We are all called to missions. The problem is that when we hear the command from Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go” we sometimes aren’t sure where we are to go or how exactly we are to start the process of going. We have already covered that the where we are to go to be a missionary could be anywhere: to a distant land or just around your town. The key to where we go is following the Lord’s leading on our lives instead of making excuses for not going because of our own selfish desire to go elsewhere.
The other issue people tend to struggle with when dealing with how to be a missionary is how to actually get started living this missional lifestyle. How do I switch from just living life how I see fit to a person who is truly being a missionary of God? Many people find this question overwhelming and thus their desire to become a missionary often ends here. But the first step to becoming a missionary is one that all Christians should be familiar with but one that often gets overlooked as we continue to mature as a Christian. This is the step of being a disciple.
What is the first thing you think of when you think of a disciple? Many will think of the 12 apostles or the idea of being a student. Or that when we first become a Christian we may go through some sort of discipleship training program by an older Christian to help us grow in some of the basic elements of the Christian walk. But I feel that once many of us have passed this introductory course, we spend the rest of our lives busy making disciples while neglecting to also be a disciple. Matthew 28:19-20 does indeed tell us to “Go and make disciples…” but I think we are misunderstanding the Christian walk if we think being a disciple is only for new Christians.
So what does it mean to be a disciple? A few years ago I found a great definition I’d like to share: “A disciple is a person who has a growing seriousness about knowing God.” I love this definition because it doesn’t allow us as Christians to at some point graduate from being a disciple. Instead, it shows us that while we are making disciples we are also called to be lifelong disciples. If you find that your life doesn’t seem as missional as you would like it to be, you need to first consider whether or not you are still being a disciple.
According to the definition, there are two important components to being a disciple. The first is this idea of a “growing seriousness.” As a Christian, we should be ever-growing in our affection, knowledge and dependence on our Lord. Christian’s don’t get to plateau, take a day off or feel like they have finally arrived at some sort of spiritual peak. We are to be an ever-growing people. Yes sometimes this growing is a sprint, or a walk or even a crawl, but our growing never stops because the goal and desire of our growth is to better know Christ Himself.
But just growing and maturing doesn’t necessarily prove that we are a disciple. While these things are important, the true mark of a disciple is that our seriousness is growing. What does it mean to have a growing seriousness? It means that we move on from only learning basic doctrines of the faith to more difficult ideas and theology, (1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 5:12). We like the basic doctrines of our faith because although basic, they are truly amazing and vital to our lives. Thus we often stay away from some of the more controversial or hard to understand ideas. A growing seriousness is willing to take those next steps and try to learn what may be difficult or uncomfortable if it means knowing more of God.
For some of us, it’s time to take those next steps in our faith. It might mean getting serious about a sin struggle we’ve condoned as a “little” sin for years. It might mean enrolling in a seminary course, online class or Church Sunday School to learn more about a Biblical topic we don’t really understand. It might mean changing up how we read the Bible so we force ourselves to go deeper into God’s Word regularly. Whatever it takes, if we want to be a disciple, (which we all should desire), we must find a way to grow in our seriousness.
It is also important we understand what we are trying to grow our seriousness in. Growing more serious about something doesn’t necessarily make us a disciple. The goal or purpose of our growing seriousness is “knowing God.” If we make our growing seriousness just about religious activities, (attending Church, reading my Bible, prayer), we will continually find ourselves stuck in the cycle of desire, inability, regret, resolution and inability over and over again. Our goal of our growing seriousness cannot be a duty but it must be God Himself.
Notice that the goal also is not just knowing more about God, but actually knowing God. Having a personal, thriving, ever-growing relationship with the maker of the Universe. Nowadays we know more about people than at any other time in history, (just check on Facebook or Google for information about every area of someone’s life), yet I would say we also seem to truly know less people than ever before. We have settled for a superficial knowledge about others rather than a personal, growing relationship with them. Sadly we have done the same with God.
We know facts about God, (He is all-powerful, gracious, Creator, etc…), but sadly we don’t really know Him. As if God is some person we learn about in history class rather than our ever-present, Heavenly Father. So if our desire is to be a disciple, we must have a desire to know God personally.
How can this be done? Just like we get to know people we care about, (our spouse, family, friends, etc…), we need to consider God as someone who is right here with us, (because He is!). Talk with Him, (prayer), like you would talk with someone you want to get to know. Don’t just use prayer time as a chance for you to ask God to fix all your issues but instead use it as a time to deepen and grow your relationship with Him, (this is why listening is such a vital component to prayer). Read God’s Word, (Bible). God has written a letter to your personally about Himself. God’s Word is not merely a manual for how to live life but it is a place where we get to actually see and experience who God is. Open your Bible to seek to know God instead of just finding some pithy saying or self-help for this week’s difficulties.
Being a disciple is certainly not only for those who are new to the faith. It is something we all need to be doing if we call Christ Lord of our life. It isn’t overly difficult to be a disciple, but it also isn’t easy, (this is why the gate is narrow and the road is hard in Matthew 7), because fostering a relationship has all sorts of distractions and potential hardships. But the blessing is that we are fostering a relationship with our perfect, loving, Heavenly Father who has given us all the tools we need to be in relationship with Him. This is what it takes to be a disciple and one of the first things we must do if we desire to live a missional lifestyle. My hope and prayer is that these are things we are all hungry and thirsty for, (knowing God, being a disciple, being missional, etc…). That we would be a people known for our growing seriousness about knowing God.