I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
[This is the fourth of four reflections on this scripture where Jesus gives his disciples their final instructions before he ascends into heaven.]
After my husband John retired from urban ministry in Chicago we moved out to the far suburbs to start a new life. It was a great experience bouncing around in search of a new church home. All of it was highly instructive.
One of the churches we attended for a while was Assembly of God. Like most Assembly churches they had a really great band. Although Assembly churches are supposed to emphasize the ministries of the Holy Spirit, this one was really an evangelical church with an emphasis on entry-level Christian teaching.
While we were there the pastor came up with what he believed was a divinely-inspired mission statement for the church:
At (this church) we exist to glorify God by helping people become Saved, Solid, Serving and Sent.
- Saved – Entering into a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
- Solid – Growing and maturing in that relationship.
- Serving – Finding one’s specific purpose and calling.
- Sent – Going out to help others do the same.
Saved, Solid, Serving, Sent. The pastor believed that this was God’s plan for discipleship. He even had giant banners with these four words made for the sanctuary so we could all stare at them every week.
Another bit of décor in this church was its big “Saved/Unsaved” board. People were invited to put the names of all their unsaved friends and relatives on the bottom (in the hellish part of the board). The congregation was encouraged to pray for the people posted on the hell part of the board talk and somehow talk them into making a confession of faith so that their name could be moved, with great fanfare, to the upper half of the board where heaven was.
The leadership group never put my husband and me on the unsaved part, but I think they had their doubts about us. Actually they were a pretty suspicious bunch. I think they all had doubts about each other. Like the old saying says, “All the world’s strange save thee and me, and even thou art a little strange.”
Anyhow that’s the way it was around there. And they had no social justice ministries because they believe that the only thing that was important was getting people saved, so that’s where they put all their time and energy. Every now and then they would try to do something for people, but they always ended up harassing them about whether or not they had been born again because that was their prime directive. They didn’t know any better, or if they did it had been brainwashed out of them.
The music was really, really good and there was a nice seniors group, but eventually it couldn’t compensate for the ”strangeness” of it all so we left and went to another church. Such a good praise band. What a pity.
Anyway, as I contemplated their plan for discipleship, that “Saved, Solid, Serving, and Sent” business, I had a revelation. Perhaps God did give these words to the pastor, but I think he got it mixed up. I think he got it backwards.
Here’s the way I see it relative to the teachings of Jesus:
- You are “Sent” out into the world every day, whether or not you are saved. That’s a given. You are part of the world and you interact with people every day.
- As we go out about our business, Jesus commands us to “Serve” others. He commands his followers to take care of those in need, encourage others, share our resources, love our enemies, and do all of the stuff in the Sermon on the Mount.
- Then, when we start doing that for long enough, we start to get “Solid.” We start to get a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is all about and get born again of the Spirit. We start to live it instead of just talking about it. Or waiting around for it.
- And then, having done all we can do, we assume that “Saved” will take care of itself when the time comes.
Jesus didn’t want his disciples to go out and sign up people to be on the Jesus team. He wanted them to do what he did. He wanted them to go out empowered and energized, carrying on his ministry and mission to teach (about the proper application of the Law of Moses), preach (about the Kingdom of God) and heal (everyone who needs it). That’s what he did:
Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. (Matthew 4:23).
He never asked anyone to make a confession or faith. He never signed anyone up to go to church. He just commanded them to love. We need to keep that in mind as we go out – Sent, Serving, Solid, and Saved.
What does this scripture say to you?