There’s a lot of ‘Jesus talk’ floating around in some circles that all seems pretty empty, and sort of unreal. Jesus was a real human being that created enormous curiosity in his day because there was something about him that spoke to some of the deepest longings of the human heart in a way that provoked the curiosity of throngs of people. My question would be: Where would one look today to find a model of Jesus and his teachings? Where would one find a flesh and blood example of a person who exhibited God’s New Creation in Christ?

Where would such a model come from? How would such a model be formed?

For starts, let’s go back to Jesus. When he first appeared on the back roads of Galilee preaching and teaching a message that, if true, had incredible consequences—something about God’s Kingdom being inaugurated here and now on this human scene—some of the folk hearing him got curious and began ‘sniffing him out.’ They asked him some clumsy questions, such as: “Where are you staying?” Jesus sensed this initial curiosity and responded: “Come and see.”  First principle of disciple-making: make oneself available hospitably, lovingly, sensitively, and with authentic good nature.

An essential component of Jesus’ own disciple-making ministry was his warm invitation to such inquirers to ‘hang-out’ with him. He didn’t isolate himself (except occasionally for seasons of prayer). He would say to those curious: “Come spend time with me and we can talk.” And the more they responded to his person and his teachings, then the more intense and informative and intimate became his relationship to them. Those followers began to see and understand and respond to his message and his mission.

At one level, Jesus primary mission from God was consummated in his cross and resurrection, but at another level his primary mission was that of investing himself in the twelve so that he would ultimately be able to say to them: “As the Father has sent me, so am I now sending you,” and they would know what he was talking about. And at the very end of his time on earth he would give to them (to his church) the basic and primary mandate: “Go to every conceivable people group in the whole world and do to them what I have done to you: make disciples, teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, and be assured that I am always with you.”

Disciples are those formed by Jesus, by his life, by his death and by his resurrection, by his teachings of the Kingdom of God, i.e., about God’s design for his New Creation.

His call is suffused with the intent to create curiosity and inquiry about God and about God’s love for his creation in Christ, and what that looks like right here in the ‘stink and stuff’ of this human scene. It is not a bout religion, or otherworldly spirituality at all.

Jesus’ call to disciplemaking is a call to us to make ourselves available in all warmth and humility and authenticity and thoughtfulness to those around us—in order that they may see in us models of Jesus and become curious! It is a call to spend such significant time with others that we actually reproduce ourselves in them as Christ is reproduced in us (cf. I Corinthians 11:1). Let them get close and ask the questions, and voice their arguments. It’s all part of the process.

Any person who professes to be a believer in Christ, or any community that professes to be a church … and does not have this disciple-making mandate, this formation by the message and mission of Christ as a compelling priority lacks integrity, misses the message, and will leave others without wholesome and contagious models of Jesus in this present scene (and there are a lot of folk, and a lot of churches that have drifted away from this priority, alas!)

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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