Over the last few weeks I have been considering what it means to make disciples of all the nations. In in the 4 Gospel writings and in Acts we have a statement from Jesus about making disciples. Each of the statements have their own twist, and each of them highlight a different part of our mandate to be disciple makers. What has become more and more glaring to me is how we approach and understand this task as the church.
First our understanding of the nations has to be in place if we are going to be able to make disciples of them. It is important to know that as we engage in the act of making disciples where we are, we are in fact discipling the nations. Where we live is a part of the nations. The biblical understanding of the nations are all the peoples of the earth. So when we make disciples of the folks who live around us we are partaking of the commissioning that Jesus gave before he ascending to the Father.
Although we should always be moving toward unreached peoples, reaching the nations is not simply about the global vs local debate that runs through many church bodies (that debate has always seemed fruitless and nonsensical to me). Reaching the nations is about making disciples out of the natural flow of our life. As we go from place to place, we make disciples and as we do so we accomplish what Jesus commanded of us.
Some folks may never leave their hometown while others sense a longing for the uttermost parts of the earth. In either case as they engage in the act of disciple making you are being obedient.
There is an incredible story as the Gospel moved out from Jerusalem to the other nations. It was revealed to Peter that nothing should be unclean, an in an amazing vision from God of all the things considered unclean for Jewish people being lowered on a sheet toward Peter. The Lord spoke and said call nothing I have made unclean. Upon this happening Peter knew that he and many others were going to have to break down many of their cultural barriers to accomplish their task. Then we read this:
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that Godshows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel,preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginningfrom Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sinsthrough his name.” (Acts 10:34-43, ESV)
The beautiful part of this story is that the freedom and liberty and power of the Gospel began to move into the nations and the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ command. The beautiful thing for us is that we are partaking in the same opportunity today that the early church did then. We can bring liberty to the captives, and light into the darkness.
We get to live in the world and make disciples of the nations, we get to teach them all that Christ has commanded, and then we get to baptize them into the family. This is not simply an activity for a few educated folks, this is an activity for all who would call themselves a Christ follower. We are heralds of this message, we are proclaiming the kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven and the gates of hell will not prevail. All oppression will cease, and the darkness will fade in the glorious light of Jesus Christ.