SERMON TITLE: We are Disciples who Make Disciples
TEXT: various (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re continuing our vision series today. If you’re new to Gateway Church — Matt Heft — one of our elders — kicked off our vision series earlier this month by introducing our new church mission statement. About a year ago — I and the elders began a conversation about God’s vision for Gateway Church. And — this new vision — resulted in the elders taking a look at our mission statement and realizing that it was time for an update — as new vision requires a mission statement that uses complementary language. And — as you’ve heard — our mission is “to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ.”
And now we come to the part of this series that I’m repeating every week. And I’m repeating this because — for all of us — doesn’t matter if you’re new to Gateway Church— or if you’re a Christian or not — or if you’ve been part of Gateway Church for years — what I’m about to say will give you clarity as to the kind of church that Gateway Church is aspiring to be.
And it begins with this graphic. These four columns represent the key components that drive the life, ministry, and direction of a local church. The first component of a church is the pastor. The second component are its other key leaders. The third component of a church is its discipleship process. And the fourth component describes the kind of disciples we’re wanting to make here at Gateway Church.
I’m not going to recap the first three components this week — hopefully you’ve got them down from the previous sermons in this series — but let’s look at the fourth component — the column labeled “disciple.” In the past, we focused so much on what we want you to do to grow in your faith — our discipleship process — that we failed to clearly communicate to you who we’re wanting you to become as a disciple of Jesus. Meaning, “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus here at Gateway Church?” And this is what I and the elders want to make clear so we all move forward growing together as disciples of Jesus with a clear and unified vision of what we mean by the word “disciple.”
And our vision — our spiritual goal for every follower of Jesus here at Gateway — is that we’d be disciples...
1. Who are...Word and Spirit Christians.
2. Who are…generous.
3. Who are...family.
4. Who are…disciples who make disciples.
5. And who are Kingdom-minded.
And we’re devoting a sermon to each of these characteristics to give even greater clarity as to the kind of disciples of Jesus that we all should be aiming to become here at Gateway Church. And — today — we’re going to look at what it means to be disciples who make disciples.
Now — admittedly — some of this is going to remind you of Matt’s sermon when he introduced our new mission statement. But this is how important discipleship is for us as a church. Our mission statement is about making disciples of Jesus — “we exist to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ” — and our vision is that every believer in Jesus Christ would be a disciple who makes disciples. You see, making disciples isn’t Gateway Church — the organization’s — responsibility. It’s not the job of the church staff to make disciples. No — the responsibility to make disciples of Jesus is the responsibility of every disciple of Jesus — which includes you — if you believe in Jesus for your hope and salvation.
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH IS THE MISSION OF EVERY CHRISTIAN
I’ve shared my life mission statement with you before. And you’ll notice that it’s very similar to our new church mission statement — though they’re not exactly the same. My life mission statement is “to glorify God by making disciples who find their joy in Jesus.” My life mission statement is influenced by the Great Commission, which is found in a few places in the New Testament. In Matthew’s gospel we read…
Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In Mark’s gospel we read…
Mark 16:15 (ESV)
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
And in the book of Acts we read…
Acts 1:8 (ESV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Here we find our mission, our purpose, the reason why we exist — individually, as Christians — and as a church. We exist to go and make disciples — to go and proclaim the gospel — to be witnesses who tell others the news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the eternal hope that’s found only in this news.
So that’s the influence of the middle section of my mission statement and — obviously — is an influence on our new church mission statement — and — is an influence for this specific characteristic of the vision we have for all disciples of Jesus who are part of this church family: that we’d be disciples who make disciples.
My life mission statement — and Gateway’s new mission statement — also share in common the idea of “glorifying God.” Matt explained this in his sermon by reminding us of the Exodus story in the Old Testament and connecting it to what Paul wrote to Christians living in Corinth in the New Testament. Where all that we do is to be done for the glory of God.
When I was writing my life mission statement, I was also thinking of the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question — which Matt also referenced. The question asks “What is man’s primary purpose?” Meaning, why are we here — why are you here? The answer: Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Or — as pastor John Piper has said — “to glorify God by enjoying him forever.” So — with a bit of tweaking — I came up with “I exist to glorify God by making disciples who find their joy in Jesus.” And it’s not too surprising that — when I went around asking folks about what they saw as my vision for Gateway Church — that we ended up landing on a vision that includes discipleship as a key characteristic.
A local pastor in town calls me the Bible guy — the disciple making pastor in Findlay. And I gladly accept that reputation. And my hope is that you all will gladly accept the reputation — and responsibility — of being disciple-makers along with me. For — it’s not just me — or a few of us here at Gateway Church— but all of us are called to be disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ.
You see, all of us have the responsibility to pass on the baton of faith to the next generation. All of us are responsible for raising up the next generation of Christians, pastors, missionaries, and church leaders. All of us are responsible for leaving the Christian faith stronger — and in better hands — as our time on earth comes to an end. The mission of the church is the mission of every Christian. And Gateway Church exists to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ — which means you exist to “glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ.” That’s why our vision is for every follower of Jesus here at Gateway to be a disciple who makes disciples.
YET EACH MEMBER OF THE CHURCH HAS A UNIQUE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Yet — and I know this is obvious — in the church there are a variety of roles and responsibilities. So we must each recognize what our individual role and responsibilities are so that — together — we’re helping Gateway Church accomplish her mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. So let’s remind ourselves of some of the roles and responsibilities within our disciple-making family. I promoted this booklet a few weeks ago — but our Church Leadership booklet is a great resource for you to gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities that I’m about to mention. You can get a copy at your campus Resource Center.
First, there are the elders who collectively represent the mind of Christ for this church. Together the elders seek Christ’s vision for what we’re to be doing — that’s how this whole series came about — the elders sought Christ’s vision for Gateway Church together. And the main responsibility of the elders is to spiritually protect and shepherd you — the congregation. Elders spiritually protect the church.
Then there’s the staff. The staff’s role is to equip, train, and resource the members of the church to do the work of ministry. The staff’s primary role is not to do the ministry work, but to equip the church members — making sure church members have what they need to do the ministry work of the church.
Then there are our deacons. Deacons are our lead servants. They assist the staff and elders to make sure the ministry work that the staff has equipped the congregation to do gets done. The deacons are key in both freeing up the elders to focus on their role of shepherding and protecting, while also freeing up the staff so they’re able to equip, train, and resource the church members to do the ministry work of the church.
Now — together — the elders, staff, and deacons make up a small percentage of the congregation. Leaving the vast majority of our congregation called to the most influential role — with the highest responsibility — in the church. What role am I talking about? That of church member. Our church members — which includes many of you — are our key “doers of ministry.” Your role is to do the work of ministry — including the ministry of making disciples.
Listen to how Paul stresses the importance of every individual member of a local church. He compares the local church — which he calls the body of Christ — to a human body when he writes...
1 Corinthians 12:12–27 (NLT)
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
He’s saying that — just like our human bodies have many different parts to them — the local church has many different parts to it. And the “parts” that make up a local church are its individual Christians — meaning — you! And — Paul says — as a church we need all of you — all of us — doing our role and fulfilling our responsibilities. And — when we do so — we’ll experience a harmony among us that results in a deepening of our care and honor and joy for — and because of — each other.
Paul writes something similar to the church in Ephesus when he writes…
Ephesians 4:11–16 (NLT)
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
No member and no role is more or less important than the others — all members and roles in the church are important — we just have different responsibilities because of our roles. Some of us are to spiritually protect and shepherd — the elders. Others are called to equip and train — the staff. Others are lead servants — our deacons. And the vast majority of us are called to do the work of ministry — our members. Every individual matters — including you — because every individual is critical to our mission being accomplished. And — since our mission is to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ — being disciples who make disciples is all of our responsibility because making disciples is the primary ministry of the church.
Now — an implication of this — that we’re all to be disciples who make disciples — is that we must first be a disciple of Jesus ourselves and — second — we must be a disciple who — though not perfect — is worthy of someone else’s imitation. For this is ultimately what making disciples is about. As one author has said, “The making of a disciple means the creating of a duplicate.” (Juan Carlos Ortiz)
And I know the pressure you may feel from a statement like that.
There’s a part of the backstory — of this new vision and mission — that I haven’t shared with you. At one point in the process I said, “I think this is all a bit too dependent on me. I think who I am is having too much influence on the vision and mission of Gateway.” And one elder — who I won’t name — quoted me this verse.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)
1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
And the elder said to me something along the lines of, “If Paul said this to Christians don’t be a coward and not say it to us.” I needed to hear that. Being a coward — at least with something like this — is an easy choice for me — because that’s a seriously high and holy responsibility, right? To say to you all, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” is a seriously high and holy responsibility. But that’s what making disciples is: a seriously high and holy calling. Not an impossible calling. Not something to be afraid of. But something we’re all called to as we recognize the sacredness of our mission. For it’s not just me — but all who follow Jesus are to be disciples who make disciples. Who say to others, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” For that’s what discipleship is. The difference between you and me is the quantity that we’re responsible for. I’ve been entrusted with all of you. You may be entrusted with a Life Group — however many folks that equals. Others of us may be entrusted with one person — but God has called all of us to make disciples of Jesus and that comes with a high and holy responsibility no matter how many disciples we’re responsible for.
WHERE WILL YOU MAKE DISCIPLES?
So let’s talk about where you might make disciples. I find it quite common for a disciple of Jesus to not know where to begin to make disciples of Jesus. So I’m going to offer some options for where you can be a disciple who makes disciples.
First, let’s start close to home. Literally. Your family. Now I know that not all of us are married — and not all of us have children in our homes if we are married — so if this is you — just hold on for a minute and I’ll give you some ideas of where to make disciples. But I don’t want us to neglect a primary place for many of us to make disciples — in our homes. In another booklet I’ve written — How Do I Grow? — there’s a section on ways to grow spiritually together as a family. There’s also a list of resources you may want to check out in the last chapter — resources for individuals and families.
Here are some suggestions I make in the booklet for families.
Read the Bible together as a family. Find a time to gather together as a family and read from the Bible. If your kids are younger, find an age appropriate Bible or app. If your kids are a bit older, maybe read a chapter a day from an easy to understand translation — like the New Living Translation. When you have teens, have them read the Bible and then discuss what they’ve read.
Many people have grown up not knowing the Bible. If that’s you, you may feel like you’re behind because it is so unfamiliar to you. Don’t pass that unfamiliarity on to your children. Read to them. Choose a gospel, like Mark, and begin there. If you read the Bible regularly as a family, your kids will grow up having heard and read God’s Word.
Prayer. Pray together as a family. When my kids were younger they each had a night to pray before dinner. We started this routine to keep the bickering down about who would get to pray, but it also helped to encourage our quieter child to participate. If your child isn’t sure how to pray, model for them. Have them repeat after you and always be sure to encourage them for doing a great job.
If you’re married, make it a habit to pray together at some point other than before a meal. My wife and I have been praying together — just before bed — for years now. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out — we usually thank God for one blessing from the day. Whatever your routine, just make sure that you’re praying together.
Reading. Reading good Christians books can help your family grow spiritually. There are a ton of great children’s books for all ages and good literature for couples as well. When my kids were younger we were usually reading some sort of faith based book series together. We’d take it slow and make it through a couple of books each year.
Watching. Our kids grow up in a visual world. One way to redeem their screen time is to have them watch programs that will help them grow in their faith. There are many programs on missionaries, books of the Bible, and other faith based material that can be used as a resource to help you disciple your children. RightNow Media is a great resource to find good programs.
Conversations. Kids love to talk about what they’re learning. Look for opportunities to ask your kids questions about faith and life. Be intentional about having meaningful faith conversations with your kids while driving in the car, playing at the park, or doing chores around the house. Your kids will remember these conversations.
Finally, I know that not every family has a father who is present. Our world is broken and the family has experienced the brunt of the effects of sin. But if you’re a father, you have a biblical responsibility to “raise your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So lead your family. You’re their shepherd — and your wife and children are the souls God has placed under your care. Don’t neglect this responsibility — and joy — that Jesus has entrusted to you.
Ok. Now let’s make the net big and wide — here are some discipleship opportunities for all of us who are disciples of Jesus here at Gateway.
Serve in our next generation ministries. This would include nursery through high school students. Obviously, things look different when you’re working with two year olds than with seniors in high school — one of them is much more mature than the other — I’ll let you decide which group is the more mature one. But — seriously — there are kids of all ages who are eager to be discipled by you. We’ve got a fantastic gospel-centered curriculum to guide you. And our next gen staff does a great job of training and equipping you. There are so many different opportunities in our next gen ministry for you to be a disciple who makes disciples. Becca — here at our County Road 9 Campus — and Morgan — at our North Main Campus — would love to talk to you about how you can be a disciple who makes disciples among the next generation.
Serve with our college ministry partners. We partner with ministries at both the University of Findlay and at BGSU. And there are a variety of ways you can come alongside these ministries to be a disciple who makes disciples. If working with college students interests you, contact Luke on staff and he’ll help find the best way for you to be a disciple who makes disciples with our college ministry partners.
Be a Life Group leader. Our Life Group staff is always looking for new folks to step up and lead one of our small groups. And this is a great opportunity for some of us to step into being a disciple who makes disciples. Now — if you’re not already in a group — your first step is to join one. We want our Life Group leaders to be folks who already know the culture of our Life Group ministry. But — if you’re currently in a group — and have been for some time — maybe now’s the time for you to step out and lead a group of your own as a disciple who makes disciples here at Gateway Church. Contact Joe — our Life Group Director on staff — for more information.
Those are some opportunities for you to be a disciple who makes disciples here at Gateway Church . But I want you to know of some dreams we have about what it could mean for us to be a church who makes disciples. Some of these dreams will become reality soon — others are still just ideas. I’m going to share two of them. So let’s dream together.
A pastoral residency. Pastors no longer grow on trees — not that they ever did — but churches acted as if pastors did. Earlier this month I was at a meeting where I heard that half of the pastors in our denomination are going to retire in the next 3-5 years. That’s about 300 pastors and we don’t have 300 pastors waiting on the bench to be called into the game. Now — we — Gateway Church — can’t solve a pastoral shortfall of that amount — but we can do something. And — though we don’t know exactly when this will begin — we dream of starting a pastoral residency. Where we come alongside the next generation of pastors as they go through seminary — an important aspect of training to become a pastor — while also giving them real life ministry experience. And we hope hosting a pastoral residency will help us be a church that makes disciples by raising up the next generation of future pastors.
A church internship. We also know that it’s not just pastors who don’t grow on trees — neither do worship leaders, youth directors, life group coaches — insert other church staff positions here — and we want to make sure we’re raising up future church staff members to come alongside these future pastors we hope to raise up. So we’re launching a church internship this summer. If you’re a college student who’s interested, be sure to stop by the Resource Center for more information. Did I mention it’s a paid internship?
But here’s a discipleship opportunity for all of us non-college student folks. We want this internship to have a family feel to it. So we’re looking for some couples to step up and say “we’ll invest in an intern.” We need some couples who will step into the responsibility and opportunity to disciple our interns. We’ll need others to be host families for our interns. Our church staff will take care of the bulk of the internship experience, but we want this internship to be more than just learning from staff — we want our interns to be discipled by you all — the congregation. If this interests you — stop by the Resource Center and they’ll pass your name on to us.
A church of disciples who make disciples — that’s our vision for us as a church — that’s our vision for you as a disciple of Jesus Christ. For being a disciple who makes disciples is something we’re all called to — and commanded to be — both individually and collectively. Jesus’ last words gave us our purpose, our call, our reason why we exist when he said, “Go and make disciples.” And he did so just after reminding us that “all authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him and just before he promised that he “is always with us.” And since Jesus is with us — and because he has all authority in heaven and on earth — let’s rise up to the calling he’s given to us — to be disciples who make disciples. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, first, we thank you for the men and women in our lives who discipled us. These are folks you used for our benefit and good. Thank you for your providential care — in caring so much about us that you sent other Christians into our lives to help us grow in our faith.
Spirit of God, you’ve given every believer gifts that are needed by others to grow in their faith. And you’ve called every Christian to fulfill a role in your church — a role that comes with a specific responsibility so that we — Gateway Church — grows up into our full potential. Help us to humbly accept our role and responsibility and step into our calling for your glory and the good of our fellow Christians. And Holy Spirit — speak clearly and specifically to anyone desiring to take their next step as a disciple who makes disciples. For some, that will be serving in our next generation ministry. For others, it may be connecting with one of our college ministry partners or serving as a Life Group leader or something else you have for them. Speak clearly and give them the courage to step into your call as a disciple who makes disciples.
And — Jesus — you’ve given us our purpose — our reason why we exist — our calling in life as individuals and as a church. You’ve told us to go and make disciples. To bring someone alongside us to whom we say, “You wanna know what it means to faithfully follow Jesus? Imitate me, as I imitate him.” What a daring purpose you’ve given us. What an awesome reason to exist. What an exhilarating vision when we think of what you’ve called us to do. Help us, we pray, to obey your command — to fulfill your vision for us — to be your disciples who make disciples. And we pray this in your name. Amen.
May you go committed to being a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.