Intentional and Gospel-Centered
Have you ever said or done something that was intended to be helpful and maybe even seemed helpful at first, but after a little bit of time passed you realized that it was actually less helpful and maybe even more detrimental to whatever your goal was? There is a quote that you have probably heard, at least if you are a Christian, that fits that description. It goes like this…
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”
The intent in this saying is that christians should live in a way that reflects the Gospel that we claim to believe. That, in and of itself, is true. This saying is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, however, there is actually no record of him or his followers ever saying this. For more on that specific topic you can check out these articles.
Even if the intent behind using this statement is good, it has stopped people from actually preaching the Gospel more than it has encouraged them to do so. This, for many christians, has become an excuse for not verbally sharing the Gospel. Every person who has ever verbally shared the Gospel with another person was nervous and, at least initially, uncomfortable with doing so. Sayings like this one, give us the ability to avoid the discomfort by telling ourselves “words aren’t necessary right now. Instead, I’ll just live it out in front of them.” Here is the problem: my actions are not the gospel. At best, my actions are a reflection of the Gospel. Helping the poor is a good thing, but I am not preaching the Gospel when I help the poor. Being nice to people is a good thing, but I am not preaching the Gospel by being nice. Am I living out the implications of the Gospel? Definitely. Am I preaching the Gospel? Definitely not. We are going to get a little further into this idea, then I will share a list of ways you can make disciples. There are two things that all components of disciple making must be
1. All disciple making will be INTENTIONAL.
There are likely times when another person notices that you live differently than most other people in the world. Your interests are a little different. The way you talk is a little different. They may notice that you seem to be happy or at least at peace most of the time. Much of the time, things like this can be unintentional. This may very well peak someone’s interest about “Why” you live the way that you do, which then presents an opportunity to share about Jesus. However rare this might be, it could happen just because you are living the way you live. I don’t want to discount this or say that God won’t use this, but this is not a big part of what Jesus meant when he gave The Great Commission. It’s important to note that he didn’t just say “live your lives and when somebody comes to you asking questions, then share the Gospel with them.” If we look at the Great Commision (Matthew 28:18-20) there are a few keywords that show this. These keywords are Go, make, baptize, teach. Each of these words indicate some type of intentional effort on our part. He didn’t say hold back and live. He didn’t say sit back and watch. He says GO. Make the effort to leave what you would normally do, your comfortable way of life. GO MAKE disciples. Take an active role. Don’t just sit back and watch. BAPTIZE and TEACH. Disciple Making is always intentional.
2. All disciple making will be GOSPEL-CENTERED .
In a previous session we talked about how evangelism is a necessary component of discipleship. The only way to evangelize is to share the Gospel. We can’t evangelize passively. It only happens when we use words to share the Good News of Jesus. We typically say the word “Gospel’ means “good news’. That’s not wrong but the phrase “good news” has kind of lost some of it’s meaning. Many evangelists will use the phrase “Have you heard the Good News?”. It’s probably more associated with an image of a sleazy televangelist than it is the true Gospel. It doesn’t carry the weight that it once did. But if you look at the historical context and literal meaning of the word ‘Gospel’ then it regains some of it’s weight.
“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…”
Gospel =εὐαγγελίζω= euaggelion= News that brings great Joy
When most people, Christians and nonchristians, hear the word Gospel, they automatically assume spiritual implications. We most often think of non-tangible or invisible things. When we think in this way we actually lose most of the meaning. The word “Gospel” actually was not a spiritual term to those in the 1st and 2nd century. This is where context matters. There are 2 events in history that serve as great examples.
This one is even more eye-opening because what Mark says in Mark 1:1 is actually almost word for word what was written on an inscription regarding Caesar Augustus. The inscription reads “The beginning of the Gospel of Caesar Augustus.” For the Romans, this was indicating the life altering news that Caesar Augustus was on the throne ruling (Mark was writing to a Roman audience).
In both of these cases the word Gospel means “News of a tangible, visible, life-altering event that will bring joy. So when we say Gospel-centered, we are saying that everything hinges on the life altering event of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. This is news of a tangible event in history that brings great joy (Timothy Keller goes much deeper into this idea in his book Jesus the King.)
In order for discipleship to be Gospel-centered this news must be announced or proclaimed with words. Our actions can and should reflect this news, but it is only preached when proclaimed. The very meaning and context of the word “Gospel” shows us this. Making disciples is always intentional and it’s always Gospel-centered.
To close all of this out, I would like to give you a list of potential ways of engaging in discipleship. This list will transition from a formal approach to a more informal approach with each example. However, informal does not mean unintentional.
1. Formal Bible Study
This is most often associated with what a pastor would do, but we shouldn’t expect that only pastors are leading formal study of the Bible. E4 which meets Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights (see Pastor Darrel for more info) fits right into this category. Sermons and other times of teaching fit in this category.
2. Biblical Counseling
Again, this is most often associated with what pastors do, but this is not limited to pastors. Biblical counseling is all about using the Bible to help someone overcome a specific struggle or set of struggles in their life. Some examples could be addictions, anger problems, or even marriage struggles. There is a clear distinction between who is counseling (counselor) and who is receiving counsel (counselee). The goal is to help the counselee redirect their hearts to Jesus in a specific area of their life. We have several individuals in our church that have gone through at least one track of a Biblical Counseling training. We would love to be a church full of counselors. So, if you have any interest at all in this area then see one of the pastors.
This could be viewed as similar to Biblical Counseling in many ways, but it is much less formal. This is simply choosing a specific person or group of people and investing time in showing them how to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Typically, you would meet or talk weekly about what’s going on in your lives and the goal would be to challenge and encourage whoever you are mentoring to grow in their faith. There are several examples of this in scripture. One example can be found in Paul and Timothy. Paul challenged and encouraged Timothy so that Timothy would grow into a man of faith that would then invest in others.
“...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
4. Invite In
There are many people who believe they don’t have the time to engage in discipleship. They don’t have the time to lead a Bible study, counsel, or mentor someone. Making disciples becomes something to do later in life when we aren’t so busy. If that describes you then this is for you. This method of discipleship doesn’t require you to add a single thing to your schedule. Identify the things that you already do to honor, serve and grow close to the Lord and invite someone to take part in it with you. This isn’t at all formal but it must be intentional. Your goal is still to help someone else grow closer to Jesus. So, do you have a strong marriage with Jesus at the center? Who could you invite to your house to see how you engage with and serve your spouse. How could you communicate the importance of Jesus in your marriage? Do you like to read? Can you invite someone to read and discuss a Gospel-centered book with you? Do you attend church? Is there someone you could invite and then take to lunch to talk about what they experienced? There are literally countless options. The only two things necessary are a love of Jesus and a willingness to be intentional with others.
If you are interested in digging further check into these resources