Jesus came to save His people from their sin (Matt. 1:21). From heaven, His mission was declared before He was born. The accomplishment of that mission came through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Granted, there is a big emphasis here in the Gospel accounts, especially in Mark where the last week of Jesus’ life seemed to be in slow motion in a book that repeatedly says “and immediately…”.
Having said that, I believe there is much to be studied from the life of Jesus. Jesus did not only accomplish His mission, but He entrusted the mission to His disciples and sent them out to live as He lived–as those who have been sent. The fact that we have four Gospel narratives about Jesus life tells us that there is much to be studied and learned about Jesus. Indeed, His life and message is inexhaustible in nature!
In recent years, there is a section in the gospel accounts that have impacted me significantly, both as a disciple of Jesus and as a disciple-maker. This portion Scripture has the bookends of His temptation in the wilderness (the beginning) and the commissioning of His disciples (the end). In the book of Matthew, it is Matthew 4:17-9:38. In the book of Luke, it is Luke 4:14-8:56. I believe this passage is worthy of serious and sustained reflection and meditation as a disciple of Jesus because it reveals the life of Jesus on mission from the inauguration of His ministry to the commissioning of His disciples. I am convinced that every step was intentional, every story was purposeful, every aspect providential for the purpose of not only accomplishing His mission but also modeling and training His apprentices to become like Him in every way.
Where Jesus Lived on Mission
One of the many aspects we can learn from Jesus is where He lived on mission. Isn’t it remarkable that the man who had the most important mission in the world did not come to set up a palace or compound or even headquarters at the capital of the known world? Even in his notoriously known hometown (“can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), Jesus was highly unremarkable (“isn’t this the son of the carpenter?”). Truly amazing when you consider that His life has now changed hundreds of millions people throughout the world. From the borrow manger to the borrowed donkey to the borrowed tomb, Jesus’ life on mission left a mark that architectural diggers cannot find, but men in every age cannot deny.
Taking the section in Luke that I mentioned earlier, I took some time to mindmap the places where Jesus lived on mission. As you will see, the color codes represent common threads in His journey.
Based on this breakdown, I discovered 5 different kinds of places where Jesus lived on mission: (1) in the synagogues, (2) in people’s homes, (3) in the cities, (4) in the rural/countryside, and (5) the desolate place/mountain. From these observations, what can disciples of Jesus learn from how He lived on mission?
Takeaways from the Where
The first thing we should consider is that Jesus came on mission for all (kinds of) people. He went to the culturally elite and influential (synagogues) and to the blue-collar citizens (farmers and fishermen). He went to where they were, whether it was a grain field or a ruler’s house. You did not find a location on the earth on which Jesus did not claim absolutely sovereignty.
The second thing we can take away is that Jesus could not be boxed in any tribe or group in that day. He had no problem going from the house of a Pharisee to a tax collectors house to a ruler’s house. All three people are from different in just about every way, and yet Jesus was relevant to them. He was approachable and accessible to them in the same way–in their homes. Can you imagine what His disciples must have felt like when Simon the zealot was eating with Jesus in the home of a tax collector? Talk about an identity crisis!
The third takeaway from where Jesus lived on mission can be seen in its personal yet public nature. Jesus addressed large groups of people at times (synagogues and cities) but also in small gatherings (homes) and one-on-one (ruler, demon-possessed man in Gennesaret).
The fourth takeaway from where Jesus lived on mission the critique of geo-centric emphasis that we often see today. Was Jesus on mission in the city? Yes. Was Jesus on mission in the countryside? Yes. Was any one any less significant in His mission? No. Jesus was about establishing His kingdom on earth, whether that was at a tax collectors booth or a grain field, whether a ruler’s house or on a boat in the middle of a lake, whether in a synagogue or simply “along the way.”
A final takeaway is that Jesus lived on mission where people lived, worked, and played. Jesus came to people in their homes. Jesus came to people in their workplace (fishermen at the lake, tax collectors at their booths, religious leaders in their synagogues). Jesus came to people where they played and connected in the city (synagogues, lakes, along the way, etc.). Whether first, second, or third places in culture, you could find Jesus on mission bringing the good news that the King is here.
As a disciple of Jesus, I have so much to learn from Him. As a disciple-maker of disciples of Jesus, I have so much to teach and train others. Certainly where Jesus lived on mission and the implications for us today ought to be fundamental instruction for a “sent people.” How was Jesus sent? What did it look like? Those are important questions, and in the kindness of God, we get to see that in the gospel accounts so we can learn to “walk in His steps.”
A disciple of Jesus should have movement in four directions: upward, inward, outward, and forward. These four dynamics shape the four ways and rhythms by which a disciple is to flesh out a life of servanthood. They dynamics should be practiced on a weekly basis as “macro rhythms” in following Jesus.
Upward – Corporate Worship
Every disciple should be regularly and faithfully participating in corporate worship in a local church. The gathering of the saints to sing God’s praises and hear God’s Word is a non-negotiable means of grace, as well as a weekly reminder of our identity as persons-in-community. While this may be something easily assumed, the research shows today that more and more professing Christians and church members find faithful participation in weekly corporate worship as optional. The more secular and post-Christian our society becomes, the more it will pressure and push Christians to conform to its mold, especially with its attitude toward the Lord’s Day. We must be careful and intentional to develop godly rhythms that give sacred preeminence to the gathering of the saints above all institutions of human origin (including sports, concerts, hobbies, etc.).
Inward – Gospel Community
Christians gather in corporate worship and scatter in gospel communities of light in the world. Whether you call them small groups, life groups, growth groups, or gospel communities, the structure of shared living within a context of deepening relationships are critical to the health of a disciple. Gospel communities are places where we discover the gospel depths, discover our own identity in Christ, and discover others as we press into knowing God and one another. It is an inward movement because God works in us through gospel communities to enable us to love Him and love one another as disciples committed to God and one another.
Outward – Spirit-Led Service
The Spirit of God has sovereignty given to each disciple gifts and abilities for the purpose of edifying the church and evangelizing the world. Therefore, it is a matter of stewardship for each disciple to discover, develop, and deploy these gifts and abilities for those very purposes as Spirit-led, Spirit-equipped, and Spirit-empowered followers of Jesus. When each disciple is actively involved in service to others, the ministry of the saints brilliantly displays the beauty of Christ as we function as His hands and feet to one another and to the world.
Forward – Generous Mission
Jesus taught us to pray for His kingdom to come, for His name to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. We are commissioned to seek first the kingdom of God, and seeking for that to be reflected in every area of our lives, especially in giving ourselves first wholeheartedly and unreservedly to God Himself. Christians are to be generous, but not generous for the sake of being generous, but generous for the sake of mission. God was generous by sending His own Son. What more could He give? What greater cost could have been paid? What greater sacrifice has there been known? As disciples of Jesus, we should joyfully embrace lives of sacrifice. Giving our money should not be a sore spot. Giving our time should not be questioned by our “comfort zones.” Giving our lives to go to hard places and do hard things should not be marginalized but magnified because that is exactly what our Savior did in leaving an example for us.
If disciples are not generous in giving financially for the cause of ministry and mission, then we are not seeking first the kingdom of God. If disciples are not generous with their time and energy for the advancement of the gospel, we are not seeking first the kingdom of God, If disciples are not generous with our lives, holding them out to God with an open hand and blank check, then we are not seeking first the kingdom of God.
Healthy Christians weekly are seeing movement happen upward in worship, inward in gospel community, outward in serve toward others, and forward in generous mission for the sake of kingdom come. These weekly rhythms provide robust dynamics to represent God and put His grace on display in and through our lives.
When I first kicked around the idea for the The Disciple’s Napkin, the most amount of feedback I received had to do with the 5 minutes of Bible intake that I had proposed. Am I saying 5 minutes just to fit with the template of 5…4…3…2…1? Perhaps.
I chose a short amount of time for the following three reasons.
Of course, you may want to spend 10, 15, 30, or 60 minutes of Bible intake on a daily basis. That is great! I hope the DMN (disciple-making napkin) leads to that and more. But as I expressed in my original post, my goal is to present a vision for disciple-making that is accessible to every single Christian, and I think this approach suits that purpose.
So, what do I mean by Bible intake? Here are some examples of 5 minute Bible intakes.
Do you have other suggestions for Bible intake? I would love to hear them!
The heart of the Christian mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is a disciple called to make disciples. The making and maturing of disciples should be the centerpiece of our lives. However, it seems that, while we adhere to these truths in principle, so often disciple-making eludes us.
As I have talked with my fellow elders at Grace and other pastors among whom I share fellowship, the struggle to see the call of being a disciple-making disciple continually comes up on our conversation. Have we made it too difficult? Have we misunderstood the identity and rhythms of the Christian life in the world? Are we communicating a version of the Christian life where we can identify with Jesus but never identify with His mission?
Over the past couple months, I sought to evaluate disciple-making in my own life and church community. In particular, I wanted to focus on the biblically prescribed means of grace as the foundational disciplines for laying a framework of discipleship that cuts across every sphere of our lives. I don’t want it to be said by anyone, “I cannot make disciples because it is too complicated, too difficult, too demanding, etc.” No matter where you are in the journey as a follower of Jesus, I want it to be said by anyone, “I can do that. I can be a disciple who makes disciples of Jesus.”
During that time, I sought to incorporate these basic principles in the formative process:
After considering these principles, the key for me was to find a way to consolidate and communicate them in the most effective way possible. I have heard it say that if you cannot cast vision or explain mission on a napkin, it is too complicated or unclear. So one afternoon, I sat down at a Subway and came up with what I call “The Disciple’s Napkin.”
In the coming days, I will walk through The Disciple’s Napkin with brief explanations. My hope is that by sharing this with you, perhaps others will want to take call to make disciples who make disciples. If you are a leader in a church and want to have a simple process to the practice, please join me for the journey. I pray the discussion and development of The Disciple’s Napkin will result in many Christians and churches embracing a passion for making, maturing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus.
Tim Brister has served as a pastor and elder at Grace Baptist Church since June 2008. Tim's passion is to demonstrate a life that trusts God, treasures Christ, and triumphs the gospel. Tim is the Director of PLNTD, a church planting network in association with Founders Ministries. He's also the director of The Haiti Collective, organizer for Band of Bloggers, and creator of P2R (Partnering to Remember) and the Memory Moleskine.
You can read more about Tim on his blog, Provocations and Pantings.