Four Cornerstone Scriptures 1.2
“We have a very simple solution to suggest to the twelve of you today.” He set his hand on the bible in front of him. “And the solution is simply this: Start at the beginning of the New Testament and pay attention to everything Jesus said and did. WHO is more important than ANYTHING ELSE. If you do what Jesus did, we believe that you will get what Jesus got.”
The group nodded.
“The second thing that we believe is that you need to shift energy and time such that you are doing more of what Jesus said to do and less energy and time invested in anything else. Four scriptures guide us in this task of WHO is more important than ANYTHING ELSE.
“OK,” David said. “If you have your bibles with you … and if you don’t, there’s a stack over there … please turn with me to Matthew 4.” There was a stir as 2/3 of those present got up to get a bible off the stack. It wasn’t a habit in their denomination to bring your bible with you everywhere.
When everyone had found the right page, David spoke. “Let’s assume that every verse has something to teach us. So let’s go around the table counter-clockwise, and each of us read one verse. Got it?” They nodded, and David began.
#1. Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“What does this say?” David asked. “It says the Jesus began with a simple clear command “repent. To repent means that change will be needed. We need to turn away from sin and turn to God and move toward God. It is not enough to identify what we are doing wrong nor is it enough to identify what we should be doing. If we are going to obey Jesus is Lord we must change to do more of what God desires. What this means is that we will never be finished with repentance. We will never be in a place where there is no need for change. The way we have always done it before will always be inadequate because Jesus will point us to what needs to be done right here and right now. Does that make sense?”
“You are saying that we are going to have to change whether we like it or not. You were saying that repent means to change.”
“I am saying that,” David said. “But the bigger problem is that churches are willing to change and people are telling them to change in ways that do not work to make disciples. In fact, the ways they are being told to change are hurting the church and decreasing the numbers of people that attend it.”
“I agree,” Bob said. “The advice we’ve been given doesn’t work for us. Particularly about the need to change everything about the worship service.”
The others nodded.
So that’s a common theme?” David asked. “There’s an old saying about digging a hole in the wrong place. If you try harder all you get is a bigger hole and deeper in that whole. That’s the problem. The experts who do not listen to Jesus will always tell you to dig the hole in the wrong place. They will always tell you to be like the context of Jesus which was the temple rather than to do simply what Jesus did.”
“What do you mean about the temple?” Ysabella asked.
“Take, worship, for example. Worship takes place in the temple and is led by priests. Jesus never led worship or preached a sermon as a part of temple worship. Therefore, worship has nothing to do with disciple making because Jesus didn’t do it. So you don’t need to change your worship … much.”
“Jesus did his work in and around the temple; he utilized the temple for disciple-making. He did, however, warn the disciples against what he called the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. This refers to the temple or institutional way of doing things which will only lead you away from the sort of disciple-making which Jesus taught and practiced. The way other groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees did it is digging in the wrong place. It doesn’t create disciples of Jesus it just creates more Pharisees and Sadducees.”
#2. Mat 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Mat 4:21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
When we look at this scripture what we see is that fishing for people has 2 parts. The 1st part is what Peter and Andrew are doing. They are casting their nets into the sea. The 2nd part is what James and John are doing which is mending the nets. Mending the nets is repairing the network of people that does the actual work of disciple-making and indeed the network that is the church itself. The church is not a building, the church is not a profession, the church is not committees but the church is a network of people who follow and obey Jesus Christ. they repent to more closely follow the pattern that he taught.
The gospel of John tells us that all of these men had a relationship with Jesus prior to this day They were already aware of him, knew about his teaching and had spent time with him. They already had a relationship with the savior. This call to follow is different than that relationship. It is not a call to be saved where Jesus is the savior, but is the call to follow where Jesus is Lord and to be obeyed. Furthermore, it is a call to learn how to fish for people and then to fish for people. Fishing for people is the purpose of Jesus’ teaching . If we take these words seriously his call is not for them to become good Christians or even to become better Christians than they were before. It is not actually a call to be a Christian at all but a call to participate in the mission of Jesus Christ to fish for people. If you are a disciple you are learning how to fish for people. That’s what Jesus meant. One of the church planting movements you’ll hear more about, T4T, puts it with a very simple saying. There are 2 kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers. You hear a lot about being a disciple in everything you read, but if what you read does not include the emphasis on a disciple becoming a disciple maker, then it is not legitimate. The purpose of the teaching of Jesus is to teach them how to fish for people. That’s what he said it was and it’s like we have forgotten.
In another gospel the conversation between Jesus and the disciples is a little different. He says I will teach you how to fish for people. We need to understand every word from the mouth of Jesus from this point forward has something to do with teaching them how to fish for people. Therefore if we do what Jesus said that we should do, if we obey him as Lord, by the time we get to the end of the gospel we will know how to fish for people. How to fish for a people is nothing more Then doing what Jesus said to do.
#3. Mat 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” This comes next; everything else comes last.
If Jesus is Lord and to be obeyed then as we listen to his teaching which is about fishing for people, we are going to look for his commands. Everything he commanded is a part of fishing for people. None of what he commanded is wasted. And if we take the scripture literally, everything he commands as well as everything the Old Testament commands will fit under the umbrella of what is called the great commandment. The great commandment has 2 parts. 1st we are to love God with all our heart soul mind and strength. This is the high priority, to love God.
And then the minute that God has our attention, Jesus points to what has God’s attention: we are to love our neighbor and we are to love ourselves. There is to be a balance between these 2.
When you consider everything that churches do and everything that churches invest time and energy, every service of worship, every small group every committee meeting every church event every ongoing program. Every one of these is something that replaces directly loving yourself or your neighbor. It is secondary and an indirect way to take care of yourself or to take care of the needs of your neighbor. All of these ways of doing the business of the church belong to the temple pattern and the synagogue pattern which is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus interacted directly with people and showed love to them and if we obey this command we will interact directly with our neighbors and show love to them. “can you give us an example?” Let’s imagine that people in your community are poor and in need of food. The temple, and institution, decides to meet this need by creating another institution. In this case the temple creates a community food pantry. The community food pantry recruits leaders to manage its work and volunteers to do the actual service. People who are strangers come to the food pantry, receive groceries, and return home Volunteer who shelves the groceries and fills the sac do not ever get to know the person in an intimate and personal manner. It’s likely given the concern for privacy and confidentiality that they do not even know the person’s name when they hand them a sack of groceries. Loving your neighbor requires intimacy and personal interaction. Isn’t it simpler, if you know that your neighbor come your real life next door neighbor, has lost their job and is in need Isn’t it easier to simply bring them a covered dish? A sack of groceries? We are so eager to help people in a way that is impersonal and disconnected from whom they are as if they’re only need was for something material like canned goods and a Turkey at Christmas. The command of Jesus directs people to help people rather than create institutions that will obey Jesus and then support the institution in the work of the institution. Many of your churches are in whirl areas to are you actually know the names of your neighbors. In urban areas people often do not know the names of their neighbors because they don’t want to get involved in the problems that their neighbors might have. They want to remain aloof and disconnected which is directly the opposite of what Jesus commanded. You should be able to stand at the front door of your house and name the names of every person in every compas direction from your front door . And not only the house right next door but the house beyond that in the house beyond that I will be very Blunt. The reason that churches decrease in number are because the people who go to those churches are not loving their neighbors and there is a systematic systemic disobedience to this command because we focus on taking care of the institution of the church rather than taking care of the people who are our neighbors. The church will continue to exist as an institution until it uses up everything that the people who attend have to give to it. But if you love your neighbors when God touches their live, when God spiritually awakens them, they will attend the church that their friends attend . You are not making friends of your neighbors. So they are not going to your church. Nor are they going to the church that is friendly to outsiders. Your church is friendly to outsiders. It is welcoming and brimming with hospitality to those who walk in the door as strangers. The reason your neighbors are not walking in the door if your church is they are going to church with the people who are their friends . The people who are their friends are not strangers. They have made friends outside the church and brought their friends inside the church. A lot of the energy focused on church growth is focusing on helping strangers to know their way around. You don’t need signs or bulletins or brochures if you have a living person right beside you who can tell you where the restroom is. Josh hunt said it well. People today are not looking for a friendly church they are simply looking for friends. If you love your neighbors as Jesus commanded you will become friends. When God awakens their spirit they will come to church with you.
#4. Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback community church once said that a great church happens when people obey the great commandment and the great commission. The great commission is the last words of Jesus to his disciples before the ascension, according to Matthew 28. In the great commission, Jesus reminds them of several things. 1st Jesus is Lord. He is the boss. There is no one above him who has authority over him within the church. He is to be obeyed as Lord. Because Jesus is to be obeyed his Lord he commands for simple things for his disciples to do for the rest of time on this Earth . 1st, they are to go. We also need to go one does not make disciples inside the church. Disciples are made outside the church, in the neighborhood, by obeying the great commandment in personal interactions with individual neighbors. This is where we go. As we go we make disciples. Jesus assumed that they knew exactly what this involved. And because he told them he would teach them how to fish for people, if he succeeded in his goal, they did know exactly what to do. Every command of Jesus is a command about fishing for people. All they need to do is repeat everything Jesus told them to do, and then repeated again. Lather rinse repeat. Disciple making is a cycle that goes around and around, like the seasons . You make disciples, and then you make more disciples, just like you get up every morning, morning after morning, as long as you live. When you stop making disciples to focus on something else with a higher priority, you have chosen to disobey the commands of Jesus. when disciple making has the highest priority everything else that the church wants to do when B falls into place.
After that, is a part of the process of spiritual growth as a disciple, the person is to be baptized. Some churches baptize infants but churches that focused on conversion frequently minister to people who have never been baptized. If a person has not been baptized they need to be baptized when they become a disciple. Baptism has some very specific promises related to growing as a disciple which are listed in Romans chapter 6.
And then in verse 20 we find the 2nd half of the by T4T. Prior to baptism we have been helping people become disciples who followed Jesus as Lord, not only as savior. After baptism we are to focus on teaching the same disciples how to obey every command that Jesus taught the 1st disciples . Information on disciple-making which does not include the command to teach the commands of Jesus to new disciples is inadequate. It is a huge problem that you cannot go to any Christian bookstore and buy a book listing the commands of Jesus Christ, every single one of them, and how you can live them in complete obedience and understanding of what he meant. Further, a command that is almost always forgotten is that command of the great commission itself. Someone is supposed to teach you how to fulfill the great commission, step-by-step, in a simple fashion that anyone from the most brilliant scholar to the most mentally handicapped individual can fulfill. Before you came to this meeting today, who taught you how to make disciples clearly and step-by-step? You for the law to sermons. You’ve gone to Sunday school for years. When did someone literally do but Matthew 2820 commands? This is the problem and the reason why your churches are emptying out. The expectation that you’ve been taught is that someone else should make disciples that will fill up your church. Either the clergy or the institution of the church somehow. All the methods that you’ve been given that will help your church to grow are based on the idea that the clergy will make disciples, that an altar call will make disciples, that a worship service will make disciples And the task that you have been given is to invite people to come into this building where in some magical mystery way God will be able to finally get ahold of them. You are asked to put the individuals you invite the church on the manufacturing assembly line so that the machinery of the church as an institution can process them into disciples. This does not work. But what Jesus said which is that disciples are to make disciples who make disciples does work Period
“Let’s take a short break,” the consultant said. “When we come back, I want to talk about what you’ve been told and hopefully give some light and hope to us all. I’m going to put some handouts on the table and I would like to ask you to read them over before we continue.”
“Bad science, false information and misguided perceptions?” Bob asked, smiling.
The consultant nodded. “And good science, clear information and valid perceptions.”