As our Missional Communities continue working toward defining their shared missions, the motivation and empowerment behind these missions must come from a Word-defined, Spirit-led, understanding of who we are in Christ. If you've tracked with River City long enough, you've heard us preach on and discuss indicatives before imperatives. This is not a new idea, and comes from an understanding of what Jesus has done for you and letting that spur you onto grace-empowered love, humility, forgiveness, obedience, mission, etc. (Col. 3:1-5, 12-13).
"Imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities." - Tullian Tchividjian
Who you are influences what you do. What you believe influences how you live. In our fallenness, we are great at getting this wrong and placing more emphasis on what you're to do rather than living out of who you are. Therefore, we must highlight our "gospel identities" as the basis for and the motivation of shared mission.
Using the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20 as a template, we see three aspects of the Christian's identity shine forth:
- You're a disciple.
- You're a part of a familiy.
- You're a missionary.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matt. 28:18-20
As we go under Jesus' authority, knowing He's with us, we make disciples. Being a disciple yourself, you share the truth of what God has done in the person and work of Christ, and new disciples are made. That's conversion, when people believe the Truth and place their faith in Christ. That's the starting point, and we then teach them to obey all He commanded. As a disciple, you are transformed and in turn, disciple people as they're transformed.
We baptize disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, signifying their death to self and being made alive in Christ. It also signifies their adoption into God's family as well as the Body of Christ. As a disciple, you're part of God's family alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Inherent in this passage is the commission to go, to make disciples. This identifies you as a missionary, you take the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19) to those who are not disciples of Christ. You play a part in God redefining them, giving them a better definition and a better story. As a disciple, you share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus.
All three of these identities must be understood, discussed, and highlighted often for the health of our individuals and our groups. A group full of disciples as part of a family will be a Holy Huddle or a Bible study. Disciples will not be made as there's no "going" as we see from Matthew 28:19.
A group full of disciples on a mission will not care well for one another and will resemble more of an Evangelism Team focused on conversions. The love for one another that will tangibly show the redeeming and restoring power of the gospel will be neglected (John 13:34-35).
A family on a mission without disciples will be focused more on social justice than seeing disciples of Jesus being made. People will be loved on and cared for, but not fully. The spiritual care and healing they need which comes from union with Christ will not be offered. They won't know Him because they won't hear about Him (Rom. 10:14-15).
I'm praying for our MC's as we work through these identities, letting them influence how we approach our shared mission. Join me in praying for a deep understanding of who we are in Christ, and letting that play itself out in robust discipleship, loving family, and bold misison.