By Ryan Shaw
There is an important spiritual principle we must grasp in the mission movement. We can only reproduce in others what we spiritually possess in ourselves.
A.W. Tozer once said, “The great commission is the second most important task of the church. The first is for believers to be worthy to spread the message.”
What Tozer was getting at is the critical place for bearers of the gospel message to first have the realities of the gospel written upon our own lives. To be continually growing as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Could this be part of the reason many “converts” made over the years have been of a superficial nature? We are meant to make disciples, not merely converts.
We can never take another person farther in their discipleship then we ourselves have gone. Only as we ourselves are walking this daily journey can we spiritually influence others to do so as well.
This is why the great calling of the church today is to embrace the depths of Jesus’ terms of true discipleship. We want to move away from man—made forms of discipleship, which in truth are not discipleship at all.
It is only as the mission movement cooperates with the Lord in becoming the true disciples Jesus meant us to be, that we are rightly enabled to bear the message.
This is not to make us feel guilty as we are all failures in this to varying degrees. Instead we confess our shortcomings, go back to the standard of the four Gospels and pursue the high calling of Christ as true disciples.
The need of the hour is to return to the model of bearing the message according to how the early church did it. They saw great fruitfulness in their day and it is helpful to consider some of their practices.
It is time for “Apostolic Message Bearers” to arise reclaiming the mantle of spiritual authority God intends to demonstrate. Through a study of the book of Acts, and several of Paul’s letters to churches, we find core elements of the apostolic message Paul preached.
We need to have experiential knowledge of each of these elements. Have we proven their truth within our own personal experience?
God’s Word never changes and is the only source of truth as it reveals the power, love and authority of the eternal and pre-existent God manifested among humanity in Jesus Christ to all generations.
The message we bear today should be the same as it was in Paul’s day, with the addition not of content but of culturally relevant communication tools. Effectiveness as God’s Message Bearers means getting back to the message taught by Jesus and depicted by the early church in the New Testament.
We find one of the clearest summary’s of this powerful message in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The apostolic message contains the following critical elements (they are not in a particular order).
(1) There is one true and living God who rules over all—1:9
(2) Idolatry is sinful and must be forsaken—1:9
(3) The wrath of God is ready to revealed against the wicked for their impurity—4:6 and against the Jews for their rejection of Christ and opposition to the Gospel—2:15,16
(4) The judgment will come suddenly and unexpectedly—5:2,3
(5) Jesus, the Son of God– 1:10, given over to death—5:10, raised from the dead—4:14, is the only Savior from the wrath of God—1:10
(6) The Kingdom of Jesus is now set up and all men are invited to enter—2:12
(7) Those who believe and turn to God are now expecting the coming of the Savior who will return from heaven to receive them—1:10; 4:15-17
(8) Meanwhile their life must be pure— 4:1-8, useful—4:11,12, and watchful—5:4-8
(9) To that end God has given them the Holy Spirit—4:8, 5:19.
Often our preaching does not reflect these foundational points. Some are regularly heard as part of the “Gospel,” yet too many are strangely absent.
Could we generally be seeing weaker disciples produced because we are failing to communicate the complete message in the scripturally prescribed manner shown us by Paul?