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hope for churches in stress

Last Words

Shakespeare, who was a master at captivating audiences, wrote: "The tongues of dying men enforce attention . . ."

Jesus’ last words, before he ascended to heaven, are recorded in all four gospels and again in Acts, five times in all. The most familiar is in Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Anyone. In the early church we see apostles, deacons, evangelists, disciples, and converts all actively telling about Jesus. Though his last words were spoken to the apostles, anyone who follows Jesus is included in the mandate to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8).

Anywhere. The last words of Jesus involve movement. Whether explicit in the word “go,” implicit in the word “sent,” or implied by the destinations that are named, we are to move toward people.

The easiest people to engage live nearby. We may interact with people who are further from us in distance, background, or culture. As the Spirit directs, some of us go to people far away. Geography is not an issue; we can talk about Jesus anywhere (Acts 1:7).

Anytime. We may think that the sole aim in talking about Jesus is to assist people to cross the line of faith, in a moment (or season) of conversion. Yet Jesus’ last words clearly enfold the full work of making, baptizing, and teaching disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

To depict the increments involved in this progression of faith, James Engel developed a numerical scale, using numbers from -10 to +10. A person at -10 on the Engel scale would know nothing about God; at the baseline of zero, he or she would trust Jesus as Savior; at +10 the person would have come to full maturity in Christ.

Understood in this way, our words and actions, anytime along this continuum, can help to make a mature disciple of Jesus.

As the Holy Spirit gives us love for people, opens our eyes to see those with whom we can relate, and gives us the courage to tell what we know about Jesus, anyone can go anywhere to help someone at anytime to take another step toward Jesus.


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