This is an article from the September-October 2011 issue: Making Disciples

What Is Our Mission?

What Is Our Mission?

In John 17:4, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”  Jesus knew what the Father had called Him to do. But do we know what the Father has called us to do?  There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the Church about what is and what is not the mission that God has given to us. And if the leaders are confused, then how can the average church member possibly understand what God has called us to do? The more ominous question is whether the Church as a whole has adopted the wrong mission and as a result we have not fulfilled what God has intended.

In this issue we take a look back at our Evangelical and biblical heritage to better understand the mission that God has given to us. and answer the often-debated question, “Does God just want us to get people saved and bound for heaven, or does He care about our lives in this world as well?”

Based on the ministry strategies that have been employed over the last 100 years, it is fair to deduce that a major emphasis of our efforts in the Church has been to get as many people saved as possible and not to disciple new believers. We have held mass evangelism crusades in stadiums all over the world. Our churches gather the best speakers, musicians and programs, all designed to attract as many people as possible to the church so the pastors can present the gospel to the unsaved. All of these methods are centered upon “professional” leaders delivering the gospel message and not on equipping all believers to carry out the work of ministry.

Should the number of people who have prayed to receive Christ be our measure of success? Is this completing the work that God has given us to do? If we think so, then I believe we have adopted an extremely truncated view of what God wants from us. Being saved from our sins, while essential, is only the beginning. God wants us to grow in maturity to become obedient followers of Jesus who are able to make disciples. Jesus wants us to fulfill His command “to make disciples of all nations.”

We have paid a terrible price by focusing so much on just getting people saved and not enough on making them disciples who can and should change the world.

Robert Osburn makes the point in his article, Feeding the Wolves, on page 24, that as a church we have not put enough emphasis upon discipling people so that they become the seed that Jesus talked about falling onto good soil and producing a crop 100 times what was sown. Robert asks the question, “Is it any joy that so many sprang up “quickly” and then “withered” (Mt. 13:5) or were even­tually “choked?”

The irony is that effective discipleship is the best way of getting as many people as possible saved over the long term. The church has largely bypassed the difficult work of disciple-making in favor of mass communication strategies. Discipleship starts out slow, but if done properly builds exponentially to encompass far more people than the “quick and easy” mass strategies that may get people into the Kingdom quickly but do not adequately disciple them. Discipleship harnesses the enormous power of all believers to be disciple makers not just the professionals.

Wesley Showed Us the Way

The mission that Jesus gave His church was to make disciples, not just so His people would go to heaven when they died but so they would live before the world—lives that have been transformed by God—bringing Him the greatest glory. The gospel is the power of God to bring transformation to individuals and to nations, but this transformation only takes place through effective discipleship.

The reality of this truth is seen in our first article on page 6, which describes John Wesley’s discipleship movement that transformed England in the 18th century. Wesley was not just after gathering people into churches who had “prayed the prayer,” but he sought to bring people to maturity in Christ whereby their lives would be changed. Transformed people transform nations, and that is what happened to England in Wesley’s day. People who came out of Wesley discipleship movement were called Methodists because of the specific methods that were used to make disciples who were obedient to Christ. Their mission was to transform lives and they created the means to accomplish this.

As reported in the sidebar on page 7, the Methodist movement died because they replaced the key elements that made their discipleship movement work. One tragic mistake was to stop requiring participation in the small group discipleship meetings in favor of Sunday services. The Sunday morning sermon is only a part of discipleship, and to the degree that the Church relies on it alone to disciple people is the degree to which we will continue to fail to transform our nation and the world. There is nothing wrong with gathering for worship and a sermon, but it cannot fulfill all of the training and discipleship needs of the Church. To only rely on a once-a-week sermon is to abandon our ultimate mission to make disciples.

The other mistake Methodists made was to move from a grass-roots approach to developing leadership where people in their discipleship groups could become itinerant preachers to insisting on professional, seminary-trained clergy. We make the same mistake today. Instead of just using professionally trained pastors and missionaries, we must begin to employ effective discipleship methods that can equip all believers to be disciple-makers. John Wesley showed us long ago that it is possible to do so and transform a nation in the process. We should learn from his example and develop the strategies to disciple the peoples of our generation. We have presented some of these strategies in recent issues of MF.

All we have to do is open our eyes and look around to see that the Church in the West is losing the battle against the forces of humanism, secularism, atheism, etc. We live in the midst of a culture in decline. There are too few followers of Jesus who have been adequately discipled so that they can be the agents of transformation within our culture and around the world. Either we will disciple the people of our churches or the world will. Right now in the West the world is winning.

Another Example for Us to Follow

One agent of transformation was William Carey, who established the first protestant mission in India in 1793. He is a good example of what one committed disciple can accomplish in transforming a nation. The impact of his work lasts to this day. He spent four decades not only spreading the gospel but transforming the culture of India as well. Scott Allen explains Carey’s view of ministry in his article on page 15, “He looked outward across the land and asked himself, ‘If Jesus were the Lord of India, what would it look like? What would be different?’ This question set his agenda and led to his involvement in a remarkable variety of activities aimed at glorifying God and advancing His kingdom.” Carey followed in the footsteps of the Evangelical movement in England, where the mission of God was not just about getting people saved but it was about doing what was right in the sight of God. William Wilberforce is another product of the Evangelical awakening of the 18th century who worked tirelessly to transform the culture of England and bring glory to God in the process.

Can you see a pattern here? The Evangelicals of the 18th century believed that following Jesus meant not only getting people saved but also living out their faith in transforming the cultures around them. They saw the works of the devil and they went about destroying them. As they did, lives were changed, society was transformed and God was glorified. Their faith was not a once-a-week sermon experience but a 24-hour-a-day walk with Jesus that impacted everything they did, regardless of their occupation. They were full-time disciples of Jesus determined to bring glory to God in every aspect of their lives. We would do well today to follow their example. In so doing, we will bring glory to the Father by beginning to complete the work He has given us to do.

Pass On the Vision

We continue to make progress in gathering new financial partners to support the work of Mission Frontiers. We are asking for 1,500 of our readers to send in a gift of $180 or $15 a month to help support the work of Mission Frontiers. We currently have received gifts of various amounts equal to 238 of these gifts. We also appreciate larger and smaller donations which will also count towards reaching our goal of 1500 donors of $180.  These funds will enable us to send MF to Christian leaders all over the world.

Here is what one new supporter wrote recently, “Rick, just wanted to say thanks for all your work at Mission Frontiers. It has changed our lives and spurs us on to live as Christ calls us. We have been challenged by the articles and can’t wait for the next issue to arrive. We will be sending in $1,000 to encourage your efforts with Mission Frontiers. Blessings, Tim and Wendy from Kansas.”

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we need to unpack “transforming the culture” church growth in many countries in east in exponential .

Good reflection , we should move beyond numbers to qualitative indicators .

we want to develop methodology to asses impact of house church movement in central India , Can any one help in study

“The Sunday morning sermon is only a part of discipleship, and to the degree that the Church relies on it alone to disciple people is the degree to which we will continue to fail to transform our nation and the world.”

I disagree. I think the Sunday morning sermon is the biggest distraction from discipleship. - Why?
1. Because it is TOTALLY one-way communication - discipleship is always two way communication.
2. Once “the teacher’s” schedule is consumed with lecture preparation, he has no time to model two-way communication to “his followers”. I have seen the statistics on what percentage of time pastors can devote to discipleship. It’s at the bottom of the list. This is a systemic reality across the country and all denominational lines. Exceptions are few.
3. The Bible never asks for a once a week professional Bible lecture for God’s people. It is an obvious substitute for what is asked for. It is an idol the frees most of us to be spectators - no mutual relationship with “the teacher” and everyone is happy with perpetual dependency. “Preach the word, in season and out…” does not mean “lecture the word every Sunday only by one hire expert…” but that is what is done with this scripture. It’s an idol. It’s time to flush it out.
4. The once-a-week professional Bible lecture FORCES the saints into devoting 75 - 86% of their giving to buy the special building and staffing for this weekly event. This is pooling to buy something for ourselves, not giving. It’s time to rediscover Paul’s passion on “refusing the right to be paid” to minister - Acts 20, 1 Cor. 9 - to the end please, and 2 Thes. 3 plus others.
5. Sunday sermon is never reproductive. No one is “fully trained” to “be like the teacher” Luke 6:40. Nothing is “entrusted to faithful men who will teach others also…” One a godly preacher leaves a church after 20 years, no one can do what he does. Another man must be hired in because there was not reproduction and no one expects it to happen. I would be labeled a kook for suggesting what the Bible says so clearly.

Let’s not pander to bogus traditions any more. Lets’ clean house. In God’s amazing grace, some discipleship has been done, not not much with the BILLIONS spent on what is said to be “the Lord’s work”. The Lord’s work is ONLY what He asked for, not what we find comfortable.

100% of the giving goes out the door - no pooling for us
100% two-way communication - Our God is never a one-way talker.
100% mutual relationships - no power pyramid
100% reproducing leadership - perpetual dependency is leadership towards consumerism

“There is nothing wrong with gathering for worship and a sermon ...”
Yes there is a lot wrong with pulpit and pew oriented gathering of God’s people for expert driven ceremonies. It’s a complete “alternative life style” that denies our spiritual identity of “members of one another” so that every member may contribute to the growth of the body - not just a few experts on a platform.

What I am saying is strongly worded, but only because the bad habits are deeply rooted. Someone has said “The great danger is not that we will renounce our faith but that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.” Sunday sermon time is worse than mediocre when compared with what God has asked for.


You make some very excellent points, much of which I agree with. The sermon/lecture style is very poor methodology in terms of even passing on information not to mention internalizing it. To make the kind of changes that you suggest would be difficult in any existing church and you would run into a good deal of cultural backlash against eliminating the Sunday sermon completely. Effective discipleship can be done in a church even when a Sunday sermon is done. Real Life Ministries has proven that. So instead of suggesting that we start over from scratch why not simply start with implementing effective discipleship groups within the church.

If you want to lead a movement that has no lead pastor or weekend corporate worship, you are welcome to try such an experiment. Have you heard of successful movements that have done this.


“ would run into a good deal of cultural backlash against eliminating the Sunday sermon completely…”

Didn’t God give prophets to ruffle up comfort zones?
Didn’t Jesus use strong statements to weed out the crowd groupies? “Unless you hate your mother and father…” “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood…”
The reformers risked death so our generation would be free from many idols. We will not risk death if we challenge the idols among us. The need for further reformation is equally as great now as back then. We don’t have one pope, we have a lot of them by a different title.

Real Life Ministries
1. What percentage of pew sitters come to home groups? 25%? More?
2. What percent of those who attend home groups come prepared to “spur one another on to love and good works? 25%? More?
3. Are the home groups intergenerational that include children for full participation?
4. What percentage of the giving is consumed by the givers to drive ministry to themselves?
5. Does the home group element require a hired man to drive it?
Their web sight gives clues that it’s very close to what most churches do with “home groups” do.

There are hundreds of thousands of churches across this country proving my 5 points above.
Are we able to trust the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work when we speak the Word of God, or must we filter it for acceptability ?
What are we loosing when we fail to confront a carnal - flesh driven system?
What have we gained if everyone keeps coming in the door but only 1% of the saints are disciple makers or are being discipled instead of all?

I am not “trying” or “experimenting” at the 100% habits above. I’m not waiting to see “successful movements” before I commit to doing what has already been stated in the Word. Yes, I am experiencing this and much more than I could have ever imagined. It is heart and mind boggling. I wish to share it with other saints without concern for whether I can know ahead of time if they will “like it”. 

I left out one of the 100% factors above:
100% intergenerational - Never send the children away - “for of such is the kingdom…”.

God help me, I put aside a whole afenrtoon to figure this out.

Hi Tim,

I agree with your points in making disciples. I am a church planter here in Manila Philippines and saw that dilemma with Philippine churches were a church is only averaging 50 members.

Right now I am experimenting with my newly planted church ( 1 yr. ) that instead of making Sunday sermons I incorporate the trainings in my sermon like…...discussion,participation,re-telling of the verses,demonstration and actual re-echo of the topic during worship service.

Last time my message was about baptism, I read the verses and re-tell it with them, then we form a group of 3’s for small group re-telling of verses. Everyone of them will read the verses and re-tell it to the group, then I ask them what particular lessons they’ve learn about baptism from the verses read. I ask every small group to give insights to the congregation then I preach the message on baptism. After my message I ask all of them to stand up and I showed them how to do baptism. All the members tried to do it in the small group then we proceed to the back of the church and ask all members who just won a convert to do the baptism on their own.

I also commissioned all the fathers of the household as the pastors/priest of their own families.Requiring them to do family altar ( family worship, bible study ) once a week.

Right now as I mentioned the church is one year old and we are targeting another village for church planting activity with the members of the newly planted church.

Thanks for the insights, it gives me encouragement that I am on the right tract.



Yes, you are on the right track! You are so far ahead of the pack of traditions of men.. Where did you get these ideas? Straight from the Holy Spirit? Make sure you “fulliy train other saints to be like you” Luke 6:40 so they can do anything you can do. 2Tim 2:1-2.

I was born in Mindanau in 1956, lived in Iloilo City and then Manila till 1974. My father was fluent in Tagalog and Ilongo.

Tim and Dan

Thank you for the great discussion. Dan, thank you for sharing what you are doing in your congregation. I am impressed with the creative efforts your are making to train your people to do what you are doing. This is the key to replication of disciples and churches. I would suggest that you pick up a copy of T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith for more insights and principles of multigenerational discipleship and church planting. I sense that God is doing something special in our day to bring a holy dissatisfaction with the status quo of what we are doing in our churches. We are losing our culture and our kids to unbelief. Change is absolutely essential for the church to impact the world. We must get out of our churches and go out to the lost and bring them the Word and Jesus, not our church traditions and culture.

Tim: I would love to learn more about what you are doing and the results that you are seeing through your work. Keep in touch.

We have to learn how to make disciples who make disciples and plant churches if we have any hope of bringing the gospel to every person, tribe and tongue.

Rick Wood

Thank you, Tim, for your brilliant analysis of the negative value of the Sunday Sermon cultural tradition, Tim.

And thank you, Dan, for your example of a profoundly sensible alternative.

I would like to polish up and develop these together to offer hope to pastors who feel trapped in the status quo.

Could you both email me so I have your contact information and can interact with you further?

Tim, you wrote:
+ I am experiencing this and much more than I could have ever imagined. It is heart and mind boggling.
+ I wish to share it with other saints without concern for whether I can know ahead of time if they will “like it”.

I am very interested in learning about what you are doing and helping you share it with other saints.

Dan, you wrote:
+ I incorporate the trainings in my sermon like ... discussion, participation, re-telling of the verses,
+ demonstration and actual re-echo of the topic during worship service.

I would like to learn more about how this is going as well. We are always on the lookout for great models we can promote.


Dear Tim and Dan,

I forgot to give you my email address or otherwise suggest how you can contact me. My email is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and my Skype name is <RobbyButler>. I hope to hear from both of you.

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