Mission Creep

John the Baptist was a man on a mission. We would do well to follow His example as we seek to serve well.

John had a special place in God’s plan to redeem the world. In John 1:6, we read, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (NASB). From the three other Gospels in the New Testament, we know that this verse refers to John the Baptist. This is a different man than John, the son of Zebedee, who wrote the Gospel that bears his name.

God gave John the Baptist a specific mission (“sent from God”) that supported His overall plan to redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. John’s assignment preceded Christ’s mission on the world stage as he pointed everyone he could to Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah. In the following verse, we learn that John came to witness and testify about Jesus Christ (John 1:7). In other words, His job was to shine a spotlight on “the Light” that had come into the darkness.

John’s mission put him in conflict with the mission of those who would ultimately rejected Jesus. Later on in John chapter 1, John the Baptist was questioned by a group of priests and Levites who were sent by the Jewish establishment (John 1:19-28). They were concerned about John and what he was trying to do. Neither he, nor Jesus, fit into their preconceived notions of a Savior.

The problem with a mission is that it can change overtime. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, mission creep is “the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization.” As John pointed people to Jesus his own popularity grew. In a short time, he attracted his own group of followers who were eager to hear a message from God. Even after John death, there was a group of disciples who followed John’s teachings and ignored Jesus. (Acts 19:1-7).

The closing verse in this short section guards against confusion and mission creep. In John 1:8 is says that John the Baptist was NOT the Light of the World (John 8:12). Even though he had a significant job to do, he was not the center of God’s plan to redeem the world.

Today’s Christian leaders would do well to pay attention to this verse. Like John the Baptist, believers today have been sent on a mission (John 20:21-22). That mission is to point others to Jesus Christ, not to replace Him as the Savior – of the Church, the denomiaiton, or the world. Christian leaders who gain popularity can drift from their original mission and forget that we are all just humble witnesses to the Light.

Portraits of Discipleship

lili-popper-29472-unsplashThe term “discipleship” means different things to different people. Some people think of discipleship as a specific kind of bible study curriculum or an optional class at their church that is focused on discipleship. Other people imagine a person – one of the original twelve disciples that Jesus Christ called to follow him. Another group of people may get stuck on the root of the word which is “discipline.” These understandings aren’t wrong, they are just incomplete.

Discipleship is more than an idea, or a person, or class. Discipleship is a process in which people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and learn to serve him more effectively. In John 1:29-51, John the Apostle (one of the original twelve disciples) shared three short stories about Jesus and his interactions with his first followers. You could call these short stories portraits of discipleship.

Each one of the three stories in this passage answers two questions: Who is Jesus? And what does it mean to follow Jesus?

  • THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD (v. 29-34)

John the Baptist told his followers that Jesus Christ was “the Lamb of God” while John was baptizing and preaching by the Jordan river. Lambs were very important in Jewish thinking. A lamb was killed at Passover and its blood was spread on the doorposts of the home to symbolizes God’s pardon. This teaches us that sin can only be wiped away by the blood of a sacrificial lamb.

  • THE RABBI WHO TEACHES US ABOUT OURSELVES (v. 35-42)

John the Baptist passed on two his disciples to Jesus: Andrew and either Philip or John. Andrew went and found his brother, Simon, and introduced him to Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus took the opportunity to teach Simon something about himself. Even though Simon was impulsive and outspoken, he would become as solid as rock through his time with Jesus. Jesus gave him a new nickname, Peter, as a promise of the transformation that would happen in his life.

  • THE TRUE KING WHO RULES OVER GOD’S PEOPLE (v. 43-51)

Jesus went into Galilee and found another disciple named Philip. Like Andrew, Philip found his brother, Nathaniel, and introduced him to Jesus. Jesus explained to his growing band of followers he already knew Nathaniel. Jesus knew Nathaniel while studied the Scriptures under a fig tree. Jesus also knew that Nathaniel was truthful and authentic

Nathaniel immediately recognized Jesus as the True King of Israel. The Jewish Messiah was God’s chosen reprehensive to lead his people according to God’s promise to King David (2 Sam. 7). As such, Jesus Christ bridged the gap between heaven and earth, reintroducing God’s activity among his people.

These three portraits of discipleship present one compelling truth: The things we learn about Jesus should lead us to follow him.

This passage is more than a list of titles and descriptions. It contains a series of experiences and interactions with Jesus. It teaches us to balance our knowledge about  God with our knowledge of God. It invites us to have a similar experience with Jesus as his first followers: Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel.

Each one of these portraits of discipleship highlights a different “first step” of discipleship. Some disciples come to Jesus for forgiveness, others for transformation, and others are encouraged to surrender their lives. As you assess your connection to Christ, make sure that the things you are learning are leading you to follow Him.