It also was the theme of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) meeting Sept. 25-27 in Louisville, Ky., that Ray Jones and David Loleng shared with those gathered for a plenary session.
Jones, coordinator of Evangelism Ministries for the Presbyterian Church (USA), spoke about a new Engage curriculum geared toward mission work, and Loleng, interim associate for College Ministries, shared how God’s people are expected to go into the world to “make, receive and send disciples to proclaim God’s justice, peace and love in an increasingly globalized world.”
Being the church beyond its walls was a focus of Jones, who noted that prayer walks, block parties, college programs, working with homeless people and partnering with education groups are just some of the ways to minister outside the church.
He said there are four main questions that needed to be answered when ministering to communities. They are:
1) What is the greatest need of the community?
2) How could the church help meet that need?
3) When you hear the names Jesus, what comes to mind?
4) When you hear the word Christian, what comes to mind?
“We’re called to serve and be in our communities meeting their needs,” Jones said. “There is hopelessness in all areas of the world, in all communities. It’s easy for people to fall into oppression and brokenness.”
Orphans, widows, the homeless, the hungry, the jobless, the impoverished, those less fortunate – all are people in need.
Citing Matthew 9:35-38, Jones explained that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, noting the need to develop disciples to share God’s love.
“People are available to receive the Gospel, but there is a need for people to share the Word with them,” Jones said. “Who are those harassed and helpless in your community?”
Fulfilling The Great Commission
Loleng said it often is easy to overlook those who need such a witness in their lives.
“It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for,” he said. “In the church, a lot of times we’re so busy looking at things we’re doing that we forget what is happening and what God is calling us to do. We need to remember that ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’”
So, what is the main thing for the church? Loleng said it is fulfillment of The Great Commission, cited in Matthew 28:18-20.
“Jesus does not say go make converts, causes, initiatives, theologians, buildings budgets, rules and regulations. All those are great things and can help in the process. But the main thing is making disciples,” he said. “Go make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey all I have commanded.”
Loleng said making disciples is a matter of teaching them to obey their calling rather than having them memorize passages of Scripture.
“In the church we need to be honest. We don’t go out and make disciples, we stay in and make members,” he said.
In defining the term “disciple,” Loleng spoke of a pupil or learner, one who learns by following. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” That’s what a disciple should be.
“It’s someone who knows and follows Jesus, someone changed by Jesus, someone on a mission with Jesus,” Loleng said. “It’s someone who takes care of people’s needs, the ‘-isms’ of the world: racism, classism, materialism, all those things in the world God wants to address.”
Loleng cited a personal account of such discipleship while he was serving a church in Apple Valley, Calif., a community known as “Felony Flats” because of its heavy volume of criminal activity.
He explained that graffiti had been painted on the church by a group of kids. While looking at institutional solutions to the problem, Loleng said one lady in the church suggested that perhaps the kids took such action as way to reach out to people because of needs in their own lives. That sparked a desire by church members to work more closely in the community, and their actions began to transform lives.
“God used that church to rediscover its missional DNA to transform the community by being Jesus’ church and Jesus’ people,” he said. “Jesus integrated Himself into a world of brokenness, and so must we. We are meant to change the world.
“God can use you and your church to change the world. God can use us if we’re willing.”