For about fifteen years I had the wonderful job of traveling into Muslim lands to help missionaries learn health strategies to start churches, usually of about five to ten people. The groups had to be small because larger groups invite more persecution. The missionaries were not medically trained so the health strategies dealt with things like malnutrition or family wellness; anything that the local people needed and that I could teach the missionaries and national disciples to do.
But, I was surprised that the most popular things that I taught had to do with church planting, something that sounds difficult, but is really quite simple. You just need to follow the formula: Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. . . and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.
Disciples are made when they hear the gospel, so that is the tricky bit in places where it is treasonous to talk about something other than Islam, but the part about teaching them to obey everything that Jesus said is not as hard as it seems. It doesn’t mean that disciples have to know everything in the Bible, or even everything in the New Testament. Many disciples are, and have been, illiterate. And don’t forget that for most of the past 2000 years, Bibles were very expensive, were rare and were only in a few languages. In many places, especially in the early years, Christianity spread with only the spoken testimony of missionaries.
Jesus didn’t say to teach new disciples every story, although the stories are wonderful, and it is great to be able to pass them on when you can, but Jesus said to teach them the things that they need to obey. We call these, “obedience-based lessons.”
If you look at the commands of Jesus, the imperative statements in the New Testament, they can be boiled down to a list of about seven. It isn’t a perfect list, but it is a great start, and nationals, especially, loved it when I taught them this lesson, which comes with hand motions to make the commands easier to remember.
The hand motions are not included in this blog posting, but I did find an old YouTube video of the 7 Commands that I did, if you want to see them. It is very slow because I was teaching it for non-English speakers. It is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23XONlO9WuI
I also have a document that teaches the Seven Commands so just write to me and ask for it if you need it.
In India, I heard this lesson twice, with the hand motions, and have remembered it for fifteen years. It is very easy and very good. The seven commands of Christ are:
- Repent, put your faith in Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit (this one is partly from Jesus and partly from Peter’s first sermon in Acts.)
- Be baptized.
- Love God. Love your neighbor. Love the church. Love your enemies.
- Pray and fast.
- Take the Lord’s Supper.
- Care for the needy.
- Make disciples of all nations.
I believe the original list was written a few decades ago by George Patterson, and I altered it just slightly. After a church has a handle on these things, we start teaching New Testament stories and parables so that they can pass those on as they make disciples and start obedient churches. The foundation of each new church that is started, is a gathering of disciples who are obeying the Seven Commands of Christ together.
Main Point: Satan wants to tangle up the things of following Jesus and make us think that they are complicated. These seven things are easy to learn, are doable through the Holy Spirit, and are easy to teach others.
So what: I worry that some churches get caught in the tangle and, rather than teaching people to obey Jesus, especially on items number six and seven, they get caught on a hamster-wheel, just spinning out religious lessons. Don’t be pulled onto the hamster-wheel. Obey Jesus. And teach others to obey as you make disciples of all nations.