It has been seven weeks since I had the shoulder replacement surgery and am finally able to type with both hands; and it feels good to be on the computer again (with both hands and not just one finger). The surgery was very successful and I have been given the green light to drive and begin physical therapy; thank you all for your prayers on my behalf. Hopefully the surgeon was even more successful in getting me another 70 yards off the tee plus a slight “draw” on the iron game but I will have to wait until Thanksgiving before I can see how gifted Dr. Willis was in complying with my unrealistic request.
This has been a busy month for Carol and I, with getting our home ready to be shown so that it could be sold yet this summer. We listed the home about a month ago and had two solid offers within three days that were over the price that we listed the home for; and we hope to “close” on the property tomorrow (July 30, 2021).
It is our intention to move to Lutheran Haven in Oviedo, Florida (Lutheran retirement community in north Orlando) and will be living in a modest, two-bedroom cottage sometime this fall; until then, we plan on living out of a suitcase and visiting family and friends in the Midwest.
In this last series of Grapevine articles, I would like to share a few thoughts regarding several resolutions that were passed at our recent New Jersey District convention (May 21, 2021); foremost being the resolution that discussed the reason for the existence of the church as His people and messengers in the world: to make disciples of all nations.
When Jesus called His first disciples, He told them that He would make them to be “fishers of men.” These first four disciples were fishermen and they quickly understood what Jesus meant for their lives as His disciples; not only would they be and live as His disciples, they also would spend their lives making disciples of others. In response to that invitation of Jesus, they left their boats and followed Jesus in this mission.
Georg Vicedom, in his book titled The Mission of God, shared this about the heart of God and the work of God’s people whose hearts have been changed by the Gospel: “The Bible in its totality ascribes only one intention to God: to save humankind!” “Every task of the church makes sense and has a purpose only as it leads to the mission of making disciples of all nations.”
A bit later Vicedom made this challenging observation and statement (which has stayed with me for nearly thirty years now since I first read that book back in 1991): “If she (the church) dissociates herself from this concern of God, she becomes disobedient and can no longer be church in this divine sense…hence the church is not called on to decide whether she will carry on the mission or not…she can only decide for herself whether she wants to be the church.”
In order to accomplish His mission, God lays claim to make use of every believer exactly as He wills. A central theme woven throughout the resolution is that every disciple of Jesus has the same mission: to go and make disciples of all nations.
Far too often we have become a “silent church” – a people who have privatized and domesticated the Gospel message – what I mean is this, we are not silent in our church buildings but, far too often (and I begin with acknowledging this myself as your retiring District President), we are silent when it comes to sowing the Gospel in the lives of people outside of our church property. The “apostolic church” of the first five centuries was not a silent church.
In the days, months, and years ahead, let us recommit ourselves to be what we weekly confess ourselves to be by His grace and saving work in our lives: “the one, holy, Christian and apostolic church.” It is the individual and congregational resolve “to build up and strengthen present disciples in their life of discipleship” and “to reach out to those who are not yet His disciples with the hope that they will become His disciples through the proclamation of the Gospel in their lives” (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 2:4-10).
WHEREAS, the right to discipleship was earned for us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-25a; Revelation 1:4b-5); and
WHEREAS, a disciple is a learner and the first disciples, as they gathered in Jerusalem after His resurrection and ascension, devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching that they had received from Jesus (Acts 2:42); and
WHEREAS, a disciple is always chosen by Jesus Christ, with the expressed purpose that they were to bear fruit, the kind of fruit that would last (John 15:1-8, 16); and
WHEREAS, a disciple is an active student of God’s Word and builds one’s life on the person and words of Jesus Christ; for a wise disciple is one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice (Matthew 7:24-27; John 8:31-32, 47); and
WHEREAS, a disciple does more than just master the Word, a disciple is stamped and fashioned in the mold of Jesus Christ and is a living witness to Him (Galatians 2:20); and
WHEREAS, disciples are members of Christ’s body, each with just the right spiritual gift to serve and bless the other disciples, administering His grace in its various forms (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31; 1 Peter 4:10); and
WHEREAS, the commission of Jesus made known in Matthew 28:18-20 lays this double obligation upon His people: the strengthening of present disciples in their life of discipleship; and reaching out to those who are not yet His disciples with the hope that they will become His disciples through their proclamation of the Gospel in their lives as His disciples (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21); therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the mission and ministry of a Christian congregation is to make disciples of all nations through its ministry of discipleship.