I'm sitting in the bay of a C-130 aircraft, the heat of the exhaust and smell of fuel constantly blows in your face. Suddenly, the side doors open and the heat is changed into crisp, cold air while the morning sun awakens my fellow jumpers from a quick snooze. The Jumpmaster walks us through a series of commands involving standing, hooking up our static lines, and checking each others parachutes. 64 men and women wait in anticipation staring at a light near the door. The light turns green and the Jumpmaster yells "Go, Go, Go!" We each walk towards the door as each of my fellow jumpers disappear. When you get to the door, you feel the rush of the wind from the speed of the aircraft, you look down and see the landscape - vehicles, hills, and trees look miniature. At that moment, your conscious brain and logic screams "What I Am Doing!" It is against all your human nature to jump from a moving aircraft in flight. In that split second, there is no time for hesitation or second guessing, you trust your training and your chute and simply walk out the door. Sometimes being obedient to God can feel the exact same way.
Jesus' final command to his disciples was "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. Regardless of what we may think, the command "Go" does not apply only to vocational pastors, laypersons, and missionaries but to all believers and followers of Christ. Furthermore, the command "Go" in the original Hebrew really translates to as you go meaning as you go about your daily lives.
In Acts Chapter 11, Luke makes a distinction between believers in Christ and disciples of Christ at the Church of Antioch. Luke points out that those who accepted Christ (salvation) were called believers but those who spent time in fellowship, learning, prayer, and being apprenticed were then called disciples and Christians. Luke points out there is a distinction made between someone who merely accepts Christ and someone who begins walking in the faith on a daily basis. Today, in many other countries outside the U.S., churches make a similar distinction. Those who accept Christ but merely show up to church each week are called members but those who study and actively share the Gospel to multiply God's kingdom are called Disciples.
At my current church, we also make this distinction using what we call the 3-W's of a maturing Disciple:
Worship - You are actively involved in weekly corporate worship (church/fellowship) and personal worship (study/prayer).
Walk - You are actively walking in the faith - hungering for the Word of God, learning Biblical discernment, and bearing Fruit of the Spirit.
Work - You are actively using your Time, Talents, and Treasure (Finances) for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.
[shareable cite="Matthew 10:16 ESV"]“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.' [/shareable]
In Matthew 10, Christ tells us that if we follow Him, we will be persecuted. He tells us that the world will resist and reject us. That we will face adversity. Adversity and persecution is nothing new for followers of Christ. All the early church disciples (minus John) were chased, stoned, imprisoned, laughed at, flogged, beaten, stoned, tortured, and eventually killed for professing their faith. Not one of the early disciples and apostles of Christ were ever given worldly favor, wealth, fame, or status.
It is estimated that almost 80% of active Christians in the world today live under some form of persecution. Many have to meet in house churches varying their times and locations for fear of being arrested, imprisoned, or worse. In many parts of the world, being a Christian today can mean death to you and your family if you are discovered.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., we often complain about air conditioning, comfortable seats, amenities, parking, styles of worship music, length of sermons and a million other items that are only "1st World Problems" - we live in the Christian minority, the 20% who can choose when and where to worship with no fear of persecution.
One Chinese Christian living in persecution asked if there was a church in every neighborhood in America. When this woman was told yes, she marveled and explained "It must be amazing to live in a country where everyone goes to church!" She assumed that in American, since churches were so freely accessible and free of persecution, all our churches must be filled each week.
The goal of persecution is almost always the same - to silence the spread of the Christian faith - those speaking of Christ and the Bible. Those persecuting Christians really don't care the means in which Christians are silenced by - shaming, displacement, emotional threats, physical and sexual abuse or even death - as long as it meets their goal of silencing those who proclaim the name of Christ. One study on persecuted Christians even went so far to state that if you are a Christian and you are not actively sharing your faith with others...you are enabling persecution.
Reading these findings and hearing the stories of those on the front lines for Christ was a slap in the face for myself as a American Christian. We like to call ourselves a "Christian Nation" in one breath but in the next complain that we cannot simply walk up to co-worker and invite them to church or small group.
Sadly, a Lifeway Research Study in 2012, showed that while 75% of American Church-Goers feel adequately equipped to share their faith, only 48% had invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or some other program in the past six months and 61% have not shared their faith with anyone in the past 6 months.
Looking at these facts and the data, we must ask ourselves a few questions:
Am I really committed to being obedient to God's word?
Am I making my faith and the sharing of my faith a priority in my life or is it something I "fit in" when I have time?
Am I choosing comfort over the Commission?
I challenge each one of us to find just one person to share our Gospel story with over the next month. Find one person who shares some doubt, sorrow, or worry with us and ask them if we can pray for them. Find one non-church goer and start getting to know them.
We, the κοινωνία, the gathering and community of Christ followers are God's plan for bringing the message to all the nations. God calls and equips average, everyday people—even those who don’t think they have anything special to contribute—to do extraordinary things in His name. We are His Church, His Plan, His Body. There is no Plan B.