It takes no real talent to take the simple and make it sound complex. Now taking something complex and making it simple enough for even a child to understand is a fine art practiced by way too few people. General Colin Powell once said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.”
During England’s darkest days in World War II, Winston Churchill demonstrated that truth. London was under siege from the German Luftwaffe. The relentless barrage of bombs was eroding the spirit and resolve of the English people. While many things needed to be done to in order to survive the attacks and win the war, Churchill wisely narrowed his messages to the people down to the bare essential thing from which all the other things would flow.
His simple, often repeated message was summed up in a speech delivered to a group of students at one of England’s most prestigious boy’s schools. He stood before them and said, “Never, never, never give up” and then sat down.
On another occasion Churchill put it this way, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Whether you see that admonition as humorous or serious, the message is the same – persevere!
Our Mission is Simple
As Christians, our mission is simple and Jesus was crystal clear about it. He commanded us, “In your going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” So for Christians, individually or collectively as the church, our mission is simple and clear. We exist to make disciples.
Keeping Discipleship Simple
Now if our mission is to make disciples, it is imperative for us to know what a “made disciple” looks like. What kind of disciple should we be as individual Christians? And what kind of disciples are we to make?
Our first clue is found in the Great Commission itself. He could have given a lengthy list of characteristics but he gave just one, simple qualifier. More than anything else he wants obedient disciples. People who demonstrate they are Christ-followers by consistently obeying him. In other words, mature disciples obey Jesus.
A second theme that clearly points to what it means to be a mature disciple is first found in Deuteronomy 6:13. “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…” Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, there is a theme – serious disciples serve God in all they do. While contending with Satan during his wilderness temptation Jesus brought an end to the encounter by declaring, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” When Jesus affirmed his belief that he was to serve God and God only, Satan knew the battle was lost and he withdrew leaving Jesus alone in the desert. Satan knows it’s no use to continue to seduce us when we clearly understand that mature Christians serve God.
Jesus made it clear that mature disciples are undivided in their serving God. “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13) Paul modeled what we are to do as Christ-followers. He said to the Romans, “God whom I serve with my whole heart…” (Romans 1:9) In other words, mature disciples serve Jesus.
Returning to the Simple Truth
Many today seek to define “mature disciple” in their own way. For many a mature disciple is one who keeps the rules they think are important. Others define maturity in terms of longevity. They say, “I have been a church member for sixty two years” which being interpreted in their minds means “I am a mature Christian.” There are countless other self-serving ways to define a mature disciple or mature Christian.
In this life as sinful, fallen creatures in a sinful, fallen world we will never completely obey Jesus. But maturity is the relentless pursuit of knowing and doing His will. Maturity is becoming more aware of everything “he has commanded us” and doing what he has commanded with increasing consistency.
And maturity is becoming more and more consistent in serving God. It means finding new and creative ways to serve God. It means learning the endless, creative and meaningful ways in which we can serve him by serving “the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40-45)
The simple truth about discipleship is this. Mature disciples, mature Christians, mature Christ-followers…