“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.” – Jesus
Matthew 28:18-20 (the Great Commission) is typically thought of as a missionary passage, with emphasis on the word “go,” the assumption being that means go to another country. This has been called “Murphy’s Law of Missions”: Concern for the lost increases with distance. But these verses are a command to all believers, and the imperative verb (that is, the command) in this passage is “make disciples.” The going, baptizing and teaching are participles (for you grammarians), secondary verbs that describe how disciple-making is supposed to be done.
Thus, this passage is at the heart of Faith Bible Church’s mission statement, “A loving community making disciples of Jesus Christ.”
So, if this command is for all believers, where does missions fit in? While there are many other Bible passages that inform our beliefs about missions, some of which we will encounter as we go through 1 Corinthians, in this passage we see it in the object of the command: “make disciples of all the nations.”
“All the nations” in Greek is panta ta ethne, and that last word is where we get our English word “ethnic.” In common English usage today we think of “nations” as countries, political states like the U.S., Spain or Japan. But in the New Testament it refers to ethnic groups.
Most countries have many ethnic groups within their borders (the west African country of Cameroon, for example, is smaller than Washington state but has over 100 ethne). We are to make disciples not just from our own ethnic group, but from all ethnic groups. While some of this does take place outside the US – what we call missions or “global outreach” – there are also dozens of ethnic groups (usually called people groups) right here in Spokane.
How is Faith involved in all these different aspects of disciple-making? Most of us are probably aware of the discipling that takes place through Growth Groups, children’s and youth ministries, Doxa, biblical counseling, and more. This is primarily, although not entirely, same-ethnic-group discipling.
And many of us know that our church sends and supports global workers who live outside the US and primarily make disciples of other ethne. We also have several families at Faith who are in the preparation process to be sent out as global partners. Support goes beyond finances and includes elder oversight, member care and, where appropriate, sending short-term workers to assist in the ministry. This summer, several individuals will be traveling to Tenerife, the Spanish mainland, and the Czech Republic to encourage and assist our global partners there. In addition, we plan to send a team to Southeast Asia to partner with long-term workers in making disciples among ethnic groups that have no church and few, if any, Christians (these are known as unreached people groups).
Faith members are involved in a variety of disciple-making efforts with other ethne here in Spokane. The Nepali ministry is now a well-established local church making its own disciples and their pastor, Bimal Rai, has been invited to several other US cities that have sizable Nepali populations (as well as to Nepal itself) to advise on disciple-making and church planting strategies there.
Dan and Pam Ubaldo work with International Students Incorporated. One of their outreach activities is called Talk Time, a monthly dinner and English language practice event. Some Faith members, as well as believers from other churches, assist with food preparation and act as table hosts and English conversationalists for the international students who attend.
The war in Ukraine has brought hundreds of Ukrainians to Spokane, and our own members who came from Ukraine in the past are providing help in a number of ways. Besides raising funds to send for relief efforts in Ukraine, they have welcomed recently arrived Ukrainians, assisting with housing and food, and inviting them to our services, where they provide simultaneous translation.
In addition, there are Faith members working among other refugees in Spokane, most of whom are from unreached people groups. A team led by Mike Sawatzky hosts a monthly “Friendship Dinner” here at Faith attended by families from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere, many of whom are Muslim. A message from God’s Word is part of the program and often leads to further conversations around the tables.
This June, this group will hold our third annual refugee camping trip. Last year, the Christian hosts organized a Sunday morning worship service during the trip. We told our refugee friends they were welcome to come if they wanted to but that there was absolutely no pressure. Surprisingly, all but one chose to attend and observe Christian worship.
As relationships with these families have grown, Faith members (and believers from other churches) are engaging on an individual level, visiting in homes, assisting with English, hosting game nights and helping in a number of other ways. This often allows for deeper conversations about faith and the Gospel to take place.
More recently, Faith organized a “Good Neighbor Team,” led by Mike Hudspeth, which was connected by World Relief with a refugee family from Ethiopia. In God’s providence, this family spent years in Kenya as refugees before coming to the U.S. and speak Swahili, which my wife and I also know (Google Translate has its limits). As “brand new” arrivals, our team has assisted this family of seven with shopping, transportation to medical appointments, job procurement, explanations of American culture, and advocacy.
For example, we are working to connect with the Spokane School District about providing English language learning and other resources for the family’s three oldest children, who attend a local elementary school. Imagine mainstreaming an 11-year-old boy into a fifth-grade class who doesn’t even know the alphabet and can’t read in any language – although he speaks three.
In all of these activities, the goal is to serve others in the name of Jesus, speak Gospel truth whenever possible and prayerfully work towards making disciples from “all the nations.”
Please pray for our global partners (and future global partners), short-term workers, and local “other ethnic group” discipling activities. Without the Holy Spirit’s help, all these efforts would be in vain. Your faithful giving to Faith Bible Church’s budget enables us to keep all this disciple-making work going. And with the future global partners already in the pipeline, the need will increase.
In obedience to Jesus’ command, we desire to be a loving community making disciples of Jesus Christ from among all the ethne, both near and far.
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Psalm 96:1-3
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