Saturday, August 21, 2010

Leftovers: stuff that didn't make it into the sermon.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20

As I studied this passage there was so much more than can go into one sermon, especially a sermon that needs to be on the short side as there's lots of other stuff going on in worship tomorrow.

Here are a few thoughts that didn't make the cut:

According to one commentary - making disciples is about bringing folks into the community of faith, then comes believing, baptism, teaching. So if we use this understanding of making disciples, we work to get folks into community with us or others before we worry about their beliefs. Or, as some denominations would put it, before they are saved. This particular commentary would say community comes first.

I also found myself asking about the directive about "teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." Here's my question - do we teach people or do we teach content? You see, when you ask a teacher what they teach, most often they will tell you the subject they teach. I couldn't ever answer that way. Sometimes I would say I teach special ed (which really describes a population of students), but sometimes I would say I teach students with special needs. Do we teach people or topics? In Hebrew the word teach = to cause to learn. No question there as to who/what the object of the verb is - people not content. In this passage, the direction also indicates that we teach people not the content. It doesn't say teach all that I have commanded you to the people.

So how, you might ask, are the paragraphs above related? Funny you should ask in just that way - related, relational, relationship. These are what these two paragraphs have in common. Making disciples (bringing into the community) and teaching are both relational activities requiring at least on some level, relationship.

With whom do we as the body of Christ, commissioned to make disciples, baptize, and teach need to be fostering relationships?


  1. Sorry, Liz. I would have to disagree with you on the teaching thing. If teaching has no content then I don't see that the word has any meaning. My Greek isn't great, but as I read it, the verb for teach is followed by the accusative them (i.e. the direct object of the verb) but the next word is an infinite meaning "keeping, obeying, observing", so we are to teach people to obey or keep the commandments. The content of the teaching I take to be essentially the Sermon on the Mount. If we are not teaching people how to recognize and live in the kingdom, then we are being relational simply for the sake of relationship and not for the sake of the kingdom.
    Martha Myre

  2. Martha, I didn't mean to indicate that we should ignore the content and not teach folks the everything Jesus commanded. I meant that relationship is essential to teaching and to making disciples of Christ. Sometimes, some people get so caught up in the content, we forget the people. And since I dropped Greek, I'm sure your's is more accurate than mine. I simply looked at what word followed the word teaching and it was the word that refered to the people not the content.

  3. I can see what Pastor Martha is saying, but my opinion is a little different (and that is all it is, so please take no offense). Teaching the content and teaching people go hand in hand. If you take it literally, and teach the content with no regard as to whom you are teaching, then the content will be lost. When asked what I teach, it’s always the grade level (who), then if it’s a particular subject, then the subject. In my opinion, the people come first, then the content. The content doesn’t make sense or will go over the heads of the people if you don’t form the content to whom you are teaching. This may also be a little bold, but if our goal is to help people create a relationship with God, wouldn’t it make sense to put it in a language and delivery style that makes sense to the people we are helping to create this relationship?

  4. Interestingly after I posted this, I watched "The Soloist" last night. In it there are two people who illustrate both what Martha is saying and what I'm saying. One develops a friendship with Nathaniel a homeless man who has great musical gifts and schizophrenia. The other tutors him in cello and seeks to present the gospel of Christ, but doesn't take time to establish the relationship first. To be fair, the schizophrenia means that Nathaniel's responses are unpredicatble at best. However, neither approach (relationship without message, or message without relationship) works in terms of "teaching them everything I have commanded you."


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