The following are sermon notes from Go Make Disciples. The First Few. This is a topical study on the subject of Discipleship by looking at the four Gospels and the book of Acts. To read more about this series, including the introduction, resources and listen to audio content click here.
When you think about it, Christianity’s growth and size is amazing. Considering that Jesus began by intentionally and specifically seeking out 12 individuals who He would pour into, teach and love concertedly over roughly three years. What was 13 dudes walking around the dusty trails in Israel is now 2.2 billion people world-wide.
Often when Churches want to learn and teach about the beginning of the church they go back to the book of Acts. While this may be theologically accurate (the inception of the church happened in the book of Acts), but it is practically incorrect. You see, the church in the book of Acts is the sum of Jesus’ ministry recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If we truly want to understand the beginning of the church we must go back what Jesus started. The church began first as a discipleship movement.
Differing Philosophies of the Church
As we look at the origins of Christianity and by extension the church we need to deal with a few of the philosophies of the church. We can summarize the three most prominent in the following terms:
- The Church is like a Hospital
- The Church is like a Tent
- The Church is like a Military
Each of the differing philosophies (as with all philosophies) have strengths and weaknesses and the next is not better than the last. Some churches can employ an extent of each one as well. You can some churches that function like a military and a hospital and so on and so forth.
The Church is like a Hospital
Borrowing from passages like Mark 2:17 these churches do incredible work with the hurt and broken. Much of what they do is mercy-ministry focused. Their theology then tends to lean towards justice and mercy. You will often see these churches actively involved in matters of social justice.
The Church is like a Tent
Beginning with the idea that the church is a place for people to dwell as a community this philosophy gathers people and builds them into a community. You will often see this philosophy in the vision or mission statements of various churches (they will often start with phrases like, “we invite” or include “community”). These churches tend to focus on community driven style events and their theology is often intentionally not outright defined (so as to make sure the door is open wide for as many people to come into the community as possible). Let me be clear though, this is not to say their theology is weak, for this is not true at all.
The Church is like a Military
Mission. This philosophy is so focused on mission that it runs almost like a military machine. They tend to have streamlined ministries that only help aid in the advancement of the mission. From the outside these churches even seem somewhat abrasive since they are so wholly focused on their mission. Their theology tends to be exceedingly precise and members are often called to hold to specific theological convictions that mirror that of the church’s theology and mission.
Again, it’s important to understand that each of these philosophies are important contributions to the body of believers and the growth of God’s church. There is not a better one, they are simply different and will often attract different people. Yet in the varying philosophies of the church there is one primary goal given to all Biblical churches: make disciples.
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18 ESV).
Put yourself in these two men’s shoes for a second and hear what Jesus is telling them. “Follow after me and I will make you fishers of men”. Strange to say the least! Their response is even more confounding! They leave their nets and follow Jesus. The nets represent more than just a means to catch fish, they represent a career, financial security, comfort, well-being and so much more. They leave all that behind to follow Jesus! Jesus gives them two simple commands that will shape the rest of these two men’s lives 1) Follow me and 2) Fish.
You discipleship can be boiled down into to basic aspects following and fishing.
Follow: Do what Jesus did (Matthew 9:9)
Fish: Go make disciples as Jesus did (Matthew 29:10)
If you are a follower of Jesus then you are a fisher of men. There are no followers that don’t fish.