By, Isam Itson III
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
How do we connect with people in our local communities across social and economic barriers?
First, we nurture strong relationships with each other as followers of Jesus Christ.
Second, we connect people with God in Christ by including them in our relationships with each other.
Third, we do this from generation to generation.
Jesus told his disciples that he would be with them as they made new friends and followers until the end of the age. This age will end when Christ returns to rule and reign on the earth, in person, from Jerusalem. Until that time his disciples are supposed to make more disciples.
The disciples who walked with Jesus and watched him ascend into heaven are done with their earthly ministry. But we are still here. From generation to generation the gospel has come down to us, and the family of God, the church that he established nearly 2,000 years ago, still testifies of God’s grace and glory today.
Like the original Disciples, Jesus called his followers in our day and age to make us into his disciples. Faithful men and women who love God honored God’s love for us and helped shape us as followers of Jesus Christ. Inspired by the Spirit of God, they took the initiative and called us to answer the call of God, to follow Christ and to walk with them as they follow Christ, and we said, “Yes, Lord.”
How do we make disciples of the next generation if Jesus does not return in our lifetime?
First, we need to establish ourselves deeply and meaningfully in our local congregations. Like the first disciples of Jesus, our lives should be defined as much by the time we spend with each other as the time we spend with Jesus. We honor our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we see at church every week by making time for them and inviting them into our lives outside of official church functions. We open our hearts and lives to each other while going about the business of life, and we live and work together for the glory of God.
Second, together, in fellowship with each other, in our daily lives, we encourage people in our local communities who want to enrich and nurture the lives of others as a way of life, across cultural, social, and generational boundaries. The force of the great commission in the original language translates as, “GO MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL PEOPLE! until I return to rule and reign on the earth.” For that to happen until Christ returns, it can’t just stop with us getting young people to come to church. It can’t even stop with teaching them how to live as good Christian citizens. Like Jesus, we have to make disciples of our young people, by calling them to follow us and teaching them to make disciples of all people, if our local churches are going to keep making disciples of all people until Jesus returns.
It’s not enough for us to make disciples of our own generation, because we are getting old and one day we will die. We have to ask ourselves, “as a member of my local congregation, am I teaching those younger than me to make disciples of people that we have nothing in common with, except for the fact that God loves us both? Am I teaching them to connect and nurture meaningful relationships with people who do not share our cultural, social, or educational background?”
For our younger people to get this, we have to draw them close as we commit ourselves to making disciples of all kinds of people in our congregations and local communities. Not just our offspring, but also the young people in our cities and communities at large. We have to make room for our children in the faith and train them in the process of blessing others no matter the personal cost, as a way of life.
We have to encourage them and allow them to contribute meaningfully to our mission as a fellowship of disciples who make disciples, as we go about our everyday lives. Then we can say to those we meet, “Come with us as we make disciples of Jesus Christ of all people, in spite of our ethnic, socio economic, cultural, ideological, generational, or political differences. Learn how to do this and keep doing this with us, until your last breath.”
Light and Salt. Gathered together, and together, enriching, empowering, and transforming the lives of the people we encounter in our local communities, to the glory of God. Identifying deeply with them and embracing them into our lives and congregations. Teaching them to do the same thing in relationship to others until our last breath, from generation to generation. This is our mission as members of the body of Christ in our local churches, connecting people with God through Jesus Christ in our local communities and around the world.
1. How much time do you spend with your church family outside of church on Sunday?
2. What part of “Go and make disciples of all people” is hardest for you?
3. What is meant by “members of the body of Christ”? Why is this so important to understand?
4. What are some of your personal challenges in building meaningful intergenerational relationships? How can you begin overcoming those challenges?