Being a disciple is not just about attending church once a week, or on the “special” times throughout the year, like Christmas and Easter, putting some surplus cash in the offering plate once in a while, and volunteering once a year at Vacation Bible School. Disciples live daily for the pursuit of following Christ and making disciples. They are totally committed. If we want to grow in our maturity as a disciple, we are not only to believe Jesus, but to obey Him and join Him for His mission daily.
This has direct application for global missions. The new equation for global missions should be that missions = discipleship. We need to expand our view of missions from just being a process of reaching the unsaved and seeing them born again, to being a lifelong commitment to grow ourselves and others into Christlikeness. We need that Pauline aspiration:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:7-11, NIV)
It is important to see the value in these verses when considering missions. If missions = discipleship, then we need to fully take on Paul’s goals stated in this passage.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
Note some of Paul’s characteristics:
- It was all or nothing for Paul. The past was consigned to history: whatever he had believed, hoped for, and trusted in previously was thrown overboard—gone, dead and buried. He was utterly and totally focused now on his discipleship journey in Christ.
- His sole goal was now the greatness of Christ, knowing Him, understanding Him, obeying Him, and being like Him.
- He was abandoning being an “outward only” Christian, doing the things that were for show and that other people expected. He was done with trying hard to be righteous in his own strength (a.k.a. the “me-ism” approach). Now he was going to live by faith alone, trusting Christ solely.
- He reckoned that “knowing Christ” was a top priority. He was going to immerse himself in understanding this Jesus as fully as possible so he could copy every trait and example.
- He figured that resurrection power was the path of victory. It wasn’t about his own efforts, but about tapping into the reservoir of energy the Father had demonstrated at the cross and resurrection (see Ephesians 1:19).
- He had figured out that in God’s grand scheme of things, the pathway to blessing and effectiveness as a disciple lay in understanding the death of Christ as symbolic of reckoning the past dead, of even putting himself figuratively on a cross and dying so that he would be a new person completely, and in all respects ready to serve as a disciple. For Paul everything he had stood for, believed in, hoped for from his past that might have come between him and his Lord and Savior, he rendered it dead and buried. There were no half measures, no holding back, but just bold determination to follow Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty gobsmacked by these verses. For much of my life, I tried to live in both worlds. We use expressions like “having a foot in both camps,” or “having it both ways.” We want to follow Jesus, but we have our own agenda, our own goals, and aspirations.
“We want to follow Jesus, but we have our own agenda, our own goals, and aspirations.”
Being effective disciples and effective disciplers means that we are to follow Christ’s and Paul’s examples. When we try to get our minds around the enormity of our sin, the extent of the mercy of God, the size of His grace, the love of Jesus, and His willingness to die for us, then emotionally we can surrender and offer Him our all. But will we carry that commitment forward every day, through thick and thin, through hardship and trial, through good days and bad days?
That is why Paul made those somewhat odd statements like “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). Paul needed to deal every day with what would keep him from being an effective disciple. Proverbs 8:34 (NASB) says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.” What is keeping you from shifting your focus to knowing Christ and making him known?
Excerpted from Andrew J and Owen Jennings, Missions Abandoned: Re-establishing Missions as a Priority in Our Lives and Churches (2016). Used by permission.