Be A Disciple in Your Own Community
Imagine this: you are on a beach of rocks and seashells. They crunch beneath your sandals as you make your way to the water. The sounds of the sea linger in your ears; there is a breeze. You sit down on a big rock and just look out at the landscape: green mountains surround the Sea of Galilee with hues of pink and blue blending together on the horizon. This is where I sat for a long while less than two weeks ago. This past month, I was fortunate enough to pay Jordan, Israel, and Greece a visit, touring sites that are depicted in the Bible. As I sat on the shore of Capernaum, the world of Jesus’s ministry began to come alive to me.
Sitting on that rock, my professor and I looked at a map of the Sea of Galilee and its surrounding towns. If you haven’t looked at one, you should because it was fascinating to me. The Galilee touches many of the towns that are mentioned in Jesus’s ministry. Looking at the map and then looking back at the water, what baffled me that most is how small it all was. Most of the places mentioned in the Gospels where we read about the miracles and teachings of Jesus happened so near to one another. Jesus didn’t travel great distances to preach the Word, nor did he live in a very large town. Capernaum was so small compared to what I imagined when I read about it in the Bible. The synagogue where he taught couldn’t be more than a football field away from the water. But the thing that struck me the most as I sat on its shore was how the message and story of Jesus were able to reach crazy distances, across countries and continents, without Jesus himself necessarily traveling to those places. I was then hit with the realization and importance of how the Lord uses His people.
Jesus worked on a small group of people to send a big message––the message––and without people dedicated to spreading it, so many would not know the Lord.
The Lord chooses to use His people to spread his Word. If He wanted to, the Lord could transform the hearts of every human on earth; He could show everyone that He is Lord and that His hand is in all things. God has the power to do that. Yet, He calls on us, His children, to minister to His people.
In Matthew 28:18, Jesus commands this of us:
And Jesus came to them and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission is what all people who call themselves followers of Christ are called to do. Jesus hand-picked his own twelve disciples that followed him from town to town around the Galilee, but he knew that his work would not end with them. Therefore, all of God’s people are called to be disciples and make disciples. That is the only way that such a big message could come from such a small group of people. And you don’t need to go crazy distances to be a servant of God’s Word. I feel like there is a big misconception that you’re only being missional if you go to third-world countries or across an ocean to spread the message of Jesus.
I know that those places need Him––but we all need Him.
I think we can forget that the people in our own neighborhood need to hear the Gospel as well. Jesus did that. He rooted himself in a small town and spent most of his ministry only ever going a few miles from that town. He invested himself in those people.
Throughout high school, I had the opportunity to be a part of several missions teams. I got to travel to places like Quebec and London and work with churches, kids, and the local communities. I loved every minute of it and saw the urgency in being there. But the summer after my freshman year of college I got to be a part of missions team that went to South Philadelphia, less than an hour away from where I grew up. It was practically my backyard. For me, that trip and the connections that were made impacted me more profoundly than the relationships I made while going abroad. Simply because I could see those people again. They were a train ride away. They were my community. That is not to say that my time abroad was not important or significant, because I believe it was, but what I realized in South Philly is that even my neighbor needs Jesus; I cannot forget him or her. I think maybe we can neglect the community around us because we don’t like to think that the people closest to us might not know Jesus.
But everyone and I mean everyone, near or far deserves to hear the Word of the Lord. He says to make disciples of all nations, which includes our own.
I know for me it is sometimes scarier to be a disciple to my own community. What if they reject the gospel and it hurts my relationship with them? That’s a real thing and a valid fear. Sometimes it might feel easier to share the gospel with someone you may never have to see again. It’s low risk for both of you. However, pursuing the Lord isn’t really a “low risk” situation, now is it? We are not promised ease and simplicity, but we are promised the free gift of eternal life through faith. What a blessing is that? What good news to hear! When you hear good news, don’t you want to go out and share that with everyone that you love, and then some? Because I know I do! And good news spreads. The people that you affect go onto effect other people. It is the most beautiful ripple effect that I know. We are not alone in this. He equips us for that and gives us the strength to do this. As Paul puts it, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). In that case, what should hold us back from spreading the love of Christ? Like I said earlier if He wanted to God could transform the hearts of His people all on His own. But He uses His children to do His work on earth. He placed an importance on the disciples. I mean, without Paul and his journeys we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament! And I think that’s pretty important stuff, don’t you?
The God we serve is an awesome one. I mean, really awesome. He formed mountains, He imagined oceans, He breathed and things just existed. That’s amazing! Let’s share that. And you don’t have to go somewhere crazy far away to do it. Just look around you. Are there any people in your life or any place in your community that you see needs the Lord? Start there. Your “missions field” is wherever you are. Like Jesus first called Peter and Andrew to follow him and become “fishers of men,” so we are called. It’s our great commission. Friends, let us be advocates for Christ wherever we are. He is SO good and we want the world to know it!
Sarah Cullen // @itssarahcullen