Everyone likes the idea of reform unless they are immediately affected by such reform. It seems that our nation is in a tremendous state of reform as we attempt to correct the mistakes and excesses of yesterday. Just last week, the Georgia State Senate was interrupted by student protestors during an important debate about the future of the HOPE Scholarship program. The protestors were escorted out of the building chanting, “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” If you’re new to Georgia, the HOPE Scholarship has provided in-state tuition to Georgia high school graduates with a high enough GPA. The HOPE Scholarship even paid a small amount of tuition for students attending private universities in the state. The only problem with HOPE is that it is going BROKE and there is simply not enough money available to fully fund it. Therefore, it has been the subject of debate for the last few weeks. Most rational people will tell you that to ensure that a program like HOPE remains solvent, it has to be the subject of significant reform. Try explaining that to those student protestors. Everybody likes reform until they become the focus of reform!
As we look at the church in our country, we would also do well to ask the question, are there mistakes and excesses of yesterday that need correction? Ultimately, we should be asking whether or not Jesus is pleased with the progress His church is making in our nation? When we consider the spiritual condition of our nation – even our churches – is there really any doubt that the answer is no? We must remember that God said he was not willing for anyone to perish – yet we are living in a time where 80% of our population is unchurched. So, as we cry out for healthcare reform, Social Security reform, immigration reform, and every other type of reform, should we not also be crying out for significant reforms in the way we think about church?
Last week, we considered the mission statement of Jesus, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” Clearly, this was a priority for Jesus’ three year public ministry. A church that is serious about pleasing our Lord had better be serious about reaching the lost. At the same time we see Jesus’ priority on the lost, Jesus also placed a great amount of emphasis on the 12 men that we know as the disciples. It wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to leave a multitude of people and withdraw with his small group and give them special and specific instruction – today we would call this discipleship. This is an essential concept for the church that desires to please our Lord.
In the New Testament, one term in particular describes the disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ – equipped. In Ephesians 4, Paul said that it was the work of church leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” In 2 Timothy, Paul reminds us of the significance of Bible study in our discipleship. In 3:16, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Equipping a Christian is not something that happens by accident, it is an intentional process. It is just as intentional as equipping a soldier to go fight on a battlefield.
How important is this notion of discipleship? It is so important that Jesus included it in the marching orders for the church. In Matthew 28, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples.” Not converts or church-goers, but disciples. I would say that this is an essential aspect of the church’s ministry.
So, if we started with nothing but the Bible, we have our mission statement – to seek the lost, and our purpose statement, to equip saints. That’s the kind of reform that should make our Lord smile.