The Great Commission of “making disciples” is a lifelong adventure. Sadly, many have equated confirmation instruction with “graduation,” and then assume that they “learned it all in confirmation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The end of formal catechism is really the beginning of a lifelong study of God’s Word. Peter wrote: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
So the goal of every Christian is to “grow up”! That means we study God’s Word — publicly in Bible classes and privately by ourselves. For us as Christians we can never grow tired or bored with God’s Word. He is revealing himself and his salvation. Nothing is more important than that!
The challenge lays before each of us: Am I studying God’s Word? If not, why not? Perhaps we feel inadequate — I have often heard this statement: “I don’t know enough to go to Bible class.” Then Bible class is the very place to be! How else can we learn? Take advantage of the Pastor’s background and education and others who have spent years studying God’s Word. Listen and learn. When you go home from Bible class, follow the example of the Berean Christians (“… they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” Acts 17:11).
Only as we are growing as Christians can we then be actively involved in Biblical evangelism/mission. Our message is Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). We need to get the message straight — and we do that as we grow up (in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ)!
Evangelism/Mission cannot be done in a spiritual vacuum. Thus, as we grow up, we also grow out. Our increasing knowledge of God and his grace means that we develop a heart after God’s heart. God is very clear in his Word about what he desires (“…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” 1 Timothy 2:4).
As we explore God’s Word we discover that God uses people and events to achieve his saving purpose (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 7-14; Isaiah 45:1; Luke 1:26-38;1 Timothy 1:15; etc.). The Old Testament is filled with references to God’s desire to reach the farthest ends of the earth with love and mercy (i.e., Isaiah 49:6; Acts 1:6-8). Disciples of Jesus Christ will desire to reach the same.
So where is the “mission field”? For many of us , we imagine that “mission work” involves language study and traveling to far away lands. So “mission” became synonymous with that narrow view. However, are you aware that the countries in Africa send more Christian missionaries to the United States, than the U.S. sends to Africa? That’s right, the U.S. is a mission field!
Should this surprise us? After all, mission work in the Bible always started at home (Acts 1:8). Thus, mission work is an essential part of congregational life. Even without the immigration of millions to the U.S., we have had a great mission field here; many of our neighbors and co-workers do not know Jesus Christ. With immigration increasing, the (home) mission fields are ripe for harvest (Luke 10:2). In greater Kansas City, we face this new reality. In fact, more than 100 native languages are represented in just one school district! And we don’t have to live in a metropolitan area to have contact with this new mission field.
I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NAS)
My focus for the coming years will be to equip pastors and congregations in three ways: 1) find ways to grow spiritually in Bible study (grow up) 2) explore congregational outreach and growth opportunities (grow out), and 3) equip those congregations that are prepared to start new mission congregations (grow out).