We Are Missionaries

What God has done to us, He wants to do through us.

We have the Spirit of God in us so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was. We are His missionaries, filled and anointed by His Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to tell the world who He is and what He has done.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the gospel like Jesus, and see people’s lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

You are always on mission. Every part of your life, every activity and event, is part of Jesus’s mission to make disciples.

Remember, you are not alone on this mission. Jesus goes with you everywhere because His Spirit is in you to empower you to be His representative in the world. He wants to saturate your world in word and deed by His presence at work in and through you by His Spirit.

Our baptism is a reminder of our new identity in Christ. We have been saturated with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have a new name because we are new creations who can do new works by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. This is why Jesus places baptism first in the sequence of events of making disciples. He wants us to know who we are and what power we now have to do what He wants. His command for us to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” comes after we establish people in their new identity (Matt. 28:19–20).

Since you do who you are, you need to know who you are in Christ.

Knowing and believing who you are in Christ leads you to obey Jesus’s commands.

The people in your church don’t need a new to-do list. They needed to be reminded of their new identity in Christ. The same is true for you.

  • We are the Father’s family; therefore, we love others like He loved us.
  • We are servants of Christ; therefore, we serve the least of these as He served us.
  • We are missionaries filled and empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus; therefore, we are always on mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Whatever He has done to us, He now wants to do through us to others.

(Taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015, Crossway.)

Missional Communities—Biblical or Cultural?

Are missional communities just a passing fad?

Recently, one of the leaders in the Soma Family of Churches asked me if I thought missional communities would be a passing trend. He wasn’t questioning the validity of them, but he did wonder if this was a time-based, culturally applicable approach to making disciples that may not be necessary sometime in the future. Is the concept of church as a missional community (or as we often ask, “Is missional community the primary structure for making disciples?”) just a pragmatic solution to a cultural situation?

My answer to my colleague and my answer to many others is a resounding “no.”

Why? Because I am convinced that missional communities are not a new program or methodology for the church, but an ancient way of being God’s people set apart for God’s mission in the world. “Sure,” I told my friend, “the name ‘missional community’ might be trendy, but the concept is really nothing new at all.” The concept is deeply biblical and culturally transferable from one time and culture to another.

WHAT A MISSIONAL COMMUNITY IS

To make my case, I first of all need to define what a missional community is. A missional community is a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples. They are:

  • children of God who love one another like family
  • servants of God who show what the Kingdom of God looks like in tangible form
  • missionaries sent by God to show and tell the truth of what God is like and what God has done

The goal of this family of servant missionaries is to lead others to become the people of God on the mission of God in the world.

GOD’S ANCIENT WAY

From the beginning of time God has called a people to be His family—His image-bearers—chosen by Him to belong to Him and lovingly show God’s love by how they love one another like family. It began with Adam and Eve who turned to a different father—the father of lies—and as a result the family they led looked more like the devil and less like the heavenly Father. God then chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation: a family set apart as both beneficiaries of God’s love as well as benevolent givers of His love. This family was also called to be a display people, showing the world what God as King was like through the visible display of his kingdom. His people were called to be His servants who serve others just as God had served them. One example of this is in how God called His people to be hospitable toward strangers in light of how God had treated them while they were strangers in Egypt. Lastly, God’s people were sent from place-to-place with the intent of living amongst the nations declaring what their God was like in light of what He had done for them. Israel was a family of servant missionaries, loving, serving, and proclaiming the good news of God.

But they failed. They fell short.

So Jesus came as the true and better Son who laid down His life for us so we could become children of God. He is the true and better servant who showed us what the Kingdom of God is like by how He served and gave up His life. He is the true and better missionary sent by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. He didn’t do this in isolation. He did it in community—a community on mission together—a missional community. Jesus and His followers were a missional community. When He first called them He said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus formed a community on mission that loved one another like family, served others as a way of serving their Messiah King, and eventually were sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

After He died on the cross and rose again, He sent His disciples out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and establishing every disciple in their new identity as family, servants, and missionaries. What Jesus did with them first, He sent them out to do with others. Their baptism wasn’t just words. It was a statement of their new identity that informed their new way of living: loving, serving, and proclaiming together.

That’s exactly what they did. The early church loved, served, and proclaimed because this is who they believed they were in Christ.

Later, when Peter intends to encourage the church scattered throughout Asia Minor, he reminds them first of who God is and what God has done most specifically in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Following that, he reminds them of who they are in 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Note the key identity statements he uses: chosen race (family of God), royal priesthood (missionaries anointed by the Spirit), and holy nation (servants of King Jesus). This is who God’s people were called to be prior to Jesus. It is who our baptism says we are because of Jesus. And it informs what we do as God’s people—the church—as we make disciples of Jesus.

This is who we are; therefore it’s what we do.

So is missional community a new idea? No. Is it going away? Not as long as Jesus continues to build His church and not until He returns and the mission is accomplished.

However, the way we work it out is always changing. In the early church they met from house to house. Some today meet from beach to beach, office center to office center, school to school. Some meet from house to school to office center. How we work out what it means to love like family may continue to take on different shapes and forms depending upon the culture and time we find ourselves in. Being servants of King Jesus in Tokyo might look very different than being servants of Jesus in Topeka. Proclaiming the gospel in secular New York might look very different than church-saturated Dallas. Our identity is the same, but how it gets expressed is always changing. The mission will not change, but the means likely will. The gospel will not change, but how we proclaim it must.

Yet no matter the place, the culture, or the time, the church is called to be a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples.

We are a missional community, a gospel community on mission. Call it what you want. The name might change, but we will not.

This is who we are. This is what we do.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

What is a "Missional Community"?

All-of-life discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life and training others to do the same—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, life in community, and life on mission.

LIFE ON LIFE

God’s means of restoration in your life is others in your life who are committed to bringing your brokenness out into the open and bringing the gospel of Jesus to bear on it. The layers with which we’ve covered ourselves have to be pulled back, and we can’t do that kind of work alone. We have to get close. We have to be seen and known. This is what we call life-on-life discipleship—life that is lived up close so that we are visible and accessible to one another, so that others can gently peel back the layers and join us in our restoration. Jesus lived life with his disciples. He was close enough to really know them. He observed what they believed by watching how they lived. He became closely acquainted with their brokenness so that he could see their wrong thinking, wrong believing, and wrong acting. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

If you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, and subsequently the ministry of the apostle Paul, you certainly would not come to the conclusion that one-on-one discipleship is best. Jesus discipled his followers while they experienced life together in community. We know they “got it” because the story of how they continued to live tells us they were devoted to one another in the day-to-day stuff of everyday life. Jesus’s way of discipleship cannot happen in one-on-one meetings alone. The church is Jesus’s body. It has many parts, but it is one body, so it takes many of us committed to each other’s development to help us each become more like Jesus … We all need many people who love Jesus around us to do this. Every person in Christ’s body is meant to work this way. You are meant to play a part in equipping and encouraging others. God intends for all of us to actively engage in disciplemaking in light of our unique design so that we both do the work and equip others to do it.

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus didn’t say, “Show up to class and I will train you.” Nor did he say, “Attend synagogue and that will be sufficient.” No, he called the disciples to join him on the mission (“Follow me”), and while they were on the mission with him, he trained them to be disciplemakers (“I will make you fishers of men”). In other words, Jesus taught them the basics of making disciples while they were on the mission of making disciples. They could observe everything Jesus said and did. They could see how he rebuked the religious leaders who tried to make it harder for people to come to God. They were able to watch his compassion and care of people being ruined by sin. They couldn’t overlook his willingness to heal and help the broken. And the power he exerted over demons was clearly on display. They listened, watched, and learned in the everyday stuff of life. After a while, he invited them to share in some of the work he was doing. Sure, they messed up, a lot, but he was there to help, to correct, to clean up—to train them—while they were on his mission. They were in a disciplemaking residency with Jesus. After the disciples had spent time watching, learning, and practicing under Jesus’s watchful eye, he sent them out to begin to practice what he had taught them. He did not send them out alone; they went together. Then they returned and reported to Jesus what they had experienced. All did not go perfectly. So he trained them in the areas of their weaknesses and failures. He did this kind of ongoing training with them for more than three years. As a result, when he finally ascended to heaven, they had been prepared to fulfill the mission. The best training for mission happens while on mission.

MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES

The necessity of these three environments is the basis for what are commonly called “missional communities”: the Christian life—and the gospel identities and rhythms—cannot be lived alone, nor can it be carried out as one person among several dozen or a few thousand, which is the context of many American church gatherings. Instead, the best venue for living as disciples of Jesus happens in the context of a few other disciples, mutually committed to growing each other’s lives and faith, pursuing God’s mission together. Missional communities are not programs of a church; missional communities are the Church. In other words, the way God intends his people to live and thrive as disciples of Jesus is in the context of a community, growing in the gospel and on mission together. It’s in this type of community that life on life, life in community, and life on mission discipleship most easily happen.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

A Life of Discipleship

Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship

The person and work of Jesus cannot remain as a mere mental construct, separate from the rest of life. The gospel changes us. It gives us new identities, goals, and pursuits. Jesus’s past, present, and future work redefine how we think, live, work, and act. Because of the gospel, we are disciples of Jesus. By the power of God, the life of a Christian is a life of learning from Jesus, following him, and “growing up in every way into him” (Eph 4:15). In other words, the life of a follower of Jesus is a life of obeying Jesus.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

When he called the first of his disciples, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). They had been fishermen, but Jesus was calling them to fish for people. They responded by leaving everything—their families, their careers, their futures—to follow Jesus. It started in a boat and went out to the world. Those first disciples radically recentered everything in their lives around Jesus, his teaching, and his mission. Their lives became all about Jesus! He was that important to them.

Then, after he had trained them for more than three years, suffered and died for their sins, and rose from the grave, Jesus told them to meet him on a mountain before he ascended to heaven. On that mountain, he was going to give his final commission to them to make disciples of all people groups. Just as Jesus had called them to follow him, be changed by him, and obey him, he sent them out to call others to follow him as well. He was going to send them to the ends of the earth so that Jesus saturation might happen.

So they met Jesus on the mountain and worshiped him there, but some still doubted (Matt. 28:16-17). They were in, but not all in. Slow down and don’t miss this: Jesus’s disciples had seen everything they needed to see. Jesus had taught them all he needed to teach them. And they had experienced all they needed to experience with Jesus! And yet, some were still doubting. This is good news for me! Though I’ve walked with Jesus for more than twenty-four years, I still struggle with doubts. Maybe you do as well.

We’re not alone! The disciples were still in process—a process that would last their lifetimes. And the same is true of us. That is what discipleship is all about. It is the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus, and seeing him saturate your entire life and world with his presence and power. It’s a process of daily growing in your awareness of your need for him in the everyday stuff of life. It is walking with Jesus, being filled with Jesus, and being led by Jesus in every place and in every way. Read the previous paragraph again—may this be a helpful definition of discipleship!

PAYING IT FORWARD

Once we start to realize that discipleship is an everyday, all-of-life process for our own lives, we’re halfway to understanding God’s call. The other half of that call is seen most clearly in the great commission, where God calls his people— all his people—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that a primary way we grow into maturity in Christ is through “speaking the truth in love” to and with each other (Eph 4:16). God didn’t design discipleship to primarily happen alone.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

4 Ways To Be Missional In The Everyday Stuff of Life

A few years back a friend of mine challenged me to run the Chicago Marathon with him. I’d never run a race before, but my competitive edge led me to take on the challenge, and I got to work. I never trained so hard in my life. Hours of my days were devoted to getting into shape and preparing. I ordered running magazines, researched workout plans, learned about proper diet, was schooled on shoe tech, and even discovered how important it is to think about proper clothing. I became a disciple of marathons because I was going to run one. 

When I ponder the reality that most Christians have never made a disciple who has also, made a disciple, I have harkened back several times to my experience with the marathon training. I got into shape because I HAD TO – it was a matter of necessity and survival.

Not only have many in the church never made a disciple who has then gone on to make a disciple, but many Christians would say they don’t feel equipped to do so. It seems to me that we could address the matter of “spiritually unfit” Christians from one of two approaches. We could address it like we address our problem with physically unfit Americans – build more health clubs (read: buildings and events), sell more fitness products (read: curriculum), host more seminars (read: classes) and work hard to make sure everyone has a personal trainer (read: mentor). No one would argue that we are lacking any of this in America. We have plenty of access to the resources necessary to be fit.  However, all of us would agree – we are not much healthier as a result (read: not making disciples).

Or, we could look at it from another angle – what if we called every believer to get ready to run a marathon? (The apostle Paul was on to something here.)

Is it possible that the reason that the church is not spiritually fit is due to the fact that many church leaders are merely calling people to sit around and observe other spiritually fit missionaries perform in front of them? Let’s ask ourselves: “What are we calling people to that requires them to be spiritually fit?”

What if we called every believer to run the race of Jesus’ mission? What if every Christian believed they were called to full-time ministry in their schools, while at work, and interacting in their neighborhoods. What if they believed that life was the program and every moment is an opportunity for gospel ministry? What if Christians started to believe that the small group they were involved in could potentially be a core group of a new church in their community. And, that they might just participate in leading?

What if the church once again called her people, young and old, male and female, to get ready to be sent out as a disciple who makes disciples; to potentially start new churches everywhere? In fact, what if they all believed in two years they were going to be sent out to another city or country to not only make disciples but raise up new ones to do the same some where else?

I wonder - would they take their spiritual fitness and training a little more seriously?

To train in the race for spiritual fitness, study the gospels and learn from Jesus, then begin to engage in what you’re already doing in everyday life with gospel intentionality:

1. Make every meal a worship service. As you eat and drink remember Jesus as God’s provision for our deepest hunger and the Spirit as the thirst quenching presence of God in our lives. If every meal became a worship service, you would be attending about 21 worship services a week! Start eating with others more often. Eat with those who love Jesus and encourage and remind each other with the truths of Jesus at the table. Eat with those who don’t yet know Jesus and ask the Spirit to grant opportunities to bless them over a meal in deed and word. Invite people to join you at your table and serve them a meal as a picture of Jesus’ service to us. Eating is just one example.

2. Consider seeing your job and vocation as a place for ministry to happen. You spend about one third of your life working. Why not work with all of your heart unto Jesus as your ultimate boss. Worship him through your work. Engage in sports and recreation as ministry.

3. Rest and play in light of the Gospel. We can truly be at rest because of Jesus’ work and be playful because God is sovereignly in control. Start seeing life as the program and every moment an event Jesus wants to work through and invite others into your play. Relax on your front porch and pray for opportunities to connect with your neighbors. Prayerfully throw a party, host a game night, or a backyard BBQ and invite those God has laid on your heart. It’s simple, Jesus isn’t calling us to do more, but instead to simply invite those who don’t yet know Jesus into the things you’re already doing.

4. You don’t have to change your church or leave your church, just start being the church wherever God puts you. And honor the leaders he has placed over you. The tendency when learning new things is to be critical. Remain humble and thank God regularly for the leaders he has given you. Pray for them. Encourage them. And share with them what you’re learning as well. I don’t know a pastor who doesn’t want the people under their care to be on mission in the everyday stuff of life. They will be encouraged to hear how God is at work in and through your life everyday.

Maybe the reason why many aren’t growing up and becoming equipped is because they don’t have to. The life we are being called to doesn’t require us being spiritually fit.

There is a race ... the mission is on. Let the training begin...

The Mission of Disciple Making

Jesus commanded us to make disciples who make disciples. We can make disciples formally and informally. In formal discipleship you need to consider all that you want people to:

Know — key doctrines all people should know

Believe — truths that motivate and transform your identity and behavior

Do — the activities that the gospel leads us to practice

Informal discipleship, in conjunction with formal discipleship is crucial in making followers of Jesus who both hear and obey.

5 ways church leaders make disciples informally:

1. Encourage a disciple-making culture.

God commanded through Moses (Deuteronomy 6) and Jesus commanded the disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) to develop a disciple-making culture where all of life becomes the platform for disciple-making.

Six questions to determine if you have a disciple-making culture:

  • Are the few doing the ministry for the many? Or are the few equipping the many for the ministry?
  • Do we spend the majority of our time equipping, training and developing leaders?
  • Is it apparent that every member is to be a full-time minister in your church?
  • Do new believers get called and sent into the mission upon conversion?
  • Do you celebrate those who leave to start new works?
  • Is there shared leadership within the local body?
  • Do you intentionally create vacuums for other leaders to fill?
2. Make your life visible and accessible to others.

To be an example for the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3), others need to see our lives as an observable example of gospel ministry, mission and ordinary life. We also need to observe their lives – to see if they are faithful (2 Timothy 2:2). The areas we need to observe one another includes marriage, family, management of our household, love of neighbors, our leadership, our training, and our discipling, as well as conflict management, exercise, prayer and how we use money.

3. Live with your leaders in community.

Jesus said the greatest apologetic for the gospel is our love for one another (John 13:31-45). We practice the "one anothers" of scripture in community. If you're not developing people to love one another, you're not making disciples. And you will not make disciples who love one another if they're not in consistent community where others are building them up.

4. Live as servants together.

Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that God gives some to equip the saints for ministry, and that the means by which we grow up into maturity is when each part is doing its work. We will not grow up if we are not all ministering. We grow up as we build up the body and serve together.

5. Make sure your leaders live on Mission.

Living life on mission requires getting in the game. Is your missional living more of a chalk-talk (sermons and teaching) or an actual game? Is it just a scrimmage among other Christians or are we actually engaging the lost? If we are not in the game of mission, we will not become disciples, but rather just a spiritual formation group.

Everyday Discipleship | Jeff Vanderstelt from Saturate on Vimeo.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.