Primary Calling Matthew 28:16-20

1.  Introduction (102)

I want to give a warning as I start this series of sermons: (a) I have just turned 40 and (b) I have just come back from a Sabbatical.  You know what that means: I’ve been asking some searching questions.  I’m hoping that this series is going to create good conversation, helpful feedback and careful introspection for us as individuals, and for us as a church community.

Let me give you a bit of the back story to the statement I just made:  for many years I have held out to you the Biblical picture of the Christian community as the body of Christ.  Basically I have said: each person has got gifts, God gave gifted people to the church (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists) to equip the body to be Christ to each other and the world.  I have taught from this lectern.  I have taught it in our membership classes.  We have opened bible passages in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 to talk about gifts and gifting and the priesthood of all believers.  I have said that you can only grow when you give – otherwise you just become a fat couch potato Christian.

Some of you have responded.  Some of you have not.  So I have been forced to ask the question, “Why do some people listen to me and others don’t?”  I am sure that there are other reasons, but the ones that I hear mentioned most often is busyness, general lack of commitment in society, low levels of volunteerism in society…

My initial thinking was that, if I could just get people to (1) identify their gifts, (2) see the need to be part of the body and (3) the promise of fruitful investment – then on Monday I would have a line of willing volunteers at my office door as long as the line at the end of the church service!  But I tried that before.

My recent reflection is that there is a rightness to what I have been saying (so don’t scrap everything) but there is a missing foundational element.  It is not a new trick to get people more involved in ECCC.  In fact it is so foundational that it may work in reverse at the beginning.

2.  Reflecting on context

A.   The flow of culture

If you were living 60/80 years ago there would have been such a strong Christian underpinning in society that missions hardly felt necessary.  Churches were full enough, and people lived moral-enough lives.  But today, almost every mainline church is battling because the culture has shifted from a “church is good and God should be central of life” to “who is God anyway and Christians are a bit annoying”.  The flow of culture 60/80 years ago drove you towards church (even if unwillingly).  The flow of culture at the moment drives you away from church (usually willingly).

  1. Focus on church activities

The result was that there was a bias towards in-house church activities – to the detriment of mission.  Organisations like Youth for Christ, Scripture Union and Billy Graham did mission.  The church largely stuck to providing for the needs of believers.  This “church activity” bias lead to churches focus on keeping the church going.

That was (arguably) appropriate for those times.  But today a church with a “church activities” focussed ministry is dead in the water.  The numbers of volunteers needed to sustain these kinds of churches are not present in mainline churches like ours.  So, what do we do?  The minister (that’s me) preaches sermons (like this) to get more people involved (that’s you).

But if the culture has changed surely the church needs to reshape its focus so that we minister appropriately in the 21st Century.  Mission was always meant to be at the core of the local church.   Local churches need to focus less on church activities and more on mission.  Remember the three core tenets of our church: Family who share life, disciples who grow, and missionaries who are sent – but we are out of balance.

C.   Christians are kept busy

This is the corollary of keeping a church going – involved Christians are kept busy keeping the church going.  And two things happen: (a) people are genuinely kept so busy that the time and energy they could spend on mission is spent on church-focussed activities; (b) They don’t engage in mission because they have “done their bit for God”

D.   The sacred versus secular divide remains

Last year we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.  One of the things that was reformed was the biblical idea of the priesthood of all believers.  It was not insignificant: Martin Luther who was university educated, taught that the uneducated peasants we just as capable of doing God work, fulfilling his purposes. (Luther: this word ‘priest’ should become as common as ‘Christian’ because all Christians are priest.

But what wasn’t reclaimed was the sacred/secular divide.  There was a continuation of the unhelpful idea that church and Christian service is sacred and the rest of your work life was secular.  So what you do within the church context is for God; what you do outside the church context must be moral.  It gives the impression.

3.  The plan

So, for the next couple of weeks I want to unpack some of these ideas and see what it would look like for the church to shape itself more around mission.  And trust that in the process we will find better balance – personally and the church.

4.  The starting point: Primary  calling

Matthew 28:19 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This passage has generally become the “lets send people abroad to be missionaries” passage.  You know when the preacher announces his text what is coming.   This morning I am saying that this passage answers all the foundational questions you will ever ask in life.  Questions about purpose, meaning, direction and fulfilment:

  • Who am I created to BE? What is my identity?
  • What am I created to DO? What is my purpose?
  • Where am I created to GO? Where should I do it?

A guy by the name of Todd Wilson  has cleverly distilled it into three words: BE-DO-GO.  He suggests that the Bible answers these questions for us. For example, before Adam and Eve sinned we were God’s children created in his image with the purpose of taking care of the garden and living in the Garden of Eden.  Since the fall there has been a restlessness in mankind – a searching to answer the questions:

  • BE – relationship with God was broken
  • DO – work became hard labour
  • GO – people have been seeking the peace of Eden since we were kicked out

Since the fall people have used all kinds of scorecards to judge how they are doing in life – to measure themselves.  And just before Jesus left he succinctly answered these questions for us forever.

  • BE – we are certainly children of God through salvation, but notice is 28:16 Jesus has 11 disciples. They worship him: this means they seek first and foremost to put him in first place and become more like him.
  • DO – Then in 28:19 he gives us our mission / purpose: all Christians at all times are to make disciples. We are to be witnesses of his love and grace so that others may be drawn to him and themselves become disciples.
  • GO – We are to be disciples and make disciples wherever we are and in whatever we are doing. We are to be the love of Jesus everywhere we go with intentionality and urgency.

5.  Primary calling

Guard rail – Stormsriver bridge

This BE-DO-GO is like the guard rails to make sure we stay on the path.   The primary calling shared with all Christians, everywhere, at all times is to be disciples who make disciples wherever we are.

6.  Conclusion



  • Read Matt 28:16-28
  • Grant suggested that ECCC needs more volunteers, why do you think more people don’t volunteer?
  • Grant gave several reflections on the culture and the context of the church in the 21st
    1. Did you agree or disagree? And if so how?
    2. What effects do you think these issues are having on the church?
    3. Why do you think the church (and other bigger organisations struggle to adapt to culture)?
    4. In what ways should the church be prepared to adapt (and not adapt) to culture?
  • How would you answer these questions as a generic Christian (not for you personally):
    1. Who am I created to BE? What is my identity?
    2. What am I created to DO? What is my purpose?
    3. Where am I created to GO? Where should I do it?
  • Todd Wilson puts forward the BE-DO-GO framework for the primary calling of all Christians. How does this recapture the mission heart of Christianity?
  • Would your life change if you started to act like a disciple who made disciples wherever you are? If so, how?