It was February 15, 1953. The sun was setting on the Florida coast and a swarm of 136 Oldsmobile, Buick, and Ford coupes roared and slid around the Daytona Beach Road Course. Former moonshine runner and NASCAR legend Fonty Flock held a one minute lead over second place driver Dick Rathmann. It was the final lap and there seemed to be no way Flock could lose.
That’s when Flock’s eight-cylinder engine began sputtering. Halfway around the final lap, his motor stalled completely. As Flock’s Oldsmobile coasted to a standstill – and as the crowd watched with slacked jaws – his one-minute lead disintegrated in what seemed like a few blinks of disbelief. Fonty Flock was out of gasoline and sputtered empty to lose the race.
Today, the American church appears invincible but in reality are sputtering out of gas. If the trends continue, the next 2-3 decades will see:
- Some evangelical churches may appear to be growing but in reality they are not keeping up with the population growth. While Evangelical membership declines, population is rapidly surging. In business terms, we are losing market share.
- 60-80% of young people leaving the church without returning.
- 70% of financial giving go away from the church since younger generations are not giving or being taught.
- Brad Waggoner surveyed 2500 Protestant churchgoers of all ages and found only 29% had shared faith in past 6 months, and 57% had never shared their faith (The Shape of Faith To Come).
If the church continues its current trends it will follow the path of Kodak, Sears, Blockbusters, and Borders… all of which seemed invincible just years before their bankruptcies.
Yet… this is true:
We cannot engage a dying nation without experiencing a stench of death. God has put us here “for such a time as this…”
- We do well to acknowledge we are weak.
- We do well to admit we do not have all the answers.
- We do well to accept the failures of our current generations.
- We do well to swallow our pride and pray… truly pray like we profess we believe and see what God may do.
- Pray that God have mercy on the children of our church and of this nation.
- Pray that God would awaken His church to the Spirit’s voice and the Word of God.
- The same strength that rose Jesus from the grave is available today.
- The same Spirit that breathed life into the early church is available today.
- The same Scriptures that spread to declare the gospel is in our hands today.
- Pray that God would break our hearts to repentance and reconciliation.
“Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
EXAMINE Matthew 10 SEND DISCIPLES
Send disciples with the authority of Jesus (Matthew 10:1-8)
Matthew notes the calling of disciples by Jesus’ authority. The authority was for missional engagement and not institutional establishment. Matthew lists the name of the twelve apostles (sent messengers) in six pairs. Jesus sent them out with His authority and instructions.
The disciples were to go to the lost sheep of Israel and not to the Gentiles. Yet, in Jesus’ ministry and certainly following the resurrection the disciples were commissioned to all nations
- Matt 8:11-12 after healing Roman Centurion’s servant, Jesus says, “many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacon in the kingdom of heaven”
- Matt 10:16-19 hints at a Gentile mission with persecution
- Matt 15:27 a Canaanite woman says, “even the dogs eat the crumbs from their master’s table”
- Matt 21:43 “I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”
- Matt 25:32 “Before him will be gathered all nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
- Matt 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
The disciples were to preach the consistent message of John the Baptizer and Jesus, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). The kingdom is not just future but present – it’s at hand, available now. The good news of the gospel is that God’s forgiven grace and faithful present matters in the moment each day. Further, God’s kingdom is coming to earth, implying the Christian’s involvement in the multiple domains of society. So, when we share the gospel and make disciples, we do so in context of the domains…
The disciples were to act and minister in the same authority of Jesus, for preaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, casting out demons (Matt 10:8). Supernatural works accompanied the preaching as a sign of God’s authority. Today, the greatest sign of authority to accompany preaching is the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is not to say additional supernatural works may not occur, but to give priority to the eternal gospel and less expectation for earthly comforts.
à In our disciplemaking, we see people, select disciples, shape disciples, and send disciples. A great hindrance to disciplemaking and multiplication is not following through on the sending aspect. Many churches like to gather but do not go; assemble but not advance the mission; collect but avoid commissioning, huddle but neglect the harvest. Indeed, sustaining friendships are important but so is being faithful to the mission of Jesus. On-going relationships may remain; there is a role for larger community to consistently gather. However, as family roles, disciplemaking leads to maturity so a disciple is not always dependent upon others to feed but is able to grow and launch out with their gifts and service to others. Sending out disciples should not be forced but nor should it be fumbled; keep the vision and mission in mind. Overall, the Great Commission of Jesus is not an option but an obligation upon all disciples of Jesus.
à A disciple of Jesus is either making other disciples of Jesus or they are making excuses. Which is it for you?
- SPBC application: This series is calling you to clearly see Jesus and to more clearly experience discipleship. It’s ok to not understand discipleship – there has been a great discipleship deficit in the church. But it is not ok to continue this deficit.
- Some may participate in coming months. You will begin the journey of a lifetime (Mat 25:21)
- Some may continue through passivity. You will miss out on 10K joys (Mat 13:44-45).
- unfortunately calls for mowing around tree stump…
- Some may continue through opposition. You will indicate your discipleship (Luke 14:28-30).
Send disciples with the resources in the harvest (Matthew 10:8-14)
Jesus gives instructions for the disciples to:
- give without pay: don’t sell the gospel (Mat 10:8).
- The gospel is not a product to sell or a tool of manipulation for seed sowing prosperity.
- acquire no gold, silver, copper for belts, no bag for journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff…
“for the laborer deserves his food” (Mat 10:9-10).
- The ministry of the gospel is to rely on God’s power and provision, not human resources.
- Yet, God provides through the resources of His people and harvest. The laborer will be provided food, shelter, and have needs met through people of peace and who respond in kind.
- 1Timothy 5:17-18 “elders worthy of double honor… The laborer deserves his wages”
- “enter a place and “find out [ἐξετάζω: examine] who is worthy (welcoming) in it and stay there”: find people of peace & receptivity (Mat 10:11-14)
à SPBC, don’t underestimate the power of the gospel.
- We underestimate the gospel’s power when we
- prejudge someone based on appearance.
- think our testimony is unworthy to be told.
- think only a pastor/leader/celebrity can evangelize.
- think only a certain style of music can/should be used in worship.
- think children can’t sit in a service w/o a game device.
- rely more on buildings & parking lots to attract people.
- fail to believe the gospel is life-transforming, the Bible is true, the Spirit is at work everywhere, and Jesus is enough.
Send disciples with the training and tenacity of Jesus (Matthew 10:15-42)
Jesus continues instruction about the disciple’s mission and future journey; emphasis is on Jesus (I AM) sending the disciples out. There would be danger – sheep in the midst of wolves (Mat 10:16). Following Jesus is never promised safety, yet there is security in the fact that Jesus knows the future and is telling them ahead of their persecution. It is never easy to experience bad news but somehow it is offset if you know its coming.
Jesus instructs them to be wise (φρόνιμοϛ: sensible, careful thought; cf Col 4:5 “conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity”) as serpents and innocent (ἀκέραιοϛ: unmixed, single-focused) as doves (doves were viewed as faithful animal)” (Mat 10:16). In other words, Jesus is training the disciples how to live and lead under Jesus’ authority, taking risks to advance God’s kingdom but without being negligent to the circumstances or context. The greatest training is simply to abide in Jesus (John 15).
Jesus warns the disciples “beware of men…” you will face persecution (Mat 10:17-19; 21-33). Yet, he calls them to a certain tenacity (Webster: not easily pulled apart, persistent in seeking something valuable) – “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28).
2Timothy 3:12 “everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted”
– China: Two Pastors Jailed
– Nepal: Two Churches Bombed and Third Failed to Detonate
– North Korea: State Media Condemns Christianity
– Egypt: Christian Man Jailed For 3 Years For Distributing Bibles
– Uganda: 13 Year Old Girl Tortured For Christian Faith
– India: Mob Attacks Pastors
– Algeria: Christians Jailed For Carrying Bibles
– Laos: 5 Christians Imprisoned For Praying For A Sick Woman
– Sudan: Mountain Christian Singing Woman Killed
– Sierra Leone: Villages Burned Where People Accept Christ
“We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”
(Tertullian, 197 AD)
- “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mat 10:20)
- “Brother will deliver brother… father his child, and children rise against parents and have them put to death… (Mat 10:21, 35-37)
- “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
start as a disciple. see people, select disciples, shape disciples, and send disciples