The Truth of God Must be Applied to the Heart

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” As disciples of Jesus, we are simultaneously sent to live on mission. Living on mission is part of what it means to be a disciple. Biblically, there is no such thing as a disciple who does not live on mission. As Christ was sent for us, we have been sent to the world around us.

As church leaders consider “discipleship” and “mission,” they must not view these as divorced from one another, as if “we disciple people” and then later “challenge them to live on mission.” We don’t graduate from discipleship and move on to mission. Both are always essential and deeply connected. We must challenge people and teach people to live on mission as we disciple them. And we must continually disciple them as they live on mission.

Discipleship is neither information nor behavioral modification but is ultimately transformation. In the book Transformational Discipleship, we unpack a framework for transformation based on research. God is not bound by any framework, but He often transforms His people as:

  • Godly leaders apply
  • the truth to hearts
  • while people are in a teachable posture

As the image illustrates, the convergence of godly leaders, the truth of God, and a teachable posture results in our hearts being more and more conformed to His image.

An encouragement about mission and discipleship:

In the research behind Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that an “outward focus” puts people in a teachable posture. A church that is serious about discipleship provides mission opportunities for their people, not just for the benefit of those who will be served but also for those who are serving. Mission opportunities, in reality, are simultaneously discipleship opportunities:

  • A mission opportunity makes someone eager for preparation. The church member who finally shares his faith at work and is asked questions he cannot yet answer has a new motivation to learn some of the lessons he has heard for years.
  • A ministry assignment puts people in a position of being wholly overwhelmed, where they know they need Him and His power. A sense of mission drives us to prayer and dependence on Him.
  • A mission assignment has the potential to rock and change one’s perspective of the world, people, and the need for the gospel to advance more rapidly.

As you seek to develop doers and not merely hearers, mission opportunities put the people you serve in a teachable posture. God will use mission to transform the people you serve.

A caution about mission and discipleship:

Without the truth of God applied to our hearts, a teachable posture will not result in transformation. In other words, the truth of God must be applied to the heart in the midst of mission. If we don’t apply the truth of the gospel, mission engagement can degenerate into attempts to earn God’s favor or alleviate guilt.

We live in an altruistic society where people are encouraged to do good, to engage in humanitarian work, and to serve our society. People want a mission. And people want a law—a list of things they can check off to feel justified and approved before God. We must be careful not to make mission a new law.

Church leaders must constantly remind people of the why of mission in the midst of mission, that we serve a missionary God who came here to rescue us, that we live as sent believers because Jesus was sent here for us. Mission must not be our justification but our response to our justification.

We must remind the people we serve to rejoice more in what Christ has done for us than what Christ does through us. If awe for what He does through us surpasses awe for what He has done for us, mission is our idol instead of our response.

Jesus gives us this example. When the disciples came back to Him filled with excitement over the result of the mission assignment Jesus had given them, Jesus cautioned them to rejoice in their forgiveness rather than their influence.

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Discipleship and mission are deeply interwoven. As we disciple people, we must help them understand that mission is part of their discipleship. And we must constantly remind people of the grace of God as they serve Him.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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