them into the Body, teaching them the whole counsel of God.
If you could see the Greek, you could see there are four “alls” in this passage: All authority, all nations, all that He commanded, all days, to the end of the age, always with you. That’s the vision. With all of Christ’s authority to all the nations, teaching all that He has commanded, knowing that He will be with us all of our days.
As William Carey, the father of the modern mission movement once said, “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.”
That is a vision worth pursuing.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, give us insight to know how best to live into this vision, carry out this vision, enjoy this vision, all that you have done for us, all the opportunities you’ve given to us, all the ways you want to shape us, change us, correct us, use us. Continue to do more than we know how to ask or imagine. For Your great name, for Your glory, for our joy, and the eternal happiness of the nations, we pray. Amen.