By Rick Cowman
Seventeen years ago I began writing this column, An Encouraging Word. The column started as an outreach of my pastoral ministry as pastor of Federated Fellowship, and I continued to write all these years after my part in that ministry ended. It doesn’t seem possible I’ve been writing in The Chronicle that many years, but it’s been a privilege serving you all this way. To those of you who have faithfully read my words each week, I say, “thank you!” Thank you for allowing me to come into your homes and impact your lives with the life-changing Word of God!
There’s nothing I’d rather do than communicate God’s truth, whether it’s through the avenue of preaching, counseling, or writing this column! So, thanks for allowing me this indulgence as I attempt to use my gifts for God's glory! As I have done for the past several years on this anniversary, this week’s column is a re-run of the first column I wrote for the paper on July 21, 1995. Even though it was written a long time ago, it’s still coming from my heart! Here it is in it’s unabridged form:
I’ve spent considerable time lately thinking about what it means to be involved in ministry. As I began to take a fresh look at God’s Word, I came away with a fresh perspective of how He sees ministry! Let’s look at Matthew 28, verses 19 and 20 again for the first time: “Go...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…(and) teaching them to observe all I command you…(NASB).”
Is this our passion? Are we actively fulfilling the Great Commission? Most of us, if we are honest, would have to say, “probably not”; at least not to the degree implied by the word, “GO!” This word, “go”, literally means, “as you go”. In other words, as we go about our daily activities, be looking for opportunities to “make disciples”. This was not a suggestion, but a command! Jesus said, “greater works shall you do in My name…” So, what are we doing?
But, how do we make disciples? First of all, we make disciples by seizing the moments God gives us to lead people to faith in Christ. But it doesn’t stop there. We must then be willing to walk with them through the process of growing in their relationship with Him, teaching them the disciplines of the Christian life by our example to them. This can only occur as we spend time with them!
So, to whom do we “go”? Our text says to “all nations”. The word translated, “nations”, in Matthew 28 is the Greek word, “ethnos”, where we get our English word, “ethnic”. In other words, we are to go to ALL GROUPS of people, not just to those with whom we are comfortable, or those who will not require our time or pose no challenges, but to ALL PEOPLE! With whom did Jesus spend His time? He poured His life into a few, but spent time with everyone who had a need, including the prostitutes and crooks, and the elderly and sick! Acts 1, verse 8, tells us we “shall be (Jesus’) witnesses”! Whether we are good or poor ones, we are witnesses to God’s grace and love. The people of the Pella area are looking at you and me to see if there is anything to this Christianity, to see if there’s a difference! They are looking for something real! And the only way they will see a difference is if the Church develops a heart for ministry, a passion for the people, and begins to take the Great Commission seriously!
Are you willing? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of just “doing” Church! I want to make a difference in people’s lives! I want to reach this community for Christ! We can do it together. Let’s “put our hands to the plow and not look back!”