As many know, Peter was the founder of the Christian church, from whence every other church from that day to this has sprung. Knowing what he would do, Jesus took a moment near the end of his time in the flesh, to relay a very important lesson to Peter, a lesson so many churches seem to be missing these days.
John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Prior to this lesson, Jesus spent nearly three years training Peter and the other disciples to not only go out into the world and share the good news, but he modeled how to train those who received it. If you take a sampling of the churches around you, no matter where you live, it seems most fall into one of two camps: Share the gospel or raise up disciples.
If you look at a quick snapshot of Jesus’ time in public ministry, you can see he did both with an equal passion. He didn’t merely share the gospel with Peter and the other disciples, then turn them loose on the world to spread the message. Why not? Because he knew it wouldn’t work. Their mental and spiritual soil wasn’t ready. The world would simply snatch away what he put in their hearts. Read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.
Think of someone you know who has taken the gospel and turned it into a hundred times the initial blessing. That person had good soil, soil that was tended and nurtured by a gardener, so to speak. A mentor, a parent, a teacher, a shepherd, someone who helped them learn the teachings of Christ.
Now read the explanation of the sower’s parable: Matthew 13:18-23
How many of us live on rocky soil, or more likely, in the thorns? The world is overflowing with people who know about church, know about God, know about heaven, yet choose their earthly gods instead. The numbers just where we live are staggering. Some 87% choose to avoid church and pursue the world, even though we live in an area where the knowledge of church is a secret to less than 5%.
We worship our homes, our cars, our hobbies, our stuff… no wonder so many churches don’t want to teach discipling, because it’s hard to compete with all that and still grow your numbers. On the flipside, it’s easy to see why so many churches only focus on discipling at the expense of finding the lost sheep. The fear of what the world offers makes many focus too much on combating it in the hearts of those already in the church. The result seems to fall into two categories:
A church body of less than two hundred people whose faith is a mile wide and growing.
A church with faith an inch deep among a body of more than two hundred and growing.
Do you see the conundrum? Grow the numbers or grow their faith. I’ve heard from many, many people on church staffs across the country who are convinced you either can’t do both, or doing both is unnecessary and irrelevant.
Yet, Jesus did both, thought both were necessary and proved by his actions in a time when He was so unpopular he was put to death that both were extremely relevant to the world in which He lived.
It always boggles my mind how the viewpoint of evangelizing only could make sense to anyone. If all Jesus wanted us to do was go out and share the gospel, the bible would only need to be one page thick.
Read Matthew 28:16-20, otherwise known as the Great Commission
Many say that’s simply a command to spread the gospel everywhere. But, if you read verse 20, you’ll see it’s so much more. “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus commanded the disciples to do a whole lot more than spread the gospel. He taught them to follow his commands, to listen to his teaching, to learn how to be more like him.
Jesus knew we humans were too messed up with sin, too distracted with the world, too rooted in our rocky, thorn-ridden soil to simply just wake up one day and go out and share the gospel.
He knew his disciples had to be trained first, or else the mission (and Great Commission) would fail.
Think about the many possible careers these days. Could an average eighteen year old wake up one day and just go operate on people’s hearts successfully at the Mayo Clinic? Could a normal nineteen year old just walk into Apple and start writing code for the next iGadget? Could one simply decide to be the lead animator at Pixar one morning and make that happen with a simple spoken message?
It takes training, study and years of teaching to be able to do anything with great success and consistency.
Jesus knew this. He knew we needed to be prepared first, then sent out to evangelize. He knew one was irrelevant without the other.
Why don’t we?
Let’s return to Peter and see what he learned:
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
Please let this post greet you with love, and prompt your responses below with the same.