God loves the people of this world. The incarnation of Jesus is evidence of it. While He was on earth, Jesus couldn’t stop talking about it. His death on a cross is proof of it. God loves sinners. He loves the sick. He loves the broken. He loves the wanderers. He loves the outsiders. He loves us.
God loves people so much that He gave His son as a ransom for all. (John 3:16)
So a church that reflects the image of God is a church that loves the outsider. It is a church that cares for one another, for we too were once outsiders, but it is also a church that keeps a spot open at the table for those not yet included. And we don’t just wait for them to join us, we invite them to the feast…
Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is the final statement of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Why, with His last words on earth, would Jesus focus His instruction on making disciples? He could have told a story reminding his followers of the keys to the abundant life that He had talked about before, or reinforced the great commandment to love God and neighbor. Instead he issues a calling. And why then would followers of Jesus be willing to die making this happen for the benefit of others?
The apostle John answers this question in the beginning and end of his Gospel:
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:4)
and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31b)
In the end Jesus was giving the key to a good life - life in and through Him. The commission of Jesus isn’t a power grab by a renegade ruler, but an announcement from the God of love that He is setting to right all things. And, that He is giving us the great privilege of joining Him in that work.
It is for this reason that we tell people the Good News of God and the good news in this world. It is for this reason that Paul would pen this amazing declaration in his letter to the Corinthian churches:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
Jesus is the hope of the world. And He has entrusted us with the message of hope and Good News, not only for life after death, but also for life today. Never have we needed proclaimers of this hope and Good News more that we do today. Never have we needed small communities of people to demonstrate the power of the Gospel more than we do today. This is not a time for us to huddle together in protection from the world. This is a time to go forth and love our neighbor as ourselves.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission He gave all of His followers the calling of making disciples wherever they went. In fact, the language He uses would more appropriately be translated “as you go, make disciples…” Jesus was not commanding us to make a special trip to share our faith with others but rather directing us toward something that best takes place along the way in the close proximity of relationship.
Making disciples is not something primarily to be left to the professional minister, outside the context of relationship, but is the privilege of every person who follows Jesus. We are not trying to convince people or debate people into a relationship with Jesus. We are living and sharing our story of faith. The people most likely to be impacted by our story, the story of the way Jesus has changed us, are the people we see all the time.
This relational connection is why Distributed Churches become key. If we are going to bring the church close to people in a way that they can witness the power of the Gospel to transform lives, then we have to organize the church outside the walls of a central building. And, if the people that encounter these Gospel communities are compelled by what they encounter, we need to include them without referring them to an institution.
So, we live out our faith and relationships in close proximity to our friends and neighbors and coworkers. We also include them in the life of our distributed church whenever possible, inviting them to join into meals or serving others, and offering to serve and pray for them in challenging situations.
This can be intimidating, but it need not be complicated. Pray. Serve. Build actual friendships (and stay friends whether they believe in Jesus or not). As you do each, listen for opportunities to share the story of how God has impacted your life with His love and forgiveness.
There are great resources to equip you to share the story of God in your life. It is beyond the scope of this guide to get into specific techniques or methods. In fact, the brilliance of the writers of the Bible is that they understood that the calling was universal, the Gospel itself was universal, but how they shared it varied from situation to situation.
Go to www.resourcewell.org to find more specific tools and techniques to help you.
There are also great resources and ideas for serving people well at www.servingtoempower.net.