But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. When they saw him, they bowed down to [worshiped] him, but some doubted. Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go 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 [obey] all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:16-20 (WEB, my additions)
Energion Publications, the publishing company my husband and I own, is asking this question in an essay contest that celebrates a soon-to-be-released series, Areopagus. I am obviously not in the contest for a Barnes and Noble prize (which I would love!) and I am not a judge, but I am allowed to discuss the question here on my blog!
A congregation following Jesus –
1) would be full of worshipers and those who question. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that worship of God would not just happen where it is expected but everywhere that there is His Spirit and Truth. (John 4:21-24) I believe one of the primary characteristics of an intimate relationship with Jesus is His creating an atmosphere where I can worship and I can question. He can handle my imperfect, heart-sent worship and my repetitive, heart-sent questions.
2) would be about His mission: to go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey Him. Buildings would be maintained only if they were for soup kitchens, care facilities, or “Open Night Basketball” for youth outreach or softball leagues that include family dinners and small group study with practice. Small groups in homes would be the norm but could include Sabbath School if that was a growing mission. Teachers and leaders would be known by their gifts and joy in service. Leaders would all have “tent-making” jobs because that, too, is an opportunity to reach out. No one would draw a salary from the congregation’s tithes and offerings but everyone could receive financial support if needed. Distribution of tithes and offerings would come, prayerfully, from the fellowship – those who are committed by their prayers, gifts, and service. Even a child who is giving could suggest a need for support!
3) would communicate (witness) to others. These would be joyful, frequent occasions. To those who do not know Jesus or about his love, opportunities to share would be sought, whether locally or abroad. Witnessing to or encouraging each other would be done any time a group met for study, food, worship, or prayer. Sharing what God has done illuminates what God is doing! It also affirms Jesus’ final words: “I am with you always.”