1. The introduction to the job
2. The training/equipping for the job
3. Time to do the job!
The youth leader lamented that much of the Church has gotten many of our youth (and even older Christians) to point #1. But we have not gotten many of them to points #2 and #3. I agree with this leaders assessment. I see it over and over. But how did this happen? I think there are many reasons for this problem, but I will list a few:
1. We live in an overly sensate culture: With all the reality TV shows, video games, cell phones, texting, etc, means people want to be constantly stimulated. They want quick answers and have short attention spans. So pastors and leaders have had to try to adjust their ministry to this problem. In other words, the culture has rubbed off on the Church. Christians are being conformed to the image of the culture, not the other way around. Sadly, many Christians are just impatient. They want fast answers without exerting much effort.
2. We don’t know what it means to be created in the image of God: Can we all agree that we see in Scripture that the God of Israel is a rational being, and the principles of good reason do flow from his very nature? It is evident that God calls on us to use our reason (Isa. 1:18; 1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 22:36-37). God is a rational being, and He created us as rational beings. So we can agree that since humans are created in the image of God, reason is not opposed to revelation; it is part of it. Learning the rules of clear and correct reasoning play an integral part in our service to our Lord.
3. What is the Great Commision? I would say that probably most sermons on Matthew 28:19 have focused on the “go” part and forgotten the rest of the text. The text says that a large part of the Great Commission is to make disciples. We are to baptize new believers and we are to teach them. If we have not made disciples, we have have not fulfilled the Great Commission.
The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” A talmid is a student of one of the sages of Israel. A disciple is a learner, or pupil. When we decide to repent and turn to our Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we have to realize we are now on a new journey. The Gospel is a message for the here and now- not just the future. We have to learn how to live out our faith in the world around us. A disciple (in the New Testament sense) is someone who is striving by God’s grace to be consistent follower of Jesus. The goal of the Christian is to imitate our Master.
Discipleship takes a commitment between the discipler and the one being discipled. And for those that say they don’t need discipleship- I pity you. Sorry to be so blunt. But without discipleship, you are destined for failure. There is no such thing as a Long Ranger Christian. Also, discipleship involves teachability. I have run into my share of those who know it all and can’t be told or taught a thing. Pride is the central problem in this area. So sad.
Discipleship is not getting any easier in the world we live in. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out. A long-term commitment to our Lord which involves self denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for those that have been told The American Dream is the only way of happiness.
To all youth leaders and ministry leaders:
Perhaps you are saying we can’t change this problem. My suggestion is to find the few that are interested in being conformed to the image of the Messiah and not the other way around. Remember, Jesus had twelve men. Stop basing your success on how many youth or people you have in your church or ministry! The issue is quality not quantity!