March 18, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
I’m going to give you 6 words. Here are 6 words that I want to burn into your memory and never forget. Would you write these down? Here they are:
Finish the mission in our lifetime.
By mission, I am referring to Matthew chapter 28, verses 19 and 20, what’s called the Great Commission. This is Jesus’s one instruction. “I’m leaving Earth. Church, I’m putting you in charge of the mission of God. Here’s my one thing that I want you to do.”
We are the first generation perhaps in all of human history that can accomplish this statement. What I started saying last week was, if we can do this, we must do this, and we must do it in our lifetime. Last week, I told you all of the sermons for this month in 30 seconds. I’m going to go back over all of them for you today.
Last week, I challenged our church, would you open your life up to 3 people who do not know Jesus and pray that God would use you to reach one of those 3 people or perhaps all of those 3 people this year with your faith? In today’s sermon, the challenge is, with one person who gives their life to Christ, would you go deep with them? Would you build that one person to become a passionate follower? -but more than that, a trained leader in God’s kingdom? And next Sunday, here’s where we’re going to go: Then, would the 2 of you next year go out and do it with 2 more people who will go out and do it with 2 more people, until everybody on the planet hears about King Jesus?
Now, I’ve said before in our church, we’re a church that is attempting to do 1 thing, and that 1 thing is the Great Commission, and you can narrow that entire passage from 2 verses in the Bible (Matthew 28, verses 19-20) down into 2 words. You’ve heard this from me a lot. What are those 2 words that summarize the whole Great Commission? -Make Disciples.
Okay, there’s a problem with this statement (make disciples). If you didn’t grow up in church, the problem is with the word disciple. It’s a great Bible word. In fact, it perfectly describes what we’re talking about today, but here’s the problem with this word: If you didn’t grow up in church, you probably don’t understand the word disciple. You don’t really understand what that means, because this is a Bible word that just doesn’t get used in the office, doesn’t get used when you’re at the gym. Chances are, you’re not talking about discipleship to somebody who’s never been to church before in their life.
So, I’m going to give you a better way to understand. We’re still going to use the word disciple, but let me give you a way to understand what this word means. Maybe the best illustration of this word, the best 1-for-1 parallel for this word, would be the idea of an apprentice. -somebody who learns from you, and you’re teaching somebody so that they can master the skill, and when they’ve mastered the skill, they can make an apprentice of somebody else. Here’s what I want you to understand from this sermon today. You can just write this down, because this is exactly where we’re going to go with this sermon today:
Every apprentice (or the word is really disciple), every apprentice needs someone to teach her the trade. Every apprentice needs somebody to teach him how to do what discipleship asks him to do, and then expect him to go do it with somebody else.
So, what we’re going to look at for the next few moments is as easy and as simple of a description of what this looks like as I can possibly make it. Please don’t be offended, but I’m going to make this as easy to understand as possible in 3 simple steps, and here’s why I’m making it as easy as possible to understand. I’ve been surprised over the last year by the number of people who have been in our church for a long time who have said, “Jeff, I’ve heard the language ‘make disciples, make disciples, make disciples’, but I’m really not sure how to do that.” How do we do that? Well, here it is today, as easy as I can make it in 3 steps.
I. Step 1 – Build leaders
What the Bible describes making disciples looks like: Step number 1 (would you write this down?)- It’s building leaders. The Great Commission does not ask people to be followers of Jesus only. Listen to the word only. The Great Commission doesn’t ask you to be a follower of Jesus only. There’s an expectation in those 2 verses that you would become a leader. Don’t get me wrong. You must at least be able to follow before you can start to lead, but the idea is that you don’t stop at following. You continue going until you’re leading others, and not just leading others; here’s what I’m going to tell you today: Leading leaders. -leading others who are leading others.
This is, by the way, not Jeff’s language. This is what Calvary Baptist Church expects of everyone who has been in this church for more than a few weeks or a few months. You should become a leader. This isn’t just from Calvary Baptist Church. This comes straight out of the Bible. I want you to hear what the Bible describes for us in Hebrews chapter 5 when people are not moving beyond being a follower, to leading others to be followers who become leaders as well. Hebrews chapter 5, starting in verse 11. I didn’t write this. Don’t get mad at me. Maybe this is some of you:
We have a great deal to say about this, and it is difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand. 12 Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. 13 Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.
We don’t really know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but we do know that this book was written to people who grew up good Jewish boys and girls, and it’s trying to explain to them how Jesus completely fulfilled everything that the Old Testament said would happen in the coming Messiah. By the time you get to Hebrews chapter 5, the guy who’s writing this to these good Jewish boys who know the Bible, I said, “I wish I could explain more stuff to you, but the stuff I have to explain to you is kind of difficult for you to understand, and [look at the language. I didn’t write this] the reason why I can’t explain it to you is because some of you who have been in church for a long, long time, or perhaps your whole life, you became too lazy to understand.” Then, he describes what this looks like in the next verses.
If you’ve been in church before, you’ve probably heard this verse used to describe baby Christians. Baby doesn’t mean only a Christian for a few weeks; baby means still using the basic, the very milk part of the Bible, not able to get to the meat part of the Bible, because you haven’t done the hard work of going from just a follower, to becoming a leader. A leader of leaders is what we’re describing today.
I believe (I’m going to be absolutely honest with you for just a moment), I believe churches give pastors exactly what they expect of people who come to church over time. Let me explain what I mean by that.
When you’ve been coming to the same church for a while, the church should place some expectations on you as you move in your faith, as you grow in your faith. But, can we just be honest? If I were to go and visit many churches today, if I were to just sit in their pews and objectively listen to what they’re really asking of people, here’s what I (Jeff’s honest opinion), here’s the impression I get from most pastors many Sundays: The only thing they want from people who are out there sitting, listening to them is their money. That’s all they care about. And if that’s all they’re expecting of them, that may be all that they get from them.
But when I read the New Testament, especially when I read the Great Commission, I hear, “Oh no. Christians are supposed to be able to deliver a whole lot more than just that. In fact, they’re supposed to first become followers of Jesus, but they don’t stay there. They move to the point that they become leaders who are leading others to become followers of Jesus.” And I would stay take it another step further. -leading others to become leaders of others who are followers of Jesus.
This is an epidemic in American churches, and I didn’t make these numbers up: In 2009, an organization called T-NET International based out of Colorado surveyed 4000 people, regular church members in America. And it asked those people who had been going to church for a long, long time, “Hey, would you tell me about your faith right now, and would you tell me where you are in your relationship with Jesus today, compared to where you were 6 months or 6 years ago?” Are you ready for the results?
Here’s what happened when 4000 regular, church-going people were asked this question: 41% of them said they are static or stale in their faith. Their faith is not different today than where it was 6 months or 6 years ago. 24% said that it’s actually worse today than what it was. They used the words that they are “sliding backwards” in their faith from 6 months or 6 years ago. Did you just do the math in your head? 65% of everyone surveyed, from 4000 regular church-going people in America said, “I’m no different today than I was 6 months or 6 years ago.” In fact, many of them said, “I’m actually worse today than I was 6 weeks, 6 years, 6 months ago,” and the Bible is saying that if you just stay at following Jesus, you haven’t reached the God-given potential that he’s calling everyone to. It’s moving beyond followership to leadership.
Don’t hear me wrong. You must first be a follower before you can become a leader, but we don’t stop at followership. Calvary Baptist Church doesn’t ask you to stop at followership. We expect you to get to leadership.
This is a problem not just in our day. It was a problem in Bible times, and that’s why this guy is writing to Christians saying, “Y’all are stuck in your faith. Some of you are worse off in your faith. And we would teach you the deeper stuff if we could, but we can’t.”
So, here’s what I’m asking: Calvary Baptist Church is going to expect you, if you make this your church home and you’ve been coming here for a while, we’re going to expect everyone here to start leading at some level. Don’t get freaked out by the word leadership. -because at its very essence, the word leadership just means influencing somebody else who can influence somebody else. That’s all we’re asking you to do, but we’re expecting you not to stop at the followership level; move to the leadership level. This is what it looks like to take ownership of the Great Commission, to take ownership of your faith and expecting others to do the same thing.
II. Step 2 – Model Jesus
The first step, as simple as I know how to make this in making disciples and building people up in the faith, is to just simply build them into leaders. The second step is to model Jesus for them.
“Okay, Jeff. You said that we’re supposed to be making people leaders. How do I do that? What does it look like?” Well, the answer to that question is that you just start to display your faith. Live your faith out in such a way that they’re living their faith out like you and they’re trained up so that they can do the same thing with other people. This is what modeling Jesus looks like. There’s 1 verse in the New Testament, 1 verse with only 7 words, that I think incredibly vividly demonstrates what modeling Jesus is supposed to look like for us. 7 words that make this perfectly clear to us on how to do this. Here they are: 1st Corinthians chapter 11, verse 1:
1 Corinthians 11:1
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ
Now, you need to understand, the guy who’s writing this verse, the apostle Paul, he is writing to people who are relatively new to their faith in this very un-Christian city, in this brand-new church. He said, “I expect you to do church like this: as I poured into you, I expect you (this church in the city of Corinth) to pour into other people as well.”
Do y’all know the word imitate there? The word really means to copy. But, I don’t want you to think like a copy machine where you put the original in the document feeder, hit the number 3 or 4 button, and it makes copies of it. Think 3D printer. Actually, that doesn’t really describe the word. The real word imitate means that you’re copying somebody in their actions and you’re copying somebody in their attitudes. You’re copying somebody in their heart, their thoughts, their desires. Really what he’s saying here is, “I want you to model Jesus like I’m modeling Jesus. I want you to model me in your head, in your heart, and I want you to do it in your hands as well. As I’m following Jesus, I want you to follow me.”
By the way, the word as is incredibly important in this verse, because this word means to the same extent that I do it, just like I’m doing it, in the same way that I’m doing it, I want you to do this with other people as well. This verse, if you look down at your Bible, chances are, this verse is recorded with the rest of chapter 10, verses 31-33, and then there’s a break after this verse, and chapter 11 starts at verse 2. There’s another break at verse 2. What the Bible translators are trying to tell you is that this verse goes better with chapter 10, verses 31-33 than it does with chapter 11, verse 2. Go back today and read those verses in chapter 10, because here’s what those verses are going to tell you: Everything that you do, do it for the glory of God. And by the way, don’t do anything that is going to cause another brother or another sister in the Faith to stumble.
Here’s how those verses end: What you do, do it for the purposes of seeing other people come to faith in Jesus, to be saved because of your witness, because of your influence on them. That’s what chapter 10, verse 33 says. And then chapter 11, verse 1 says, “Just like I did for you, it’s time for you to do that with other people. It’s time for you to do that to the same extent, for the same reasons, the same way that I did it for other people.”
Really quickly, I’ll tell you a true story. I wish you could have been there in the room, because it broke my heart. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I was in the office of a pastor in Atlanta of a very large church, and in a moment of honesty, he made a statement to me that struck me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He said, “Jeff, I’ve been in ministry my entire life. I have [listen to this number; I did not make this up] personally, because of my ministry or because of the churches I’ve pastored, seen more than 20,000 people baptized in my lifetime, and I don’t think I’ve been making disciples all along. More than 20,000 people have found out about Christ. More than 20,000 people have followed him in baptism because of me, but I don’t think I’ve made disciples, and if I could go back and do it all over again differently, I would do this differently.”
What he was saying was basically, “I haven’t been training up leaders. I haven’t been showing people, modeling for people, how they can lead others and teaching them how to model for people how they can lead others.”
Here’s what we’re trying to teach around here at Calvary Baptist Church: If you are personally the one who leads somebody to Christ, then you should be the one discipling them. You should be the person who is upstairs in the baptistery baptizing them, because you’re the reason why they became a follower of Christ. And by the way, we’re not going to leave you by yourself and feed you to the wolves on this one. One of our pastors will coach you and coach the person who is about to be baptized through this whole process. But then, you’re also the person who is teaching them how to do with somebody else what you just did with them, and you keep teaching them until they’re doing it with somebody else, and then you teach somebody else how to do it with somebody else, until everyone becomes a follower of Jesus.
III. Step 3 – Multiplying yourself
First, you’re building leaders. Second, you’re modeling Jesus, and third, as plain as I know how to make this, you’re actually multiplying yourself.
So, I want to ask you. Think for just a second about the answer to this question, because I’m going to ask you in just a moment to write this name down. If this was your last year on planet Earth, if you knew that you wouldn’t be around in 2019, who is 1 person who because of you this year, will carry on your faith in the same way, to the same extent that you did it, until Jesus comes back again? Can you think of one person right now who you know, “They would be doing it, and they would be doing it the same way you’re doing it with somebody else after you’re gone.”
I want you to ask the Holy Spirit to put that name on your mind right now, because we want to pray for you, and we want to be praying for that person. Here’s what multiplying yourself looks like, and it’s found actually in 1 verse in the Bible: 2nd Timothy 2, verse 2. I’m going to read verses 1 and 2, but really, an easy way to memorize multiplication is, 2nd Timothy 2:2 shows you exactly what multiplication looks like. Here’s what the Bible says:
2 Timothy 2:1-2
You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
This is Paul writing to a disciple of his, writing to Timothy. Notice 4 different levels of multiplication in 1 verse. Let’s break this verse down for just a second. Paul said, “I taught you, Timothy, and I taught you with a very specific aim in mind, and I taught you in such a way that now you’re trained up, and you’re ready to teach somebody else.”
Paul taught Timothy, “Timothy, I’m expecting you to teach other men (the phrase there means faithful men), and Timothy, you’re supposed to do with these faithful men exactly what I did with you. You’re supposed to teach them (notice what it says) how to teach others also.” Paul taught Timothy. Timothy’s teaching men. These men are teaching others.
Wait a second, Jeff. You said 4 levels, and I only see 3. Who taught Paul? Who’s the one Paul is following? -Christ. Christ taught Paul. Paul taught Timothy. Timothy is supposed to teach faithful men. Faithful men are supposed to teach other men also until everybody on the planet has heard about Jesus Christ.
This phrase, faithful men, let me tell you what John Calvin in his commentary on 2nd Timothy said about that phrase. John Calvin said, “It is correct to translate the word faithful as men who are concerned to perpetuate the teaching that is entrusted to them.” John Calvin said, “If you’re not doing this with somebody else who is also going to do it with somebody else who is also going to do it with somebody else, you couldn’t call yourself one of those faithful men like the Bible describes for us today.”
Now, I just want to put this multiplication principle at work for us today, because the math really does work out. Let me ask you this question. I’ll put you on the spot. How many of you were in our church on January 7th of this year? -the first Sunday of the year. On January 7th of this year, we placed before you as a church a challenge, a goal for 2018. That goal was to baptize 110 people in the year 2018 in Calvary Baptist Church.
If you’re not familiar with the numbers around here, we have on an average Sunday somewhere between 550 and 650 people who are in worship or on our campus on Sunday mornings around here, which means if 1 out of 5 or 1 out of 6 of you actually did this this year and the other 4 or 5 just sat on their hands and did nothing and watched you do it, let me tell you how this would work out.
If we reached 110 people as a church this year, only 110 people reached 1 person this year, and then next year you spent 12 months investing in that person, building them into a leader and modeling Christ for them and then expecting them to go out and do this with somebody else (listen to this math), here’s what would happen: If no other church on the planet and if 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 6 of you did nothing (just 110 people reached 1 person, trained them up, sent them out to reach one person and we did it all over again), here’s what the numbers say. In 11 years, everyone in the Chattahoochee Valley would become a disciple of Christ, an apprentice of an apprentice who is an apprentice of somebody else in 11 years.
If it was just us, nobody else on the planet, and only 110 of us and nobody else bothered to lift a finger, in 16 years, everyone in your state would become a follower of Jesus. In 20 years, everyone in America would become a follower of Jesus. In 25 years, more than the world’s population would become followers of Jesus. I didn’t make this math up. This is why I’m convinced we can finish the mission of God, complete the Great Commission in our lifetime. In fact, we can do it in 25 years. If it was us and only us and nobody else lifted a finger and only 110 of us did it, it would happen in a quarter of a century, that the whole world would become followers of Jesus.
So, the challenge for all of us today is, will you take your faith, and will you hand it off to somebody else with a very specific goal in mind? -that you’re going to teach them and train them how to take their faith and hand it off to somebody else, and the 2 of you will start with 2 more people who will take 4 more people, who will take 8 more people…until everyone on the planet has heard about Jesus. Will you do that by going deep this year with 1 person who you lead to Christ personally?
• Today, I’m ready to start the journey with Jesus. I surrendered my soul to him this morning.
– I don’t have an apprentice right now. Pray that God will use me to reach someone for Jesus this week.
+ I’m going deep with __________ right now.
- In your opinion, is there a difference between being a disciple and being a Christian? Explain your answer.
- Who trained you on how to be a follower of Jesus? Did that person go through a deliberate program with you?
- If someone trained you to be a follower of Jesus, what are some ways that your life was most impacted by this relationship?
- Is it possible to build someone up in the faith at the same time that you are being built up in the faith yourself? Explain your answer.
- If every Christian on earth was practicing his or her faith exactly like you, how many more people would become Christians next year?
- If you only had one year left to live, what one person would you invest in to help them carry on the faith after you’re gone?
- Pray that God will make you a powerful example to one person this week.