A Healthy Church Member Is A Growing Disciple-Maker (Part1)
January 11, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
Today, I want to continue in our series, “What is a Healthy Church Member?”. We’ve already seen seven marks of a healthy church member and let me just mention them again to refresh our memories.
A healthy church member is…
- an expositional listener
- a biblical theologian
- gospel saturated
- genuinely converted
- a biblical evangelist
- a committed member, and
- seeks discipline
- Is spiritual growth biblical?
- Does the Bible teach that every church member should be a disciple-maker?
- What are some of the implications of these truths?
I. Is Spiritual Growth Biblical?Before answering this question, let me first share with you the story of Rudy. Rudy prayed the sinner’s prayer when he was 23. Here is how it happened. He was going through some problems in his life for quite some time then. He graduated with flying colors from one of the four well-known universities in Metro Manila, but even after a year of trying, he found no job opening that suited him. And so he decided to go back to his hometown in Davao to be with his parents being totally dependent on them for his food, lodging, allowance, and other expenses. Though his parents were not demanding anything from him, he felt helpless in being able to contribute in meeting the financial needs of their family. This led to his severe depression. Rudy was a nominal Catholic, going to mass together with his family. But since he went to Manila to study, he rarely went to church anymore. He did pray before taking exams and when he was looking for a job, but the closed doors made him doubt if God really cared or even existed. One day, his childhood friend Jun invited him to attend to a Christian meeting with him, and Rudy was feeling so down that he thought, Maybe this will help. So Rudy went to the meeting with him, and there he met a nice young lady named Susan who talked with him for four hours. The conversation which began as a friendly chat developed into serious talk about matters that struck the interest of Rudy. Susan shared some things Rudy could relate to that caused him to open up and be more honest with him than he usually was with strangers. “My life is out of control. Everything seems to be going wrong. And the things that aren’t going wrong don’t seem to matter to me.” And that’s when he did it. In five minutes—or less—Susan had told him of the wonderful life he could have if he prayed to Jesus to enter into his heart. It seemed like the best thing Rudy had been offered in a long time. So when Rudy asked what he needed to do to get this wonderful life, Susan handed him a little booklet and pointed to a paragraph in bold letters, printed in the back cover. It was a prayer. “Repeat after me,” said Susan and Rudy did. Each time Susan read a line and paused, Rudy repeated the line. She was reading them to God. He was praying. And that was that. Susan told him, excitedly, that he had become a Christian, because God promised that if anyone confessed his sins, God would forgive him. Rudy knew that he had done bad things. So he had prayed. And there it was. It was over and done with. Susan assured him that he was saved. Rudy ended up getting involved in a church where the preaching was usually exciting. The sermons were short and filled with good stories and memorable anecdotes and moving illustrations. Rudy really loved to listen, especially to the stories. He attended this church for more than ten years. However, Rudy would have to confess, had anyone cornered him, that he didn't really know his Bible well. Though he had taught Sunday school for several years, he never finished reading the whole Bible nor could he tell you where most of the books in the Bible were. Rudy had his own thoughts about God and shared these with people, but he didn't really get them from the Bible. His favorite “proverb” was, “God helps those who help themselves.” He knew that Jesus and the Cross were important; but he wasn't sure exactly how, but he knew they were important. Rudy thought that conversion was essential but he viewed that it was some kind of momentous decision everybody had to do sometime in their life, and sooner would be better than later … because, you know, you never know … Evangelism to Rudy, was what the church staff did, and what he had had to do himself maybe a couple of times. One particular time was when he joined a group of young adults who went to Calinan for an Awana bible study and one of the boys had some questions about what it meant to be baptized and join the church—so he talked to them about it. Actually, Rudy himself had never committed himself to join a church, but most people probably didn't even realize that. He would attend regularly in one church but there were several instances when it was inconvenient and so he would attend another church that was near his home. Sometimes he would attend every Sunday for a year, and then other times he wouldn’t be there for a month, two months, three months; and he liked it that way. He picked and chose the church activities he wanted to get involved in. He never attended a prayer meeting in his life, rarely gave financially to the church, and never made himself accountable to others. He wasn’t too worried about it, though, because he knew that he believed “once saved, always saved” and he knew that he had been saved because he remembered praying that prayer with Susan, so he didn't really have anything to worry about. Did I mention that he transferred to another church? Let me tell you why? The leaders of this church he had attended for ten years felt they needed to make changes in their church to make it more faithful to the Biblical standard. They figured that they way they could do that was to be clear in explaining the gospel, to make preaching doctrinal and expository, to hinder unbelievers from taking the Lord’s Supper, and to implement church discipline. To Rudy, all these changes sounded scary, judgmental, and unchristian. The last straw that made him decide to transfer to another church was when he missed to attend four Sundays in a row and one of the church leader commented about it. He thought the church was meddling with his personal affairs and so the next Sunday he transferred to a fast growing, non-legalistic, gracious, Baptist church. You may be wondering who Rudy is. There’s no Rudy.The story I shared with you is just a made-up story combining portions taken from Mark Dever’s book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and ideas from my overheated imagination. But let me go to my point. Do you think that Rudy was growing as a disciple of Christ? The answer is obvious. No! He was not growing spiritually, and what’s sad is, it did not even bother him. And sadly, there are many church member and attendees today who are no different from Rudy if we just changed some details of the story. Like Rudy, many do not realize that it is not enough for Christians to be born-again. God wants His children to remain as spiritual babies. He wants them to grow and mature and be conformed to the likeness of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now let me go back to the question I raised a while ago, Is spiritual growth biblical? Does God want all His children, all the members of the body of Christ, to grow spiritually? Or is this merely some self-centered ambition of “holier than thou” churches to show that their church is superior to others? What do you think? When we look at Scripture, we find that spiritual growth is a major concern of God. Because often times we see in the New Testament emphasizing the doctrine of justification (as in the books of Romans and Galatians) which means that in God’s sight the one who trusts in Christ is both forgiven, accepted, and imputed with the perfect righteousness of Christ, Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking that it is improper to speak of growing into different levels of Christian maturity. But in many parts of the NT, we clearly see the idea of believers growing up, maturing and deepening in their Christian life:
- Jn 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?
- Jn 15:2 - Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
- Col 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
- 1Th 3:12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…
- 1Th 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more
- 2Th 1:3 - We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is
- 2Pe 1:5-8 - For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self- control, and self- control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
II. Does the Bible teach that every church member should be a disciple-maker?Turn to Matthew 28:18-20. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age And so let’s have a closer look at this passage to see whether this teaches that Christ’s will is that all his disciples of all generations because disciple-makers. This passage we are looking at is found in the last chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew where we find the newly resurrected Jesus with this eleven disciples on the mountain. Mt 28 verse 17 says that “when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” It is interesting that there was a mixture of awe and doubt in their hearts even when they already saw Jesus Christ alive from the dead. But what strikes me is that phrase, “but some doubted.” MacArthur comments on this verse: “That simple phrase is one of countless testimonies to the integrity of Scripture. The transparent honesty of a statement like this shows that Matthew was not attempting to exclude or cover up facts that might lessen the perfection of such a glorious moment.” “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”(Mt 28:18). This is an astonishing claim. On this mountain in Galilee we see the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14: 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed “This is who I am,” Jesus is telling His disciples. For the past three years, the disciples have seen it for themselves. Jesus has walked among them as the powerful Son of Man, healing the sick, raising the dead, teaching with authority, forgiving sins, and saying things like this: Mt 25:31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. It is on the basis of this unique, supreme and worldwide authority of the risen Son of Man that Jesus commissions his disciples to make disciples of all nations. There was a time when Christians thought that the Great Commission was just for the Eleven apostles of the Lord Jesus. But we know now that this is for all believers. But the question is, does this just speak of sending or going to other nations to serve as missionaries? Listen to this quote from the book The Trellis and the Vine: In 1792, a young man named William Carey published a booklet entitled An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. In it, Carey argued against the prevailing view of the time that the Great Commission of Matthew 28 had been fulfilled by the first apostles and was not applicable to the church in succeeding generations. For Carey, this was an abdication of our responsibility. He saw the Great Commission as a duty and privilege for all generations, and thus began the modern missionary movement. For most of us, this is no longer controversial. Of course we should be sending missionaries to the ends of the earth and seeking to reach the whole world for Christ. But is that really what Matthew 28 is calling upon us to do? Does the commission apply to our own church, and to each Christian disciple? Those are good questions to ask. And so let us look at this passage more closely. Sometimes Christians who read this passage from Mt 28:19-20think that the emphasis of the command is to “go” but in the Greek the main verb of the passage is “make disciples” and the words “go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” are all subordinate participles that support how discipling should be done. ‘Baptizing’ and ‘teaching’ are the means by which the disciples are to be made. Baptism symbolizes a person’s identification with Christ, and death to the world. This means that it signifies that one has repented of his sins, put his trust in Christ and submitted to the authority of Christ. This unites a believer to Christ. He becomes a recipient of the all the saving benefits of the cross of Christ. This means one has already died to sin and the world and now the person is raised to newness of live and lives for the glory of God. That is what baptism symbolizes. But baptism also refers to the initiation of disciples to the body of Christ. This means that when one is baptized, he or she unites not only to Christ who is the head but also to His body the church. This begins his commitment and involvement in the church. He loves the church and uses his gifts to edify the church. The teaching that the disciples are to do reproduces what Jesus himself has done with them. He has been their ‘teacher,’ and as Jesus has taught them they have grown in knowledge and understanding. The disciples are not, in turn, to make new disciples by teaching them to obey every commanded by their Master. Now let’s look at the significance of the word “go.” Allow me to read from the book, The Trellis and the Vine: But what about ‘going’? Traditionally (or at least after Carey), this has been read as a missionary mandate, a charter for sending out gospel workers to the world. However, this can lead local churches to think that they are obeying the Great Commission if they send money (and missionaries) overseas. But the emphasis of the sentence is not ‘going’. In fact, the participle is probably better translated “when you go” or “as you go”. The commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in the country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple. The authority of Jesus is not limited in any respect. He is the Lord and Master of my street, my neighbors, my suburb, my workmates, my family, my city, my nation-and yes, the whole world. We would not ever want to stop sending out missionaries to preach the gospel in places whereit is yet to be heard, but we must also see disciple-making as our central task in our homes and neighborhoods and churches. Jesus’ instruction to “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19 is not just a specific word to the apostles gathered around him at the time of his final resurrection appearance. The first disciples were instructed to “make disciples” of others. And because these newly-made disciples were under the universal lordship of Christ, and were to obey everything Jesus had taught, they fell under exactly the same obligation as the original twelve to get on with the job of announcing the lordship of Christ; as did the hearers, and so on “to the end of age”. To be a disciple is to be called to make new disciples. Of course, Christians will receive and exercise differing gifts and ministries. But because all are disciples of Christ, standing in relation to Him as a teacher and pupil, master and follower, all are disciple-makers. And so on the basis of the proper understanding of the Great Commission, we see that each church member, as a disciple of Christ, should repent of His sins and make Jesus Lord over his life, learn and obey the teaching of Jesus and go and make disciples of others. Now we come to the last question:
III. What are some of the implications of these truths?If it is clear that the Bible teaches that spiritual growth is biblical and that each member of the church should be growing disciple-makers, what are some of the implications of these truths in our lives.
- We should not be content to be like Rudy. We should strive to grow towards maturity. As Peter said in 2Pe 1:5-11, reading from the New Living Translation,
- Pastors and teachers should see their responsibilities not only to be preachers and teachers to and guardians of the flock but they should see themselves as trainers so that every member of the church will do the work of ministry, and particularly, the ministry of making disciples.
- Members of the church, do not be content with just fixing chairs, leading in music, guarding the cars, welcoming the people, etc. Be involved in making disciples. Be a disciple maker!