from the pastor

Dear friends in Christ,

On Trinity Sunday we reflect on the Great Commission that Jesus gives us to “go and make disciples.”  Many people cringe at the idea of fulfilling the Great Commission simply because they have been made to feel uncomfortable by some of the ways evangelism has been practiced.  Throughout the church’s history, the Great Commission has been used as an excuse for a great deal of mischief, from the Crusades to the forced conversion of Jews by the Spanish Inquisition to the enslavement of the native peoples of the Americas in the name of saving their souls.  Another reason that people feel uncomfortable about practicing evangelism we feel that we lack some sort of special skill to do evangelism.

I like the way the late Dallas Willard describes Jesus’ method of disciple-making.  He describes discipleship — the practice of following Jesus — as an apprenticeship.  The disciples were invited to apprentice with Jesus, to learn from the master how to share the love of God with everyone.  And once they had learned how to do that, once they reached the point where Jesus no longer called them disciples, but called them friends, they were ready to go out and teach others what they had learned from Jesus.  And that is our job today.  We are apprentices who learn the art of living from Jesus.  And now we are sent to invite others to come and be apprentices, to learn what it means to find a new and abundant life in Jesus Christ.

Making disciples is all about building relationships; and because it is about making friends with strangers it is paradoxically both easier than the way we usually practice evangelism, and at the same time more difficult.  On one hand, disciple-making is vastly more difficult than the way we usually practice evangelism because it is about people, not numbers.  And people are messy.  People have issues; they have problems; they have pain.  And when we invite people into discipleship, we have to take the time to pay attention to them, to get to know them, and to love them just as Jesus loved us.  And that is not the kind of relationship that can be built in the time it takes to say the sinner’s prayer.  Making disciples involves a long term commitment to join in community with people who can sometimes be pretty unlikeable.

But disciple-making is also easy because it requires no special expertise and no uncomfortable practices.  You don’t have to have a seminary diploma in evangelism to make disciples.  All you have to do is befriend somebody.  The practices of disciple-making are the practices we learn from the master, and they are practices of compassion and community building.  Practices like teaching others about the love of Jesus.  Practices like welcoming new disciples into the community of faith through baptism.  Disciple-making involves nothing more and nothing less than sharing the love that God lavishes upon us.  And since that is what God created us to do, disciple-making is one of the most natural things we can do.  And the wonderful thing is that we are never alone when we practice disciple-making.  We are always making new friends; but we are always uplifted in our efforts by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  So go and make disciples; and as you do, remember that Jesus promises to be with us always.

Grace and peace,