Jesus started something completely new in human history. He took a ragtag group of nobodies and began a missionary movement intended to reach every people group on the planet. His prayer in John 17 gives us a picture of how He did this.
In John 17:6, Jesus said, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
Jesus’ investment in a three-year, earthly ministry carries the weight of an inspired example for His disciples throughout church history. Like a man with vision for the harvest, Jesus entered empty fields and connected with people. He scattered the gospel message and committed Himself to nurturing new growth among those who believed. He discipled them on the road, giving them an example to follow and obey. Along the way, Jesus mentored the few the Father had given (John 17:18) who would be entrusted with reproducing the same kingdom agenda. Jesus cut and bundled the harvest and formed them into communities (churches) in order to carry out the mission. He sent His disciples in the same way He was sent. He envisioned a disciple-making movement when he prayed for multiple generations of disciples in John 17:20. Jesus perfectly demonstrated the process of kingdom advance.
It’s important to see that, in the book of Acts, Jesus’ disciples carried out the same kingdom agenda modeled by our Lord. The church that Jesus began was more a movement to be advanced than an institution to be maintained. I love the way Christopher Wright said it:
“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for His church in the world but that God has a church for His mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission—God’s mission.” – Christopher J. H. Wright
What Jesus started continues today. Not a dying institution, but a vibrant living movement of his disciples following a risen Lord to the ends of the earth and the end of history. God is reconciling the world to Himself and he wants to use you to accomplish this. Join in on what He’s already doing!
These thoughts were inspired by Steve Addison’s book What Jesus Started.