As Jesus sends his disciples out in Matthew 10 to proclaim, “the Kingdom of heaven has come near” to the people of Israel, He warns them that He is sending them out “like sheep among wolves.” Their mission, and now our mission of spreading the Gospel, will be risky and dangerous.
Nik Ripken, former missionary and author of The Insanity of God, talks often how the church is all too often producing Christians who are prepared to live like “sheep among sheep.” In other words, we are producing Christians who can only live among other Christians rather than Christians who can impact the darkness in their neighborhoods and among the nations. If we are going to produce Christians that can take the Gospel to the hardest to reach places in the world, Christians that will fulfill the Great Commission, and Christians that live as salt and light among a dark world, then we must prepare them to go out like “sheep among wolves.”
I currently serve as the Baptist Collegiate Minister for the Little Rock Metro area. Before that I had the privilege of serving as interim pastor at Alexander First Baptist Church, and lead pastor of Wheatley Baptist Church in Wheatley and Immanuel Baptist Church in Magnolia. The longer I served in the pastorate role the more I was burdened to produce disciples who can live like “sheep among wolves.” That burden has grown even more as I have stepped into my collegiate minister role. We don’t want to produce disciples whose goal and focus as Christians is to simply be at worship on Sunday, or to serve on committees, take up the offering, decorate the church building, and plan church events. Although there is nothing wrong with any of those methods of serving, my point is that there is simply more to following Jesus. The ability to live like sheep among wolves is absolutely necessary to advance the Kingdom.
How do we begin producing disciples who can go anywhere in the world, make disciples, and live like “sheep among wolves?”
The first step is setting a vision of what the disciple looks like. A disciple of Jesus in any context should be able to “produce disciples of Jesus who can go anywhere in the world and make disciples of Jesus with the Scriptures and the Spirit.” We must believe and produce believers that believe the Word of God is enough. We must believe that the Spirit of God is enough and that the Spirit will bring the power and fruit. The work we do as disciple-makers is to strive toward producing these mature, obedient, reliant disciples.
The second step in producing these disciples is self-reflecting and evaluating how you as an individual do ministry. Does the way we do ministry hinder the process of producing disciples who can go anywhere in the world and impact the nations for Jesus? For instance, if our ministry at the Little Rock BCM is reliant on events, lights, production, curriculum, etc. then we will produce disciples who are reliant on those things as well. These disciples will believe that in order to make disciples you will need lights, a fancy production, big events, curriculum, and all the resources we have as American churches rather than God, His Word, and people. Although these can be useful, these resources are not necessities.
In many places of the world there is no way to “do church” the way we “do church” here in America. Take Sunday School and small groups for instance. In most Sunday Schools and small groups, there is a curriculum used for these groups. Although curriculum is a great tool and resource, we cannot become reliant on it or replace the Word of God with it. If we think we must have a curriculum to grow in the Word and make disciples, then we send the message that we really don’t believe that the Word is enough. In other words, our goal must be to produce disciples who can teach from the Word of God, guided by the Spirit, with the people around them while living life together day in and day out. (The Scriptures are banned in many places of the world, so these disciples will need to know the Scriptures by heart in order to share the Gospel and teach the Word to others.)
The third step is to begin immersing yourself in the Word, journal what God is saying to you, gather a group of people who are hungry for the Word and begin leading a “discipleship group” or “small group.” In this group, train others to read, study, memorize, meditate on, and use the Word to share the Gospel and make disciples. Show these disciples that the Word is enough.
As I look to the future here at the Little Rock BCM, I am excited to see how God begins to shape our ministry to produce disciples who will greatly impact the 10 campuses in the Little Rock Metro area, while also impacting all the peoples of the world. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “This good news of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”