Go and Make Disciples…

Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a final charge: to make disciples of all nations. As recorded in the book of Acts, Jesus clarifies that this command has both local and global implications: while the church can and must cross international borders, we also must live out the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. The arrival of refugees into our communities presents a remarkable opportunity to live out the Great Commission.

That opportunity is not an accident: Scripture makes clear that God is sovereign over the moment of people towards an end: so that people whom He created and loves would find their way into relationship with Him. God has a sovereign purpose in the migration of people, and He invites His church to join Him in that work.

God is at work in multiple directions through the migration of refugees and other immigrants. On one hand, many of those who migrate are already strong believers, and they became powerful agents of mission, sharing the good news with those in their own ethnic communities and beyond.

Others, though, are not yet Christians. In fact, by one analysis, there are more unreached people groups present within the boundaries of the United States than in any other country besides India and China—and many of those individuals arrive as refugees. As we love, serve, and advocate with these refugees, we will often be asked what motivates us, and we can point people to the hope within us that comes from a transformative relationship with Jesus.

This opportunity underscores why it is so important to examine the realities of refugees and migration through a biblical lens. A recent survey from LifeWay Research suggests that most American evangelical Christians are missing this opportunity: only a minority said that the arrival of refugees or other immigrants presents “an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers few: there are many who do not yet know Jesus right within our communities, but too few of their neighbors ready to live out Jesus’ Great Commission locally.

Reflection Questions:

1. When you think about the arrival of refugees, have you seen an opportunity? Why or why not?

2. How could you extend welcome and kindness to refugees in such a way that might open opportunities to share your faith?

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Discipling and Disciplining

There is a strange dichotomy in the language of the contemporary church. Much is said and written about the important function of discipling new Christians, while at the same time the function of church discipline has almost vanished. Today, discipline is a word used to refer to the instruction and nurture of the believer. It does not usually carry the connotation of ecclesiastical censure or punishment.

In one sense, this modern version of discipling is linked to the New Testament model. The term disciple in the New Testament means “learner.” The disciples of Jesus were students who enrolled in Jesus’ peripatetic rabbinic school. They addressed Him as “Rabbi” or “Teacher.” To follow Jesus involved literally walking around behind Him as He instructed them (the word peripatetic comes from the Greek word peripateo, which means “to walk”).

The New Testament community was forbearing and patient with its members, embracing a love that covered a multitude of sins. But in the New Testament, church discipleship also involved discipline. Part of apostolic nurture was seen in rebuke and admonition. The church had various levels or degrees of such discipline, ranging from the mild rebuke to the ultimate step of excommunication.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Do you accept discipline as well as discipling from your local church body? Ask God to make you more receptive to His discipline.