This week I have been reflecting on how effectively we as Christians, churches and organisations build our lives and activity around the things that Jesus has commanded us to do. It seems fairly clear to me that the ‘core’ work that Jesus has called us (His church) to is to make disciples of all the nations – but it is very concerning how this seems missing from most of what we do. We all nod our heads when we hear sermons about mission and disciple making but what do we actually do about it? Here are some of my thoughts on Jesus’ work and the top ten reasons I have seen and heard why people don’t do it! You can read more about this in my new book – “Accidental Apostle”
1. What is Jesus’ work?
“Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
I think we’d all agree that God sent Jesus to the earth to call sinners to repentance. Jesus himself said in Luke 5:32 that He had not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. From experience – it’s fairly easy to build a work and reputation around calling to the righteous. You can make a good living from becoming an ambassador of Churchianity – going from meeting to meeting and conference to conference. Jesus however calls us to be with him and to fish for people. We are His Disciples and He invites us into this work of calling sinners to repentance. The Church is described as the body of Christ who are commissioned and sent into the world to reconcile it to God. In the same way as the Father sent Jesus – Jesus sends us! In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus commands His disciples to go and multiply His work until the ends of the earth are transformed by His Kingdom. He commanded them to go and baptise people of all nations and to teach them to obey all His commands. Jesus also calls us into this work today. When we meet Him at the end of the age He isn’t going to ask us what Church we were a member of or what famous Christian leader we followed. He’s going to ask whether we baptised people and taught them to obey Him. That is Jesus’ work.
Here is an excerpt from my book Accidental Apostle,
“Although it was hard at the time, with hindsight we’re thankful that God led us in this way so we learned how to do the real work of ministry in the harvest rather than the pseudo-ministry of babysitting unhappy christians! We’ve always been about seeing new disciples, churches and leaders growing up out of the harvest and to be quite frank, the majority of believers I know say they don’t feel called to do that, don’t want to do it or give up when they hit the inevitable spiritual trials and suffering that Jesus promises to everyone who does His work.” (Accidental Apostle)
I’ve seen people around the world faced with this challenge – will they do Jesus’ work or not? It’s pretty simple. But sadly it seems a lot of people like the idea of Jesus saving them and making their lives better but they don’t love Him enough to actually do what He asks them to do. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what your social standing is or how long you claim to be have been a follower of Jesus. There seems to be ten top reasons why people don’t do the work of Jesus – and here they are.
2. Some good reasons why people don’t do Jesus’ work
Having travelled the UK and other countries and worked with Christians, churches and organisations of all shapes, sizes and theological convictions I wanted to share with you the top ten reasons why people don’t seem to do the work of Jesus. I’ve tried to provide some helpful answers to each objection.
i) I’m not a leader
Many people who profess to be followers of Jesus believe they cannot make disciples because they are not a ‘leader’. They believe they cannot baptise people or teach others to be obedient to Jesus because they have no ‘official qualifications’ and are not leaders in their church. Jesus must be very unhappy about a Church culture that restricts people from obeying Him. And Jesus must be very unhappy with leaders who don’t train their flocks to hear and obey Him. Through Mission Somerset and our work with other partners around the world we train EVERYONE to be a disciple making disciple! You don’t need to be a leader to obey Jesus and make disciples. Wake up!
ii) I’m already doing all this but nothing is happening
There’s been times in my life where I have been very active in the name of Jesus but my activity has not been rooted in a deep abiding relationship with Jesus. To bear much fruit Jesus says in John 15 that we must abide in him and allow his words to abide in us. So although this reason may seem strange – it’s actually possible to not do Jesus’ work because of our own prayer-less striving and religious activity. Stop. Abide in Jesus. Devote yourself to prayer. Get into the scriptures more. Then you will bear fruit!
iii) I have a lot happening in my life right now, my car is at the garage and I am in need of healing myself before I help anyone else
Whilst no-one would argue that some people have significant physical, emotional, mental and practical needs that God may want to heal and begin to deal with. Jesus also spoke very clearly to those who made excuses instead of making disciples. I’ve seen people with sicknesses, challenges and no possessions obey Jesus sacrificially and I regularly see people who could be doing a lot more for Jesus doing very little and making selfish excuses about it. Quite frankly – we all have challenges and obstacles in our lives – and true disciples of Jesus are those who overcome these challenges to lovingly obey and serve their Saviour. The Apostle Paul taught that it was “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) yet I fear we teach the opposite! We are to teach people to obey Jesus and to “quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” (John 9:4) Sadly, for some, the time and conditions are never right for them to obey Jesus. For real disciples the time is always right.
iv) I don’t know how to make disciples
Many professing disciples of Jesus actually don’t know how to be disciples of Jesus or how to make more disciples. It seems an absurd thing to say – but it’s true. Many have equated going to church with being a disciple. They are sadly deluded and we must lovingly speak this truth in love. I meet a lot of people who simply don’t know where to start – and at least they are honest about this. This reason is quickly overcome though because I offer to help them learn how to do Jesus’ work and people can easily search the scriptures with prayer and fasting if they really want to know anyway so often this reason is really a cover story for one of the other reasons! If you’re reading this and you feel like you would like to learn how to be disciple of Jesus and how to make disciples of Jesus (which is all the same thing anyway) then I’d love to hear from you.
v) I am too scared
I had to realise at the start of our work in Somerset that I was very fearful of people. I was scared to share the Gospel with people. However I was desperate to obey Jesus so I sought help from friends who were evangelists and set about dealing with this fear in prayer. Now I am no-longer fearful of sharing the Gospel and I am learning to overcome other fears that God has shown me! Again – the point is this – if you desire to obey Jesus then your love for Him will overcome these fears and help you to find a way through. Or you could do what most believers do and shrink back to churchianity and make up some super spiritual excuses for your non-obedience.
vi) My Church leaders don’t agree with it
Some people I know think I am too harsh towards churches and leaders. Maybe I am. But I’m more concerned about obeying Jesus and mobilising an army of ordinary disciple makers than I am in patting the status quo on the head. Jesus had regular run ins with the religious mafia of His day and if you want to obey Jesus and live a godly life then you will too. Many leaders are working to protect the status quo instead of making disciples of Jesus. There are too many reasons to go into why – but you basically have a choice to make in your life. Are you going to be a servant of Jesus or a pleaser of people. Whether you believe it or not – Jesus has personally called you and I to make disciples. We are called by the Lord of all to baptise people and to help them to obey Jesus. If you are not doing this then you need to ask yourself some serious questions just like I have had to do – and continue to do! If your Church leaders don’t agree with you, bless you or encourage you to be an obedient disciple of Jesus who makes disciples then what on earth are they doing? Again though – this is not a good enough reason to not obey Jesus because He is your master not your church leaders.
vii) I don’t want to rush ahead of God and anyway I feel called to prayer
Whilst this reason (excuse!) may seem really spiritual it is often just disobedience dressed up in it’s sunday best. It’s easy to ignore the urgent commands and leading of Jesus to make a difference in the lives of those around us who are slipping to an eternity without him. While we wait, pray, procrastinate and generally come up with all sorts of reasons why we don’t feel to obey Jesus – the blood of people around us is on our hands. Whilst Jesus encourages us all to pray and wait on Him – our calling is to make disciples. It’s prayer that leads to mission. Devotion that leads to obedience. Worship that leads to justice. No more naval gazing – turn your prayers into action! Jesus isn’t going to ask you how much you prayed when he meets you. You know what he is going to ask you right?
viii) I am just trying to love people and build relationships with them
Jesus loved people more than we do and called them to repent of their sins and turn to God. Whilst no-one would question that we are called to love people – I meet a lot of people who are afraid to call people to repentance and faith. Again – I want to lovingly suggest that when you meet Jesus He isn’t going to ask you how you showed unconditional love to everyone you met. He’s going to ask if you helped people to obey Him. So there’s a million and one ways in which we can build discipling relationships with people. Some are OK with going into new towns, preaching publicly and starting new churches. Others feel more comfortable with a more relational approach where they gather people they already know. The point though is though whether we have the intention to make disciples. I used to like going into people’s houses, eating food with them, praying for them and receiving their generosity. But then God asked me whether any of these people wanted to be disciples? In my enthusiasm I was charitably taking Jesus to people and I was finding lots of ways to bless and help them. But I wasn’t making any disciples. What about you?
ix) I’m not an evangelist
Making disciples is different from doing the work of an evangelist. Throughout the New Testament we see that every single disciple of Jesus has been personally called to make more disciples. We’re not even talking about evangelism because that word is not even talked about in the bible! We are all called to be disciples who make more disciples. You and I have been personally invited by Jesus to be with Him and to learn how to fish for more people. How’s that going? Everyone in the body is called to make disciples and then there are those who are called to be Evangelists. And their job is to help equip everyone in the body to do (yes you’ve got it) – evangelism. So that’s great if you are recognising that you find it hard to share your faith with others. I know some great evangelists who you could contact who will help you to get better at this. That’s what I had to do when I started! So it’s got nothing to do with whether you think you’re an evangelist or not. It’s about being prepared to gather with some people who don’t know Jesus as well as you do and to help them get started.
x) I’m called to the existing Church
If the existing church you feel called to does not train, encourage and endorse you to do the work of Jesus (baptising and teaching obedience to him) then you have to ask yourself and your church some serious questions. If God has called you to be a part of a Church then that’s great. I pray that you will be able to help equip the body to do the work of Jesus. You could speak to your leaders and invite me and some of the Mission Somerset team to come and help you? Take a minute to think about what the real Church of Jesus would be doing if – as it claims – it aims to follow Jesus and do His work.
So now that we have overcome all these very good reasons why people can’t or don’t do Jesus’ work – I wanted to share with you a few questions that could help you to do His work.
*WARNING – if you answer these questions honestly and do something about it you may upset those around you who are religious*
3. Some helpful questions that might equip you for doing Jesus’ work
“If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant”
If you’re serious about being a disciple of Jesus then I’d encourage you answer these questions honestly and to turn to God in prayer about what needs to change in your life! Be prepared for the challenges and opposition you will face!!!
- How often do you pray and fast?
- When was the last time you shared the Gospel and/or laid your hands on someone who was sick who didn’t know Jesus?
- When was the last time you baptised a new believer in Jesus?
- Who do you meet with regularly to help them grow as disciples of Jesus (a gathering of people who’ve been believers for a number of years doesn’t count!)