The following post is the transcription of something I shared with our church family on August 31; as such, it is the compilation of my thoughts on missions and discipleship, as well as specific vision for our church family (last paragraph).
The outcome of missions is discipleship and the outcome of discipleship is missions. What does that mean? In Matthew 28:19, Jesus’ command is to make disciples of all nations:
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.
He doesn’t merely say to share the gospel, make converts or improve people’s lives, but to make disciples. The goal of missions is to proclaim Christ and as people respond to the gospel, to lead them to grow to maturity in Christ, sharing Jesus and walking with them as they become more and more like Jesus.
How is missions the outcome of discipleship? Jesus’ purpose for His disciples was to see them mobilized to be witnesses of Him. He invested in them, challenged them, and equipped them to lead the church and extend the message of the gospel. He discipled them so that they would in turn reproduce more Christlike disciples that would make more disciples.
Discipleship involves coming to Jesus, seeing Him, staying with Him, and being changed by Him (John 1:35-51). As God is shaping us to be more like Jesus, we will join in His mission: we will serve and we will share. That may not necessarily mean that we will become a cross-cultural missionary, but that wherever we are, we are looking to reproduce new followers of Jesus and help current believers to follow Jesus more closely. In fact a great test for our spiritual maturity is not how much we know about Christ, but how committed we are to His priorities ahead of our own.
As we look to missions for this next year through the lens of discipleship, serving in missions is an outcome of growth and service at home. The missions committee will be unveiling opportunities for partnership with our missionaries over the next few months; of course, one significant avenue of partnership is sending a mission team. However, it would have been ludicrous for Jesus to have sent out His disciples immediately after calling them in John 1; in the same way, our focus for developing mission teams is based on developing disciples. After all, if the outcome of missions is discipleship, then maturing disciples should be the ones joining in the mission.