The view from the mountaintop is breathtaking. The sun is shining, the birds chirping. You are with your closest companions, people who were once strangers (and let’s be honest, enemies at times), and you’re debriefing after several years of work together.
Everyone is exhausted, but in that deeply satisfying way when you are certain that what you have done has changed the lives of others for the better.
Thousands have received care for their diseases and ailments. Tens of thousands have been given food. Not only have families been restored as a result of your work, but whole communities as well. And not to brag, but you and your companions have a sort of celebrity status wherever you go. People practically beg just to touch you.
Exhilarated from all you’ve seen and accomplished together, you eagerly lean forward to receive your next assignment from your fearless leader.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he begins.
This is so awesome! I love where this is going, let’s do this! “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” Wait, what?
“. . . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”
This is not what I was expecting . . .
“ . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Can’t you do that yourself?
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” . . . WHAT?
All right. You got me. You’ve probably figured out that the characters in this scene are actually the disciples and that their next assignment is the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Maybe it didn’t happen quite that way, but can’t you picture it?
Over the course of their few years together, Jesus’ closest companions had witnessed countless unbelievable events: men and women healed from lifelong ailments with just a word or a touch, demons cast out, the multitudes fed with the meager offering of a little boy, the dead raised to life, just to name a handful.
And then Jesus himself came back to life. What couldn’t he do?
His disciples witnessed the Son of God radically cross sociocultural boundaries in his intentional life- giving interactions with others— non- Jews, women, rich and poor alike, the sinful and the outcast. As Jesus preached about the eagerly awaited fulfillment of God’s promise to establish and advance his kingdom to the ends of the earth, surely they pictured him continuing to do all over the world what he’d been doing in the land of Israel.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” with that strongly implied you before go.
Now I’m not about to tell the Son of God what to d o— but if I were God, with all the power in the universe, wouldn’t that last part (about advancing the kingdom to the ends of the earth) be much easier if I just . . . did it myself ? Wouldn’t that be a much more efficient way to go about it? Why entrust to fallible men and women the weighty task of proclaiming eternal salvation to all the peoples of the world?
Before Christians Were a “Thing”
Do you ever think about how Jesus called his disciples to follow him before Christians were even a “thing”?
When they met Jesus, these men had knowledge that any average Jew would have. They knew that all nations would be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12). They knew that God’s kingdom would be an “everlasting kingdom” and would be established forever (Psalm 145:13). They knew that God would send a savior to rescue his people from oppression (Isaiah 19:20). And they knew that God’s salvation would “reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6), among other countless promises from the Hebrew Bible, known to us as the Old Testament.
For centuries, God’s people were left waiting for the fulfillment of his promises. Yet in spite of this knowledge, they didn’t really understand what they were waiting for. They expected a Messiah, but they couldn’t even begin to fathom who he would be.
I often take for granted the knowledge readily available to me in the complete Word of God, as well as the many insights and revelations from followers of Jesus who dedicated their lives to studying the Scriptures. Throw in technological advancements and the ability to perform a quick Google search, and our knowledge and understanding of the basic tenets of Christianity are far more extensive than the early followers of Jesus could have ever dreamed of.
When Jesus first called the disciples to leave their livelihoods and their way of life to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22), they had no sense of the big picture. No idea of the fullness of who Jesus was as God’s own Son. No concept of what exactly Jesus had to do with God’s plan of s alvation— and for some of the disciples, whether he had anything to do with it at all. And no idea what they would be following Jesus into for the next few years, or for the rest of their lives.
Can you imagine leaving your career, your family, and the familiarity of your everyday life to follow someone into the utterly unknown? And yet they did, I think because deep down, a part of them recognized the call of their creator.
Either that, or Jesus at least piqued their curiosity enough for the disciples to say, “Sure, let’s see where this leads.”
And so began Jesus’ disciplemaking relationship with his disciples.
Think of it like the Avengers, a ragtag team of superheroes. My husband and I are huge fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its collection of superhero films with plenty of action, compelling storytelling, and a knack for juicy superhero crossovers. One of our all- time favorite Marvel movies is The Avengers, the origin story of how these superhero strangers join together to save the world under the leadership of former spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury.
Yet as entertaining as all the action in that movie is, what I find more compelling—and what draws us into the story—are the relationships that form among the major characters. The movie isn’t really about the action; it’s about the transformation of each superhero and how these random strangers become a team.
In a way, I wonder if the point of Jesus’ ministry here on earth wasn’t so much about all the miracles, the run-ins with the Pharisees, and the people who gathered to listen to him, but about the intimate, life-transforming relationships he had with twelve ragtag men who became his disciples, and the intentional way he taught them to follow him. In a word, his disciplemaking. Perhaps the more compelling focal point of Jesus’ ministry is the disciples’ developmental arc as they walked with Jesus— from not knowing what they were waiting for, to following Jesus, to learning about living a life of faith, to becoming like him, to finally being entrusted with the task of advancing God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Taken from How to Save the World: Disciplemaking Made Simple by Alice Matagora. Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
God wants to use you right where you are.
Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” can feel complicated and overwhelming. Do you wonder where to start, what it looks like, and how to fit this making-disciples thing into your busy schedule? You’re not alone.
Drawing on cutting-edge research from The Navigators and Barna Group, Alice Matagora invites you to enter Jesus’ plan to save the world wherever you are. She understands your anxieties (because she’s experienced them) and helps you to break down barriers, pointing you to the joy of engaged discipleship: knowing Christ, making him known, and helping others do the same.
Her book includes plenty of support to equip you right where you are today!
- Scripture woven throughout to encourage you
- fascinating data based on Barna’s disciplemaking research
- questions for deeper reflection at the end of each chapter
- seven relatable case studies of “everyday disciplemakers”
No matter who you are, what you do, or where you are in your disciplemaking journey, How to Save the World will help you find joy and confidence as you discover practical ways to share your faith as you join God in saving the world right where you live.