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How We Grow as a Missional Church

*We’ve been going through the Missio Basics, a four-week preaching series aiming to reorient us around four gospel distinctives that fuel Missio Dei Peoria. These four “basics”--gather, go, grow and give--help to shape and define the way we live out our gospel identity here, near and far for the glory of God. You can read more about these four “basics" here.*  

A few weeks ago, we looked at several ways in which we grow in the gospel, abiding in Christ so that we are saturated with his power and presence in our lives. As new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we seek to become mature disciples who are sent out on God’s mission to make, mature and multiply disciples. What is a disciple? A follower of Jesus who is increasingly learning how to submit his or her life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. As we grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) we increasingly grow as disciples in our awareness of our need for Jesus in the everyday stuff of life. We learn to walk with Jesus and learn to be led by Jesus in every place and in every way.

Learning to submit all of our lives to Jesus doesn’t happen overnight. We believe that discipleship is on-going process of increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus.

All-of-life is the key! Learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—and training others to do the same—requires that we listen and obey God’s word in three essential environments: life on life, life in community and life on mission.

 

LIFE ON LIFE

Life on life discipleship means that we get up close and personal with others. People have access to our lives and are committed to speaking the good news of Jesus to us. We become vulnerable and real with others, providing the opportunity for God to grow us in his grace in and through the love, words and actions of his people—people who are committed to bringing our brokenness out into the open and reminding us of the gospel of Jesus that restores us.

Jesus lived life on life with his disciples. He knew them intimately. He observed what they believed and watched the way they lived their lives as they followed him. He knew their brokenness and witnessed all the wrong they said and did. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

If we desire to be a people who are learning to submit all of our lives to the power and presence of Jesus, we need to have people in our lives who get up close and personal with us. We need people to speak the gospel to us when they observe our faulty thinking and sinful behaviors. We need disciples in our lives who tell us when we’re not believing the truth about Jesus and what he has done to transform us.

Life on life discipleship means we have to be willing to be vulnerable with others, knowing full well that it will get messy, uncomfortable and difficult. But God is gracious. He will use this process to grow us in becoming devoted followers of Jesus in all of life.

 

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus we see that he discipled his followers as they lived life together in community. In fact, looking through the gospels, you could say that this was the primary way he discipled! As the disciples followed Jesus for three years, they did so together—learning, growing, even failing!—together.

The church is Jesus’ body. It is one body made up of many parts (Romans 12:4-6;  1 Cor. 12:12-31). Each of us has a role in equipping one another in building up the body of Christ, with a commitment to see one another develop into a mature disciple. In fact, discipleship that happens as we live life together in community will lead to disciples looking more like Jesus as he works through his body.

One of the things we believe about our true identity in Jesus is that we are God’s family. We are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another in Jesus. The life we now live as God’s family is not a burden; its a privilege. We share life together in community, centered on the gospel, showing the world what God is like in and through our lives together.

 

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus called his disciples to follow him on his mission to make other disciples. He taught his disciples how to make disciples as they lived on mission together, telling them that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). The disciples were witnesses to everything Jesus said and did. They walked with him, talked with him, learned from him. They saw Jesus demonstrate compassion and mercy, forgiveness and love. They saw him cast out demons and heal the lame and sick.

Jesus used the mission to shape and form his disciples. While on mission, the disciples’ own sinful hearts were exposed as Jesus challenged them to think correctly about God, the kingdom and themselves. The disciples learned quickly while on mission that they were selfish, prideful, angry, and ignorant. Yet, Jesus moved toward them in forgiveness and love, always training them in the true ways of God. After awhile, Jesus invited the disciples to share in the work he was doing. He sent them out on his mission together—preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. After their return, they reported to Jesus all that they had experienced (read Luke 9 and Luke 10). Still, the disciples had much more to learn. For three years, Jesus trained his disciples, nourishing their hearts, minds and hands to live their lives for God’s glory and God’s mission. Jesus trained his disciples for mission while they were on mission!

 

Our God is a missionary God, and we see his missionary heart all throughout the biblical story. God sent his own Son to earth to rescue and restore all of humanity and creation from the tragic affects of sin. Jesus came to be one of us, to live among us—to be with us!

Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection saying, "'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).

Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to empower his disciples to know his true word and to fulfill the mission of making disciples! And for those of us who belong to Jesus, we too, have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, teaching us all of God’s truth and empowering us to live out the gospel in all of life—life on life, life in community and life on mission.

Just as Jesus’ Father sent him, he now sends us. We are missionaries…literally, “sent ones.” We are disciples…learning to increasingly submit all of our lives to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. In Christ’s power, may we seek to live all of life for the glory of God!