For the past two and a half weeks the world has been watching the 2018 Winter Olympic Games from South Korea. It all started with opening ceremony marked with the triumphant entrance of every country’s Olympic athletes. The fact that each athlete is there is worthy of celebration. But what if, after the triumphant arrival at the games, an athlete decided not to show up for his or her event, saying, “I’ve made it to the Olympics; there’s nothing else I need to do.” Or what if after the start of a race an athlete ran – or skied – a few feet then started celebrating with no more thought about the finish line? It sounds kind of ridiculous. We know that just getting to the event is not really the goal. Just starting the race is not the goal. One must complete what he or she came for.
I think, as followers of Jesus, we have confused the starting line for the finish line. We celebrate salvation decisions and baptisms, and rightly so! It is an incredible thing to celebrate with one who has heard and answered the call to follow Jesus. But for the most part in Christian life today, we focus nearly exclusively on that salvation decision. So much so that we have forgotten that the real work begins after salvation. Saying “yes” to Jesus is the starting line. That starting line is the beginning of an exciting and challenging life of learning to obey all that Jesus commanded us.
Every athletic event is measured by a score of some sort. Sometimes it is about how many points are scored; sometimes it is how fast the athlete completes the course, or how far they run or slide or fly! (Sometimes it is about sliding a giant rock very slowly on the ice while someone sweeps or mops, but we’ll have to figure that one out later!) All that to say that our church “scorecard” has been about celebrating the starting line and we have neglected the race called disciple-making.
Maybe instead of asking how many decisions have been made, we should be asking questions like these:
- Do I see everyday life as my mission field to make disciples?
- To whom am I accountable as a disciple-maker?
- Am I reproducing the life of Christ in others?
- Am I living in biblical community?
- Am I studying, learning, and applying the Word of God daily?
God is challenging us to run the race. That includes sharing our faith and inviting people to put their faith in Jesus, but for those new believers, that is the starting line. Now their race begins and our race continues as we run alongside them, helping them follow Jesus. Now we have become disciple-makers and we are teaching our brother and sister in Christ to also become disciple-makers! This is the race which we have entered. For the vast majority of believers in Jesus, we have crossed the starting line and celebrated, not realizing we haven’t really begun to do what we are called to do. We haven’t really begun to run the race.
I want to challenge you to consider a new scorecard and keep running the race: See your mission field; find someone to help you and hold you accountable; help someone else to live for Jesus; spend time with fellow believers, not only on Sundays, but day to day; make God’s Word an indispensable part of every day. Salvation is the starting line. Learning to become disciple-makers is the real race. As exciting as it is to enter the race, just wait to see what it is like to finish!