" Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting
together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near "
Hebrews 10:24–25 NLT
Imagine being part of an organization or team that accomplished an important mission or won an incredible championship. There was tremendous exhilaration when LSU won the 2019 College Football National Championship. Thousands of fans celebrated wildly, along with the coaches and players.
In the movie Apollo 13, NASA mission control workers cheered when the mission of bringing back the stranded astronauts was a success. People desire to be part of a winning team, but more than that, they desire significance. Significance is an innate need of humankind, to live a life of purpose and lasting impact.
Jesus came to earth with a mission of the highest significance. His whole life was strategically planned, prepared, and positioned for the execution and completion of that mission. His mission was to make a way for sinful humanity to be reconciled to a holy God when there was no other way. Acts 13:38–39 (NIV, emphasis added) says,
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
The law pointed out sin and condemned violators of the law, but Jesus purchased our freedom. On the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NLT). This meant He had finished His mission and it was a complete success. He had accomplished what He was sent to this earth to do. Yet the incredible thing about the mission of Jesus is that once He completed His mission, He gave His church a new one.
After the resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples the mission of spreading the gospel to the entire world and making other disciples:
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20 NLT).
This high calling was issued not only to His immediate disciples, but to all the disciples that would follow. That mission is called the “Great Commission,” and this is the mission of the local church and of every believer. Let’s see how it works.
Jesus invites believers to partner with Him in sharing the gospel and making disciples. He made it clear that the goal of the local church is not to be static, but active. It is important to understand that the Great Commission is a command, not a suggestion. When Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given Me, therefore go,” He meant for it to apply to all believers. It is for every Christian, and thus for the local church.
The idea can be compared to a police officer who receives an official badge from the police department. With that badge come the authority and responsibility to serve and protect. Likewise, the church has received the authority of Jesus Christ to represent Him in the earth, and all of heaven backs this up. Once believers come into alignment with the authority of the kingdom for the mission, they still must understand the strategy that Jesus outlined in His last words to the disciples.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).
Christians have the authority of Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. That means they have the freedom to share with others and tell them what God has done. There is no need for believers to feel fearful, inadequate, or unqualified. As they step out in faithful obedience, telling people about who Jesus is and what He has done, the Holy Spirit will empower them with boldness as well as give them the right words to say.
“The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes” (Luke 12:12 MSG).
Jesus gave four geographic references that illustrate where believers are to be witnesses.
Jerusalem — “in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was the place mentioned first and represented the people nearest the disciples. It was the starting point. Believers should always start with those closest to them. Jerusalem represents natural family and close friends. These close relationships should be some of the first people to experience the witness of what Jesus Christ has done in the lives of believers.
Judea — “throughout Judea.” Now the disciples’ circle of influence began expanding. This is how it works. As believers begin with those closest and prove faithful in delivering the gospel message, God enlarges their witness and territory. One pastor said, “I tell people who feel called to foreign missions to start next door in their neighborhood. If they cannot do that, they are not called.” Judea represents neighborhoods, coworkers, and other people regularly encountered by believers in their everyday lives.
Samaria — “in Samaria.” With faithfulness, the circle of influence continues to expand to the third region. Samaria represents the larger, metropolitan area in which believers live. The mission of the local church is to demonstrate a clear witness for Christ, which is often accomplished through outreach and other service projects that impact a city.
Ends of the earth — “to the ends of the earth.” Finally, after Jesus completed the regional references, He instructed the disciples to take the gospel everywhere. This told them to put the pedal to the metal and keep going as far as possible. The world was now their circle of influence. This is the church’s calling as well. Christians have a responsibility to impact the world. Most of the time, this happens as a team, not individually. Power and effectiveness are released when believers work together.
Some of the ways the local church can reach the world is through financially supporting church planting, praying for foreign nations, sending out and supporting full-time foreign missions, and taking short-term mission trips. These are just some of the strategies the local church uses to be a witness, and there are many more. God gives His people creative ways to reach the world. Churches should encourage, listen to, pray for, and, if led, support these new ideas.
With the authority of Jesus and the strategy of Jesus working together, the natural result is that believers leave a legacy. Jesus said,
“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 NIV).
When a football team scores a winning touchdown, the fans are jubilant in expressing their joy. This is what happens in heaven every single time someone repents of sin and turns to Jesus.
It is God’s will for the local church to succeed in its mission. This means the church should continue to grow and expand, and even dominate the world. It should never shrink back or diminish, because if it did, this would mean the legacy of disciples making disciples stopped somewhere, and God does not want one soul to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
The local church really is the hope of the world!
The Great Commission is the mission. The end goal for every believer and the local church is to lead others to Jesus and to see these new converts discipled and grow to maturity. In turn, those disciples carry on the mission of winning the lost and making disciples. The church continues to grow, and the cycle never ends until Jesus comes again. But exactly how is this accomplished?
One of the best ways to start making disciples is by forming relationships. This happens by being an example that others can follow and inviting them to follow Jesus together with other believers. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV), Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” That is a bold statement, but Paul knew the reality of the risen Christ in his life. As believers grow and mature in Jesus and experience more of His reality, making disciples and forming relationships will be a natural by-product. Yet people can see the reality of Christ in believers only if relationships are formed. Jesus spent time in close proximity with His disciples, eating, traveling, and ministering together. He cared for, prayed for, and demonstrated what it meant to live a life worth following.
After someone comes to new life in Christ, the next step is to be plugged into the family of God. A believer who is not connected to the local church is an orphan and is wide open to the enemy and culture’s attacks. Believers are meant to live this Christian life together. Many scriptures teach of this need for others along this journey. For example, Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 (NLT) shoots straight and applies to both individuals and the local church:
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
No, God never intended believers to do this thing alone. In fact, there are many commands that teach what it means to be part of the family of God. Listed below are some practical ways to help people truly connect in relationships within the local church.
These family relationships form the support structure that helps new believers grow in their walk with Christ and find freedom from the past. Knowing that the heart of God is for each believer to be connected to the local church, mature believers cannot be closed off to forming new relationships. Like an elevator that appears to be full but really is not, the local church must be willing to make room for those who are looking to get on board. Church members must be willing to bring others to family, the family of God. It all starts with the willingness to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit to use to reach a hurting and dying world.
Once new believers come to new life in Christ and connect to the family of God, they may require assistance in finding individual purpose. Jesus said in Luke 19:10 that “[He] the Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost.” His purpose was all about people! Helping new believers fulfill their purpose is critical for the continual advancement of the kingdom.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Your Christianity is only halfway complete until you help someone else follow Jesus.” Christianity is not just for spectators, but for participators. Each person’s part may not look the same, but all believers share the responsibility to make disciples. The good news about Jesus has been passed down for more than two thousand years. It would be a tragedy if it stopped with this generation. The mission must be passed on. Believers must reproduce other believers. The next generation of Christians must be raised up and taught to be strong disciples of Jesus, filled with His life, connected to His family, and fulfilling His perfect purpose.