About Steve Leston
Posts by Steve Leston:
“Canada! These men are the future missionaries to Canada!” We had just entered a room in our church filled with young men who were interested in ministry. By my side was Frank Drown, our guest, visiting to address the group about his time serving as a missionary in Ecuador. Little did I know, when Frank spoke those words in 2006, what God was going to do in our church and in my life. Those words were more than just a dream of one man; they became marching orders. Let me tell you a story. More
I was recently teaching a group of Missionary Trainees a class on the book of Ephesians. While we were discussing the book, something hit me that opened my eyes to another layer of Ephesians. Having taught through Ephesians several times I had gotten to the point that the familiarity of the book had caused me to stop learning from this very rich and profound book. While I was in a discussion with some trainees on chapter 3, I was asked a question, “Why was it so difficult for the Jews to accept the reality of the Gentiles into the promises of God?” As I was answering this question a thought came to my mind—a thought that I am sure was influenced tacitly by many of the books I have read, but I cannot pinpoint which ones. The thought was: “Hey, wait a minute, the need for the book of Ephesians emerged because the gospel was going forth to the furthest regions of the world!” Here is the “Ah-Ha!” for me: If the gospel had stayed in Jerusalem then the very tension that caused Paul to be arrested would have never occurred. It is the mission of God that caused the tension for the church and thus the need for the epistles to give theological perspective to that tension. More
When I was a boy, I had a weekly summer chore of mowing the lawn. My dad liked it done every Thursday. You would think that it would not be too difficult for me to get that task done—after all, I knew exactly what I needed to do and when I needed to get it done. Yet, for some reason I struggled to get this one simple task done every week.
On one particular Thursday, I was outside with my friend playing ball and I realized that my dad would be home from work any minute and I had once again failed to do the lawn. Trying to think quickly I ran into our garage and started to clean it up. I swept the floor, put all the bikes away, cleaned off the tool table (which, by the way, now that I am a father with a young son I realize may not have been a good idea—it might be a mess, but dads know where everything is on that table!), and did all that I could in a few minutes to make it look tidy. When my dad came home he gave me that look that only dad’s can give: the look of—“Really son, you could not get the lawn done!” I then tried to preempt my dad by saying, “Dad, look, I cleaned the whole garage!” I thought that this would get me out of the jam I was in. It did not. He said something to me that has stuck with me for many years: “Steve, why can’t you just do what I ask you to do?”
When he asked me that question, I did not realize at the time how important that simple question is in all areas of life. It is amazing how often we as humans fail to do what people ask us to do. In school, marriage, work… we can often get side-tracked doing all the things we were not asked to do, while missing the very essence of what we aresupposed to do.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the ministry. Jesus is so clear with what he asks of ministers in his church, yet we can get so caught up in the things he said not to worry about. What did Jesus ask his disciples to do? Jesus made it pretty clear that they were sent out to do something very specific:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Nothing earth shattering in this passage; everyone reading this article is very familiar with it. We have read this, spoken it, proclaimed it, preached it and cherished it for years. Yet, it is amazing how little these words shape us. This commission is more than a call to international missions. This commission also includes a philosophy of ministry. What do I mean by this? Let’s consider this passage up against another very familiar passage:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Mathew 16:13-20)
In this passage we have Peter’s great confession concerning the nature of Jesus. Jesus made it clear that this confession of the nature of Jesus is the foundation upon which he would build his church. What we often times miss in the West is that Jesus said that he was going to build hischurch. Jesus is the church planter; as his church advances, he will build it (Or, “his Church will advance as he builds it”). Keep in mind that the church is meant to advance; the gates are not around the church, but around hell. Gates are static. Hell is not advancing on the church, but the church is advancing on hell because Jesus conquered sin and death and the church is, and will be, victorious as the body of Jesus advances in the world. Jesus is the one seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). The point is that Jesus is building the church, and we are not.
What is the significance of this? How does this tie back to Matthew 28? It is very simple. We are inundated with resources as to how the build the church in the West. We have conferences and seminars seeking to build healthy and strong churches. When we follow these seminars we focus our attention on the building of our local bodies, often times at the peril of other local bodies, while forgetting the one thing that Jesus asked us to do: make disciples. The philosophy of ministry in Matthew 28 is simple, “As you go, make disciples!” It is that clear and simple—nothing more, nothing less. We have been commanded by Jesus to make disciples of all nations—establishing them in the teaching of Jesus. Our goal must be like Paul in Colossians 1:28, to present every person mature in Jesus Christ. Yet, how much time do we spend in the church actually seeing our mission—the goal of the church!—as making disciples who are maturing in Jesus. It is easy to think that if we have more people in our church this year than last year, we must be doing something right. What would happen if we measured our “success” by the maturity level of the believers of our church? How “successful” would we be?
Sometimes I ask myself a question: “Am I doing what Jesus asked me to do?” As the church, it is our mission to make disciples; it is Jesus’ work to build the church. If our church is only growing numerically by a rather small percentage, but the body is maturing in Christ, true ministry will happen and the Kingdom will advance. But if we are only focused on building our church on the ABC’s of successful Western Ministry (Attendance, Buildings, and Cash), then I believe we are doing what we have not been asked to do, while ignoring what we have been asked to do.
As the church, why don’t we do what we have been asked to do, and trust God for the outcome in our local kingdom outpost.
*Guest post by Steve Leston; Originally posted at Gotherefor.com