After His death and resurrection, Jesus told his disciples:
“Go and share the blessing given to Abraham. Don’t keep it to yourselves. It’s time to extend the Message everywhere and to everyone… to All Nations!” Matt. 28:18-20 paraphrased

Although Jesus was clear in His Great Commission, it took the disciples a while to catch on. Initially they focused their efforts on Abraham’s bloodline. Some early leaders even got stuck on the idea that one had to become a Jew before becoming a Christian. It became a  big debate in the opening days of the first-century church.

But then one day God’s Spirit engineered an “aha” moment for the apostle Peter. Following a troubling vision and a seemingly serendipitous encounter: “Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone. Acts 10:34-35 MSG

This realization blew the Christian movement wide open. And the mission shift that resulted can perhaps best be described by considering the difference between a cruise ship and an aircraft carrier.

Think about it this way. Many people today treat the local church like a cruise ship. For them, the church is a floating city largely isolated from the rest of life’s issues. Onboard this comfortable vessel, passengers make new friends, eat well, and perhaps even sign up for a few mildly entertaining adventures.

But when Jesus commissioned His disciples to spread the blessing of Abraham to ALL NATIONS, he was implying a wildly different experience from that usually enjoyed on a cruise ship.

Remember that Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples. They, in turn, were to make disciples, who in turn would plant churches that would plant churches. In this understanding of what it means to be the church, the primary delivery method for the Gospel is not a corporate entity… but an individual disciple. In other words, the job of the disciple is not merely to bring people to church, but to go and be the church to people!

When you think about it, an aircraft carrier has a great deal in common with a cruise ship in that it, too, is a floating city – with food service and janitorial service and engineers and communications specialists. These essential personnel keep the ship afloat and functioning properly. They ensure that the passengers are well fed and rested.

But this is where the comparison ends. You see, the entire objective of the aircraft carrier is to get individual planes close enough to their target in order that they might each fly their own unique mission. The planes return to the carrier for refueling and rest. But the primary mission of an aircraft carrier is to send air power to places the carrier can’t go.

Todd Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Exponential, a national church-planting organization, writes:
“A carrier without planes would simply be a floating cruise ship. In a similar way, the mission of the church is to carry the fullness of Jesus into the world. A church without deployed missionaries is most likely an ever-enlarging cruise ship filled with cultural Christians.”

May we – by God’s grace – be participants in a movement where disciples make disciples who plant churches that plant churches!

By Rev. Pete Mueller
Area C Mission Strategist