There must be a biblical foundation for everything in the church. A new forward-looking ministry plan is needed to radically change the direction of St. Peter’s. Centered in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in agreement with the Lutheran Confessions, the following is the Biblical rationale behind this new direction.
Before Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father, He gathered his disciples in Galilee on a mountain to which he had directed them. When the disciples saw Jesus they worshiped, but some of them were wavering on who He was.
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. –Matthew 28:18
God the Father has given to Jesus all authority. As his baptized followers, we recognize and believe that Jesus is the Lord and master of our lives, all lives, even when many reject him. Jesus therefore sets the focus on how ministry is conducted at St. Peter’s.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. –Philippians 2:9-11
Jesus instructs his disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20) as they live their lives. Disciples are made through baptism, then teaching the baptized to obey all that Jesus has commanded.
To obey the command of Jesus, and to make disciples, we must understand what He means by “Go therefore” in Matthew 28:19a. Jesus tells us that as we go through our lives we are to make it our priority to work to make disciples of those who do not know and believe in him. We need to take our example from St. Paul as he conducted his three mission journeys in Acts 13:1-14:25; 15:36-18:22; and 18:23-21:17. Paul went into many communities and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. We too need to go out from the comforts of St. Peter’s and into Big Rapids.
There are many ways to bring the gospel of Jesus to Big Rapids. The most effective way for the followers of Jesus to be disciple makers is to follow the great commandment of Jesus. In Matthew 22:34-40 a man who was an expert in the laws of God approaches Jesus and asks him which is the greatest commandment of the law: Jesus answered him by combining Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. –Matthew 22:37-40
For us to carry out the command of Jesus to make disciples means, first and foremost, we devote our lives to the love of God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Our lives need to conform to how the first Christians in Jerusalem practiced the faith:
And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. –Acts 2:42
We are to be people who make worship a top priority in our lives. Through worship, called the Divine Service, God dispenses his gifts of forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation. We worship regularly because it is where God comes to us and gives us these gifts. As we receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation we are led to read and study his word. We therefore are empowered to devote our lives to the love of God in the service of others, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.
We proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we pray that the Holy Spirit works, bringing them to faith. Martin Luther’s explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed sums it up:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church in the one true faith.