September 15 - "What's Next?"

September 15, 2013

Series on “D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.”

Introduction:  What’s Next?

Matthew 28:18-20


Children’s Sermon:  “What To Do In The Storm” 

Have you ever been in a storm?  Tell me about some storms.  Are there rules to follow during a storm?  Jesus was in a storm.  Does anyone remember that story?  What happened? Jesus made the storm stop just by telling it to stop.  When we have trouble in our lives, some people will say we are having a stormy patch.  What do you think we need to ask Jesus to do during those times? 

Wes is going to play a piano piece called “The Storm”.  As you listen to him, think about where you want Jesus to be in your stormy patches of life.  And then ask Jesus to tell all your storms to stop!


Intro:  Let me tell you how I’ve been seeing things the last several weeks. 

The situation is this:  We are a church in transition.  We have chosen to leave the denomination this particular congregation has been part of for many years. Not all of it’s years because this church is older than the PCUSA.  The PCUSA didn’t exist until 1983 – a merging of two different Presbyterian denominations. I see that Presbyterians have moved in and out of relationship with each other for years. For many, moving house to a different denomination is insignificant, but for others it means a lot as they have been invested in the life of the PCUSA.  So at this point there is grieving as well as celebrating.


We have voted as a congregation to leave the PCUSA and join ECO.


Also, last week, the bulk of our active congregation left their Sunday evening routines to come fellowship, worship, and vote as a congregation to affirm our financial terms of dismissal from the Presbytery of Lackawanna.


In nine weeks, on November 16, the Presbytery will vote to release us to our new denominational home. 


On November 17, we will celebrate being this “new church” by confirming two new disciples and making them covenant partners with us.


In all of this I have seen your leaders step up, take responsibility, be renewed and revived in their call from God to the leadership of the church.  Many of them have stepped out of their comfort zones to make phone calls, change schedules, or whatever else it might take to get the task accomplished up to this point.


And I have seen you, brothers and sisters in Christ, step up, define what is important to you and take action, make sacrifices of time and place to state what you believe is the way forward for your church and for Christ.


This has been fabulous!  It may even have led to a monthly evening worship and fellowship event (because people liked last Sunday night so much!).  So Second Sundays have inadvertently been introduced.  October 13th we will gather here on the lawn around some fire pits and we will worship, share the Lord’s Supper and eat S’mores! 


Good stuff is happening!  But the question remains, “Who are we seeking to be?”  Besides disassociating with a denomination that has moved away from what we understand to be truth, what are we moving into?  How will we be different because of the shift?  People have asked many questions about what will be the same and what will change.  I guess the truest answer is that it remains to be seen.  It will be up to us to see what we make of being part of something new.  Will we take advantage of a fresh start to take a fresh stand for what we believe to be true about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We will meet in the same place with the same type of worship and the same Bible and the same people but shame on us if we don’t change at all.  We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ and I daresay that none of us in these hallowed halls today have yet lived into all that means.  That is why we pray “invade!”  That is why we continue to seek out Jesus as Lord.  And that is why we covenant to be a community together.  That is why we continue to call on God and seek his face.  We are in the midst of transformation!


At the core of The Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is “Discipleship”.  What does discipleship look like?  You spell it: D I S C I P L E S H I P.  It is defined by as:

a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.

b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.

So here’s a question:  Does that define you?  Are you one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ?  Are you an active adherent to the teachings of Jesus?  Are you a disciple?


Over the course of the next ten weeks, give or take, we are going to spell out what it means to be a disciple.  Literally!  We’re going to take each letter of the word and fill in what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.


But today will look at the best known passage of Scripture on disciple making, Matthew 28:18-20


Simply put, we are to:   Go, Make, Baptize, (in the name of the Triune God), and Teach.


We talk about this a lot, but do we grasp what it requires of us to fulfill what we call the Great Commission?  As followers of Jesus Christ we are meant to fulfill it.  With all the authority given to him, Jesus came to those first disciples and said “Here’s the plan – you need to invite more people to this party.  You have to leave this cozy campfire (which is where he met them, as Matthew tells it) and you need to go out into the world and “make disciples”.  Some folks believe this is all about evangelism, about getting people saved.  But I believe this passage makes it clear that it is a much bigger investment than that.


In his blog on “Grace to You”, popular preacher John MacArthur says this about this passage of Scripture

. . . And while there is certainly an evangelistic aspect to Christ’s command, His instructions go beyond just spreading the gospel. The verb translated as “make disciples”—mathēteuō—is beautifully complex, carrying more meaning than simply accumulating converts. It communicates the idea of a learning believer—someone who is growing in their faith and their love for the Lord.

Jesus’ words emphasize not the moment of salvation but the lifetime of sanctification that follows. He made the same point in John 8:31 when He said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” It’s the difference between a one-time profession of faith and a lifetime of spiritual growth and increasing godliness—between counterfeit and genuine conversion.

. . . As defined by Christ’s command to His disciples, the purpose of the church is to make learning believers—men and women whose lives reflect a deep commitment to and love for the Lord, His Word, and His people. Are you actively helping your congregation grow in this clear and critical purpose for the church?


We “go” because the chances that lost souls are going to wander into our house on their own is pretty slim.  There are lost and dying people who need Jesus out there and we can’t reach them from here.  One of the purposes of being the church is to get equipped and encouraged and charged up to go out into the world and reveal Christ to those who don’t know him.


In here is where some disciple making occurs.  Most of you are believers and now that you have accepted Christ and received his salvation and forgiveness you are in process of being made a disciple.  The Holy Spirit is working in you to transform you. 


How will we know we are doing what Jesus has called us to do?  When we are baptizing new believers.  My friend, Dennis Hall is part of a pastoral team in Houston, Texas.  On FB this morning he talked about the joy of what they are doing in worship today – they are baptizing 100 new believers.  It’s Texas.  They do things big.  But he is part of a disciple making church – they have a plan in place to teach, nurture, mentor these new believers.  That is how you “make disciples”. 


You may not want to hear this but it must be said.  If your attitude is, “I’ve learned enough.  I don’t need to study any thing else.  I have the basics down and I’m living an okay life.” If that is your attitude then you are stunted in your spiritual growth and in becoming a disciple.  Praise be to God that adults, hungry for growth met at 8:30 this morning to see how they could grow in their faith.  Ironically, the book they chose to study is called Radical which is about discipleship.  


Concl.  Discipleship involves people leaving the comfort of their pews, taking their faith into the world with them and living it out.  It involves not just the saving of souls but the spiritual nurture of those saved souls so that growth and maturity occurs. 


Hear me when I say, I’m not about numbers.  I’m not seeking 100 baptisms in one day.  But I do believe that we are called to the business of making the name of Christ known to others and that the natural result of that is people coming to the Christ you know and being baptized.  We’ll know, Church, if we are doing our job by people who come desiring to follow Christ and who desire to be “made” disciples. 


Hear me also say that this is not part of the new plan for ECO.  This has been the plan of Jesus Christ for the church for over 2000 years.  We may just have been sleeping.  Let’s wake up.  Let’s hear what Jesus is calling us to do.  Let’s commit ourselves to “go, make, baptize, and teach”.  Let’s be a church that grows because we care to take the gospel outside of these walls to a world that is waiting to hear the good news.  Let’s be a church full of disciples.  Amen.