What if the Singular Act of Making Disciples Encompassed All of what Church is Supposed to Be?

tapestry06-fullAs early as  the 2nd century, Ignatius of Antioch and other groups with differing ecclesiastical distinctives have sought to lay out what the marks of the church are.  These distinctives range in scope and number.  But, what if the singular act of Making Disciples comprises all of what the church is to be?  I don’t want to be reductionistic here, but think about it.  Jesus told his disciples to “go,” “make disciples of all ethnic groups,” “teach them to obey all that he commanded,” and “baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  Within “all that He commanded” is everything the church is supposed to be.  So, by making disciples, the church becomes all that God intended it to be.  In other words,

“The church doesn’t make the mission, the mission makes the church.  The Mission is Making Disciples”

What do you think?  

0 thoughts on “What if the Singular Act of Making Disciples Encompassed All of what Church is Supposed to Be?

  1. Mark Loeffler says:

    I believe this to be absolutely true. Lord help us to be obedient.

  2. Miguel, I’m wondering if this is in reaction to what I wrote here

    http://theothoughts.com/2013/05/02/robbing-the-church-of-her-mission/

    I don’t want to presume but just wondering. Also, I think a light bulb went on with respect to the last post and my disconnect with it. When I consider the command to make disciples to the original 12, I also consider what that looked liked with respect to instruction to the church in the epistles as local assemblies developed (also considering development of the early church) What I see is both a coming and a going, in a fluid kind of way like a dance that is fitting with the metaphors in Scripture for the church. I probably could have brought that concept out better in my post, that it is a both/and not either/or.

    So when you say

    “The church doesn’t make the mission, the mission makes the church. The Mission is Making Disciples”

    Yes, with my dim bulb lit, I agree with that. The mission of Christ makes the church. But the church has a mission to reflect Christ as her head and grow the body up as a temple. So when we say mission, it is in the context of the design for the church as the body of Christ and what that means in relation to the metaphors.

    Does that make sense? Would love for you to interact with what I wrote.

    • Hi Lisa,

      I have to say I loved the recent post on your blog where the kids put a smile on the church door. That smile says you are doing a lot right. Engaging in the local community is key to so much and it’s not always done well, sometimes it’s hardly done at all!

      For me it’s not just the mission of Christ that makes the church. It’s also the mission of his followers that makes the church (not because we are capable of anything but simply because Christ himself lives in us and works through us and around us as we go out into the world.

      There’s a mathematical concept called ‘bounded sets’ and another called ‘centred sets’. Bounded sets have a fence around them and most expressions of church are like that. We generally want to bring ‘outsiders’ inside the fence. Inside is church, outside is the world.

      Centred sets have no boundary. There’s no inside or outside. Jesus is at the centre, every part of this universe he created and every person within it is included. Some are closer to him and some are further away but everyone is ‘in’. Arguably, church should be unbounded and everyone should be encouraged to draw closer to the centre day by day. That’s church with a smile (but without a door!)

      Grace and peace,

      Chris

  3. Claudia says:

    Christ’s Mission: Love the Father and do His Will. As a natural flow of life in loving the Father and doing His Will, Christ takes a Bride, the Church. He nurtures her to maturity. The Bride’s mission, to love God and love Her Neighbor. As a natural flow of loving Him and Her Neighbor, His life encompassing mission of nurturing his Bride to maturity, She is expanding to the fullness of her purpose, reaching in both directions, God + Neighbor, and making disciples is the natural and only way for the Bride to reach her full purpose and come to maturity. So while making disciples is the “engine” in which the Bride cruises to maturity, her mission truly is to Love Him so much that she Loves His Mission. Together, they advance the Kingdom. To say that the “singular act of making disciples encompasses “all” of what the church is supposed to be” raises a concern for me in that the making disciples is the natural “works” of the church, but leaves out the very one thing that drives Her desire to perform the works, and that is that her forst and foremost ministry is Her marriage. Just like in marriage between man and woman, procreation, (a natural flow of the marriage), cannot occur if they lose sight of one another. We know that Jesus doesn’t lose sight of His Bride. But how often we see His Bride fumbling around, doing works but forgetting to minister to her Husband, to Love Him? Too many a movement has died because this crucial element of the mission is missing, “nurturing the marriage relationship”. If the post is written with that element as a presupposition, then fine. And I believe that it is. But I still hesitate to call the “works” portion that is the natural flow of the marriage the singular thing that makes Her all that she is meant to be. Perhaps I am merely a hopeless romantic. But I love ministering to the Marriage as much as I love going about His directive to me as His Bride. If I lose sight of Him, I get tired, and lonesome, and a bit wayward, as I have often seen happen with the Church as She strives to complete Her Mission…

    • Mark Loeffler says:

      The way I see it we can’t make disciples if we are neglecting Christ. That to me is the issue – as the church we should put all our focus on loving Christ. The disciple making will naturally follow. I use Christ command to go and make disciples as a reminder that the way to do that is:
      1. Love Him
      2. Love others

  4. Carlos says:

    Mark…but do we not love Him BY loving others? Could be just the way I am taking it but it sounds like you are saying that loving Him and loving others are separate things that have little to do with each other.

    Carlos

  5. Stan Meador says:

    You’re completely right, with one caveat. In the text of Matthew, the baptizing comes before the teaching them to obey all the commands. Many churches invert the two teaching a bunch of rules and only then baptizing them. When the order is right, you are completely correct – no reductionist position here! Blessings!

  6. Eli says:

    I agree the mission makes the church. The problem is that the definition of disciple making is very subjective. Jesus commanded many things so we tend to cherry pick based on our particular bent. I would say disciple making properly understood touches every area of life such that the church as is commonly understood and practised cannot contain it.
    We have to daily unpack and lean into the “all that he commanded” in its myriad of expressions.
    The goal of disciple making has to be more along the lines of new creation than new member thinking. Even amongst non institutional churches too often disciple making is reduced to new converts and people engaged in Christianized activities. In part because those who are initiating the disciple making have never themselves integrated their faith to a large measure… they are too often religious gurus long since removed from the outside world.
    More of what Jesus commands us individually and collectively… less of what our preferred guru or ‘movement’ or denomination prescribes.

    • Eli says:

      another two points to add. we must be careful about being reductionist. For example where did Paul repeat the great commission directive in all of his letters to the churches? If that was core of what it meant to be church then we should see it on every page of his epistles. Also what jesus commanded must be within the context of what jesus commands us right here and now. Lest we merely take all his commands and create a new law out of them. That said anything he commands now will relate back to what was said in the gospels.
      Anyways bottom line, no single scripture or passage of scripture sums it all up. If so then much of scripture is just wasted space and over complicates something simple and straight forward. What jesus said in matthew28 only makes sense within the context of everything else he said, will say and is saying.

  7. Marshall says:

    Best to avoid defining “the mission” as the mission, employing a type of circular thinking where our indelible function to glorify God begins to refocus or revolve around what individuals are doing in the fields of harvest; or to how disciples are being trained, or …
    This circular mindset has been tried and failed many times. It seems to arrive from failing to discern the Body of Christ, One Body, with many diverse members functioning Because circular thinking frequently evokes (leads to) obsession, it may be regarded as among the “doctrines of daemons”.

  8. greg says:

    I hope this makes sense.
    We can only reproduce what we are.
    Long ago, when scripture was being written; when the church was a close knit family, united and walking in love toward one another, discipleship was no more complicated than when parents birth and raise children.
    Its organic, and teachers, classes, books and programs turn it into a circus.
    Unlike the dysfunctional and divorced family of God today, the early church was a largely united and functional family of many families, and Christ was the glue that held them together.
    It would have been difficult to tell biological from spiritual family in their daily lives together, so ardent was the love for one another.
    It may seem self evident but divorced family’s don’t produce and raise children, because the love is gone.
    Everybody knows the churches of today get many of their new members by poaching other churches.
    We’ve learned the lingo and movements of the early church, and appear to be hoping against fading hope that if we just ‘do it’, somehow we will start to become more ‘fruit producing’
    To be fair, there have always been pockets of disciples and even movements that have kept the flame burning, but lets not mistake that for Gods minimum standard of family maturation.
    We seem to be confusing our good intentions with being capable of birthing and raising new children in the kingdom, in the way God intended it to happen.
    Birthing and raising kids, aka disciples, is hopefully not an act, or function of the family, unless perhaps that family is dysfunctional and thinks of itself as a baby producing body.
    This faulty concept is actually a reality in many, many families, and admitted to by many parents who openly say their children are the most important thing in their life.
    A sad commentary on marriages that presumably started off as passionate love relationships between a husband and wife.
    Birthing is the natural outcome of loving parents creating new life, and seamlessly and unselfconsciously integrating them into the stream of daily and generational family life.
    It shouldn’t include arguing over birthing methods, developing competing schemes to mature them or ignoring the unruly and difficult ones.
    I don’t think we need to discuss discipleship as much as we need to discuss parent counselling, including the elephant in the room; marriage, both literal and spiritual.

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