Missions lessons usually create a lot of squirming among the pews. It isn’t that we don’t support missions; we agree missions are important. It’s more that we’re afraid God will pin us down, make us sell everything we own and go to Zimbabwe. That, or start preaching from the street corners in our own home town.
Like it or not, on some level, the source of our squirming is probably fear. But don’t start squirming yet. This is a guilt-free lesson. This week, we’re going to discuss the call to missions and how we can become involved without moving to Zimbabwe or setting up a podium in your hometown downtown.
Missions lessons always start with Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘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.’”
As we’ve discussed in previous lessons, the command to share our faith is real. God didn’t create the church to replace word-of-mouth sharing. He created the church to be an organizational resource for Christians. Within the church, we can meet others who share our faith, worship with them and help one another grow. It’s the place where we refuel, filling up on the Holy Spirit so we can reenter the world and confidently go about our business, sharing our stories and leading others to Christ along the way.
The church also is a place we can bring new believers to be nurtured and discipled. Notice in Matthew 28:19, Jesus only tells us to make new disciples. Everything else in the Great Commission is a description of how we can carry out this command. In other words, we make new disciples by sharing the story of Christ, baptizing new converts and teaching them to obey. Making new disciples describes the whole process.
Remember, the command to share our faith is a universal calling for all Christians. It doesn’t require us to move to Africa or change anything about our lives. We simply add something to our regular routine. Instead of talking only about family and work and recreation, we add a few comments about our faith. If we talk about Jesus as the living Lord we know him to be, seekers will become curious. Then we have the opportunity to share our faith openly.
It’s simple and effective. We don’t have to start preaching from street corners or handing out pamphlets everywhere we go. We only have to begin talking about our faith as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. After all, it is. We’re just being honest.
But there is a second part to this command, making disciples of all nations. Relax, Jesus isn’t telling us to move to the other side of the world. The word “nations” comes from the Greek word “ethne,” from which we get the word ethnic. Jesus is telling us to share our stories will all people: all cultures, races and language groups.
Yes, some people are called to full-time missions, just as others are called to full-time church work. “He … gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). Notice the reason we are given these callings: So we, the body of Christ, may become mature and Christlike.
Jesus called us to make disciples for two reasons. First, so the body would become complete. And second, so the body would become mature. God wants all people to be given the opportunity to come, and he wants all who have come to become more like Jesus.
The only way this will happen is if we all join the effort. That’s why God has equipped the body of believers with all the gifts necessary for bringing about his will. Some are missionaries, some are preachers or teachers, and some are seed planters. Then some are supporters, holding up all the others in prayer and meeting their physical needs.
A call to full-time missions isn’t necessary to become involved in missions. Mission trips are a great way to step outside your comfort zone and experience mission activities firsthand. Your church’s outreach efforts are another way to become involved. These experiences are important because they help us understand how natural mission work really is. Missions isn’t a call to give up everything we hold dear. It’s a call to share the most important thing in our life—the confidence that we’ll spend eternity in the presence of God.
Our reading this week suggests three ways we can become involved.
• Pray for mission workers. The world is full of seekers, and unbelievers are converted every day. Pray for workers to hear and respond to God’s call to full-time, part-time and volunteer missions. Then pray for God to remove your own fears, so you are free to hear when he prompts you to tell others about him.
• Support missions financially. Your donations allow the gospel to be taken into parts of the world where it has never gone before. It takes time and money to go into these countries, learn the culture and language, and share God’s word. Giving to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering allows even a small contribution to go a long way since it combines gifts from all Southern Baptists.
• Make disciples. In your everyday life, you can make disciples without doing anything special. Raise godly children, be open about your faith with friends and family, and let your faith show in everything you do. Making disciples doesn’t always involve preaching. Live your faith, and your life becomes the best sermon ever preached.
• Have you ever been on a mission trip? What did you learn from the experience?
• How can you be a “missionary” in your own life?
• Do you feel your life is a living testimony? What could you change to make it a stronger testimony?