A Church must continually evaluate where it has come from, what places it has gone off track, and where it currently stands in regards to Jesus central call to “Go and make disciples.” I take that as Jesus’ mission statement to the Church quite literally. The Book of Acts shows us the earliest picture of how the Church lived out that call. For the past month, on Wednesday nights we’ve looked at Acts 2:37-47 as a model of a three stage process of disciplemaking. It certainly doesn’t fill in all the blanks methodologically, but it helps piece together a workable model for what we are to be moving people through.
It shows us Three Major Next Steps beginning with the non-believer. Peter preached his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, and in the response to the sermon we find the first step in Disciple Making. The lost being saved. In response to the preaching of the Gospel the hearers asked a question I love, “What shall we do now?” Peter answered first Repent. I take this statement as one where repentance entails belief in the message and the decision to build ones life around it. So the Church must evangelize to see the lost saved.
The second step, then, is taking the newly saved, and seeing them go through the waters of Baptism. We don’t recognize this as a salvific event, but a public profession and demonstration of the inner change that’s taken place in the new believer. You want a concrete next step? It couldn’t be any clearer than “Repent and be baptized.” And so 3,000 on that day trusted in Jesus and followed His command to be baptized.
The third step is integration of the newly baptized into active involvement in a local church. This is often where the breakdown occurs. But here in verses 42-47 we see these new believers’ rock solid commitment to the local church in Jerusalem. What were they committed to? The Word of God (apostles’ doctrine), and True Christian Fellowship. Further clarifying fellowship, Luke outlines that this involved mutual meals, mutual prayers, and mutual care for one another. They became partners, formed around the Gospel, who regularly experienced the fellowship of the local Church.
As I evaluate our church, I must ask the question, is our church organized to take people through the stages of discipleship, and further, are we in fact doing so. They say that the system you design, is designed to achieve precisely the results that you get. If our system were designed to take people through these stages, then we need a new system, or at the least a return to an older system. What I’ve noticed is an unhealthy balance between teaching times and times of other kinds of fellowship involving mutual care and prayer. We design our official service times to be primarily teaching/preaching points, which is great, if there are other times to accomplish those other things. We have Sunday School, Sunday Morning Worship, Sunday Evening Worship, and Wednesay Evening Bible Study. Ample time for sitting under the Word.
The great problem is this hasn’t led to a fruitful, full fellowship in our church. In fact there’s breakdown from the first stage all the way to the third. Few ever are saved, few ever follow into the waters, and few take the next step to join with our church. The challenge for us is to examine the system to figure out where the train went off track, and make the necessary adjustments to get back on track again, so that we are known as a Church that makes disciples. There may be resistance, but it may just be urgent enough to make the effort worth it. We shall see how the response is. We leave this in the capable hands of God.