January 15, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Our Big Deals
#1 Making Disciples
Introduction and offering:
ILL: If you were waiting at a bus stop, and a bus pulls up, what do you look for? You look for the sign that says where it’s going. This one is going to NW Boulevard. If that’s where you want to go, you get on. If it’s not, you don’t get on.
So where are we going as a church? I think you ought to know that. The people that are really “on board” here are the ones who know where we’re going and want to go there too. For the next three weeks, I’m going to share with you Our Big Deals. I’m going to show you where we’re headed, and I hope you’ll be excited to get on board!
We have two Big Deals that we’re always about: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. They are always Our Big Deals!
- The Great Commission is to make disciples: we help people find and follow Jesus. I’m talking about that today: Making Disciples.
- The Great Commandment is to love God and love people: we love everyone always! Next week, I’m talking about Loving Everyone Always.
Those two are always Our Big Deals. And then each year, we ask the Lord for a specific focus, a big deal for that year. And in week three, I’m going to tell you about Our Big Deal for 2017.
Today, we start with our first Big Deal:
The Big Idea: We are a Great Commission church: We help people find and follow Jesus!
Those seven words are our mission here at Life Center: we help people find and follow Jesus. Why do that? First, that is the way to Life with a capital L. Jesus didn’t come to make you more religious; he came to make you more alive. He said, “I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full.” That’s what we’ve found in Jesus and what we want others to find. Second, we want to help people find and follow Jesus because that is what He told us to do. The Great Commission is found in:
Matthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
This is a shocking statement! Jesus claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. All authority! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the Ultimate Authority. In a few days, we will inaugurate a new president; our president is commonly called the most powerful man on earth. When our president speaks, you pay attention. Jesus is bigger! He has all authority. Jesus is Lord! Now that He has our attention, here is what He wants us to do.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Jesus our Lord gives us our marching orders, our mission: make disciples. There are four verbs here: go, make disciples, baptize and teach (all in red). One is the main verb and is imperative in mood; it is a command. The other three are participles, verbal adjectives that explain the main verb. What is the main verb? Make disciples! This could be translated: “In all your going (wherever you go) make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.” Our mission is to make disciples. Said another way, we help people find and follow Jesus.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The One with all authority sends us to make disciples and reminds us that He will always be with us!
What is a disciple? The word disciple (mathetes in Greek) literally is a learner or follower. We want to help people learn from Jesus and follow Jesus. What does it look like to be a follower of Jesus? Years ago, we asked that question, searched the Scripture and came up with a long list of characteristics of a disciple. The list was overwhelming, but as we looked at it, it separated itself into four large characteristics.
- God: I have a growing love relationship with God.
- Me: my character is changing to become more like Jesus.
- We: my relationships with others are getting healthy.
- World: God sends me to serve
Would you like that to be true of you? When we say that we are trying to make disciples, that’s what we’re trying to make! Here’s how we do it.
Offering here. (Supported 2 new church plants)
- We help people find Jesus!
This is often called evangelism: helping people who don’t know Jesus find Him. Let’s picture it like this: (draw on white board)
Zero represents our starting point—we all start out far from God. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all start here—at 0—far from God. The Cross represents finding Jesus, becoming a Christian, being born again, being reconciled to God, being saved—there are many terms for it. And 100 represents a fully devoted, mature follower of Jesus: a “God, me, we, world” person. The process of helping someone move from 0 to the Cross is called evangelism.
Find Jesus Follow Jesus
We call it, “helping people find Jesus.” The process of helping someone move from the Cross to 100 is often called discipleship. We call it, “helping people follow Jesus.” But all of it is what it means to make disciples. It’s helping people both find and follow Jesus.
How do we help people find Jesus? We use a very simple relational process called Find, Tell, Bring. It comes from the Bible.
John 1:40–42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Later in John 1, Philip found his friend Nathanael and told him about Jesus. “We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” Philip said, and brought him to Jesus.
In John 4, Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well. She returned to her village, found her neighbors, told them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” And she brought them to Jesus.
Find, tell, bring. They found someone they loved: family, friends, neighbors. They told them what they knew about Jesus. They brought them to meet Jesus. Let’s break it down.
Find someone you love.
It all starts with a relationship. Andrew found his brother, Philip found his friend, the woman found her neighbors. They each found someone they loved, someone in their existing network of relationships. Why? We trust people we know.
ILL: It’s Saturday morning, and you’re home in your slippers, enjoying your coffee when the doorbell rings. You look outside: it’s two young men on bicycles in white shirts and ties. How do you feel?
Same scenario: it’s Saturday morning, the doorbell rings, you look outside. It’s your best friend. How do you feel?
When we know someone, love them and trust them, we are far more likely to believe them, to be willing to try something they recommend. This is why the gospel has always moved along relational lines. It moves from friend to friend, family member to family member, neighbor to neighbor.
It all starts with a relationship. It starts with friendship, with love. It starts by being a person others trust.
Some people call what we do “attractional ministry”—meaning we are trying to attract people to our church rather than going where they are. They contrast it with “missional ministry”—meaning you go to where people are to serve them. That is a misunderstanding and a false dichotomy. The opposite of attractional is not missional; the opposite of attractional is repulsive. We are on mission; we are finding people where they are, and loving them, building trust—where they are. So we are missional. What is attractional is our friendship, and the way we live. Consider this verse:
Titus 2:9–10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
Paul wants slaves to live in such a way that they can be fully trusted. This will make the gospel—the “teaching about God our Savior”—attractive. Live in such a way that you make the gospel attractive. Live in such a way that other people are attracted to you and want what you have! Was Jesus attractive? Yes! Crowds flocked to him; children loved him; sinners were attracted to him. It was mainly the religious who had trouble with Jesus. Jesus was attractive—are you? Be winsome—and you’ll win some!
The opposite of attractional is not missional; the opposite is repulsive. Some Christians are repulsive. They cause people to say, “If that’s a Christian, I don’t want to be one.” Don’t be repulsive! Be attractive. Be someone others can trust, someone they want to be like—for the sake of the gospel. That’s what Paul writes to Titus—don’t try to be attractive just so everyone will like you; do it so you make the gospel attractive. You are representing Jesus—represent Him well!
Love Lists here.
Build relationships of love and trust. Be attractive. Find someone you love, then…
Tell them what you know.
Andrew found Peter and told him what he knew about Jesus: “we have found the Messiah.” Philip found Nathanael and told him what he knew about Jesus: “we have found the Messiah.” The woman at the well found her neighbors and told them what she knew about Jesus: “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
They each told what they knew of Jesus, what they had experienced. Tell them what you know.
I understand why many people find this difficult. You don’t want to come across as pushy. You don’t want to offend people. Me either. So let me suggest a couple pretty natural ways to tell what you know.
First, tell your story. I’m always asking people to tell me their story, and I listen with genuine interest. I love hearing others’ stories. People are fascinating! I’ve discovered that when I listen to others’ stories, they almost always ask about mine. I can’t tell my story with talking about Jesus—he changed my story completely! Tell your story. In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, upsetting the religious leaders. They brought the blind man in for questioning. They wanted him to denounce Jesus. “Give the glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner.”
John 9:25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
“One thing I do know.” Here is something you know too: you know your story. You know how Jesus changed you. Here’s a great exercise. Write down: “I once was __________________, but now I ____________________.” Then make a list of the changes Jesus has made in your life. For example:
- I was far from God, but now I know Him.
- I was selfish, but now I live for others.
- I was a liar, but now I tell the truth.
- I was without purpose, but now I have a purpose.
I encourage all of you to write out a 1 minute and 3 minute version of your story. Tell how you found Jesus and how He has changed your life. People can argue ideas all day long, but they can’t argue with your story. Tell them what you know—your story.
Second, tell what you know about Jesus. Tell the Jesus story—we’re trying to help people follow Him. I tell about his birth, his life, his words, his miracles, his death and his resurrection. I tailor the story to the person I’m with, picking stories from the life of Jesus that I think will speak to them. I trust the Holy Spirit to help me. There is no one like Jesus. He is attractive; I think people will love Him. And He is the center of the gospel—the good news is about Jesus.
ILL: Last year, I was in LA for some denominational meetings, and took an Uber to the airport with my supervisor, Dave Veach. We asked our driver her story and she told us; then she asked what we do. We told her we were professional Christians. She talked about her negative church experiences, and not being religious. I told her that we weren’t religious either, but we love Jesus. I asked her what she knew about Jesus. Not much. So I told her a couple stories that I thought would pique her curiosity. Then I encouraged her to read the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Read the Jesus story and see what you think about Jesus. She told me she would.
Tell what you know. You know your story. You know the Jesus story. Tell what you know, then…
Bring them with you to church.
“Come and see!” Philip said it, so did the woman at the well. “Come and see,” and they brought them to Jesus. Jesus isn’t here in person, but He is here in His body, the church.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Jesus is here. And when you meet in your Rooted group, Jesus is there. And when you meet in your Life Group, Jesus is there. Be a bringer and includer. Invite people to come with you. “Come and see.” “I’ve told you my story, and the Jesus story, but come and see for yourself. Come and check it out.”
We say this all the time: Christianity is a team sport. We do it best together. This is why “Bring” is so important. If you help someone find Jesus and don’t connect them to the church, it’s like having a baby and abandoning her. What’s the first thing a baby needs? A family! When we believe in Jesus, we are born again—we start a whole new life. But we are spiritual babies, and we need a family to love us, care for us, teach us and help us grow. Christianity is a team sport. So include them on the team.
Just like I tailor the story of Jesus for the person I’m with, I tailor my invite too. Maybe Sunday service would be best—or maybe Life Group, or Rooted, or a men’s work day, or a women’s Bible study. You high schoolers—invite them to LC High School on Wednesday night. Or college age to Thursday night. Any time we get together, Jesus is there. Be a bringer and includer. Someone you love may be one invitation away from a changed eternity.
I found Jesus in the 8th grade, when a buddy named Don Lang knocked on my door and invited me to a youth rally at his church. I’d never been to his church, and didn’t want to go to his church; but he was my friend and I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I said yes. I went that night and was ambushed by Jesus. Surprised by joy! The speaker talked about Jesus like he knew him; he was funny, winsome, attractive. I wanted what he had. So that night, when I walked home, I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know anything about you. But I know I want what that guy has. So here’s my life.” And everything started changing.
What had my friend done? Find, tell, bring. And if an 13 year old boy can do it, so can you. Middle school: invite your friends to Sunday night LC Middle School.
This is how we help people find Jesus: find tell bring. That gets people to here (the Cross). How do we get them to here (100)?
- We help people follow Jesus!
Finding Jesus is just the beginning. Following Jesus—being a disciple, a learner—is a lifelong process. Remember, the word “disciple” literally means, “learner.” We are lifetime learners, learning from Jesus. And what are we learning? Back to the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We are learning to do what Jesus says. We are learning ideas or truth—doctrine or theology is important. But even more, we are learning to do it—to live the truth, to do what Jesus says.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Followers of Jesus, disciples of Jesus, don’t just know the truth, they do it. They are learning to obey, learning to do what Jesus says. Pastor Noel used to tell me that I’d be better off knowing one verse and doing it, than knowing them all and doing none. Following Jesus is about learning to do what He says.
Last year, focused on making our discipleship process simple and clear—just like find tell bring is—especially the front end of the process.
ILL: How many of you have ever heard the term “scope and sequence”? It is used in education to describe the shape of lifelong learning. For example, did you learn some American history in grade school? Did you take it again in middle school? And again in high school? And some of you in college? Each time you took it built upon the last, what you already knew, and added new depth and information. This is the idea of scope and sequence.
I picture it like this. (Draw an upward increasing spiral.) We are lifelong learners, always learning more about following Jesus. There’s more! And here’s where we start: 1-2-3. (Draw on board.) When someone is new to faith or new to Life Center, we tell them to start the discipleship process here.
Let’s unpack it.
Keep coming to church. Make it a habit. Jesus did.
Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
Jesus made a habit of being in the synagogue service on the Sabbath. Christians have followed His example and made a habit of being in church on Sunday.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
Make it a habit. Don’t give up the habit of meeting together. Why? Christianity is a team sport! We do it best together. Each Sunday, you make some time for God and for people.
- You learn more about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.
- You learn to worship: to focus your attention and affection on God.
- You learn the Scripture so that you can do it.
- You learn to be generous.
- You learn to pray.
- You learn from each other.
You learn—and that’s what being a disciple means—be a learner. Make it a habit to come every Sunday and learn.
ILL: When I said yes to Jesus that Saturday night when I was 13, the only thing I knew to do was go to church. So I did. I went every time the doors were opened. I went to Sunday school followed by church in the morning. Sunday evening I came back for youth group, then evening service, followed by afterglow at someone’s house! Wednesdays I came back for the potluck, youth group, and midweek service. Why would I go seven times a week? Because I wanted to learn! I was a sponge, soaking up Jesus, learning everything I could. And I grew like a weed.
Here’s the deal: You can be as close to Jesus as you want to be. You can learn as much as you want to learn. That’s on you. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. I can teach you terrific stuff, but I can’t make you learn. Our team can lead great worship, but we can’t make you worship. I can teach you how to read the Bible, but I can’t make you read it. You’ve got to be a learner! That’s on you. So start here: come every Sunday; make it a habit; and come to learn!
This year we started Rooted in order to give everyone a clear, simple next step in following Jesus. Rooted is a 10-week small group experience that will help you follow Jesus. You are given a workbook with short daily readings, and some reflection questions. This homework takes about 20-30 minutes a day, for 5 days each week. Then you meet with your Rooted group once a week for 10 weeks to discuss what you’ve learned. All the groups meet here at Life Center on Sunday afternoons or Tuesday evenings. Here’s what I love about it.
- It’s great content—you’ll learn more about Jesus and following him.
- It’s very relational—you’ll get close to your group members and make new friends.
- It’s experiential—you’ll learn to pray, serve, give and share by doing it.
We just finished our first all church Rooted session in December—over 400 people went through it and we got rave reviews. It’s very powerful. The top two comments we got:
- I was stuck spiritually and now I’m going again.
- I didn’t think I’d find community in this big church and now I have friends.
We run Rooted three times a year: fall, winter and spring. We’re about to fire up the winter groups, and we have spots still available. You can sign up by attending the Rooted meeting after service, or going online at lifecenter.net/Rooted. If you can’t do Rooted this winter, aim for the spring. I hope that every one of you will be able to do it sometime—the sooner the better. And many of you who have been around here for a while should be taking it so you can help facilitate it for others. And students and young adults—this is fabulous for you too.
Many of our Rooted groups decide to continue on as a Life Group—in fact ¾ of the Rooted groups from our last session are now Life Groups. Life Groups are small groups that meet together for spiritual growth, friendship and service. We are reconfiguring our Life Groups to run on a 10 week schedule, like Rooted, and are incorporating elements of the Rooted experience into them. We want our Life Groups to be more than social clubs—we want them to help you keep learning and growing and following Jesus. If you are not in a Life Group, the best way is to do Rooted first, and your group will probably become a Life Group.
Christianity is a team sport. We do it best together. If you come here alone and leave here alone and don’t really know anybody here, you are not learning or growing as well as you could if you were connected to others.
Obviously, that’s not the end. We are lifelong learners and there’s more. As you move up the spiral, (draw here)…
- You will get involved in service in the church or community.
- You may join a mentoring group and spend a year being mentored by someone further along.
- You may enroll in Northwest Leadership College. You can earn a fully accredited degree while doing an internship here at Life Center.
1-2-3 doesn’t mean you’re a finished disciple; it just means you’ve made a great start. Now keep learning and growing. You can be as close to Jesus as you want to be. You can learn as much as you want to learn. It’s on you.
There’s one last thing we do to make disciples.
- We plant churches that help people find and follow Jesus.
Since 1997, we have been planting churches, and we now have 16 daughter and granddaughter churches. 15 of those are in and around Spokane; one is in Russia. We also help other church plants get started. Today, I want to introduce you to the pastors of a new Calvary Chapel that is launching next Sunday downtown.
Interview Jared and Meggan Lee, church planters, Riverstone Chapel.
- Tell us about yourselves.
- What is your vision for this new church?
- How can we help you?