This post is part of a 8-part blog series called, “Outward Focused.” Click here to watch the introduction video.
JESUS’ ORIGINAL VISION
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.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Peter Drucker says it’s the human propensity to start with a clear vision and to get it muddied up along the way. It’s just kind of what happens to human beings in organizations. Drucker also said that it’s important for organizations to consistently ask two related questions, “What business are we in?” and “How’s business?”
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus wanted to make sure that his followers would never fall prey to that fuzziness. It’s called the great commission. From the start, he wanted the first Christians to know what business they were in. He said for everyone to hear, “Here is what I want my followers to do. I want you to lead people to faith, and I want you to disciple them into maturity.” Another way of saying it, “I want you to make new believers. I want you to help existing believers to be constantly growing in their faith.”
Then Jesus unveiled the organization through which this great commission was going to be carried out… it was called the church. Throughout the history of Christianity, the effectiveness of local churches has always been measured against this great commission. The question has always been, are new people finding a relationship with Jesus? And are existing believers growing up? Jesus’ dream was reaching people who are far from God. Mobilizing the ‘insiders’ to reach the ‘outsiders.’ If the great commission is what we’d call Jesus’ ‘mission statement.’ His vision statement can be summarized by his fulfillment of Isaiah’s messianic prophecy in Luke 4:18-21. In the very first act of Jesus’ public ministry, he goes into the synagogue, stands up and opens the scroll and reads the Messianic passage from Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
So, Jesus announced his new kingdom that would bring justice, healing, shalom to the poor – hope to the broken, to the prisoners, to the outcasts. That those far from God would be brought near to God. Very different than the kingdoms people were used to on earth with their castles and crowns and conquests. Christ’s kingdom was not about lands, and thrones, and power, but about a new way for God’s people to live under God’s authority. This continues to be good news for the lost and broken as long as the church remains committed to Jesus’ original vision.
Let’s go to another one of Jesus’ firsts. If Luke 4 was the content of Jesus’ first act of public ministry, there’s another indicator of his priorities during the calling of the first disciples over in Matthew 4. Jesus provides a very simple and very concise job description for the first disciples. He comes up to Peter and Andrew as they were fishing and he says,
Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. – Matthew 4:19
Again and again Jesus provides us with clear directives that his vision and his vision for his followers is to maintain an outward focus. And to continue with his in-gathering efforts during our short time on the planet.