16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Jesus made it plain that after we start to follow him, we don’t just sit back and watch him search for others. Jesus' “marching orders” to his followers were that we be his witnesses. We actively take part in God’s work of calling humans home, making disciples (followers), baptizing and teaching. We’re never alone as we seek to influence others to follow—Jesus promised to be with us every day.
Lord Jesus, amazingly, I and your other followers are your strategic plan to reach the world. Grow me into a person who joyfully lives my role in following your marching orders. Amen.
As Christians we are called to share the gospel with those we influence. We are called to share Jesus’ light through our daily actions and behaviors as well as explicitly sharing the gospel and leading those we influence to the cross. God’s kingdom is filled with diverse personalities, talents and abilities and he uses each and every one of us to share his word in different ways which are all equally important to create God’s kingdom.
This summer I had the opportunity and blessing to work at a special needs summer camp, Camp Barnabas, as cabin staff for 6 weeks. I led multiple campers with diverse abilities, and also volunteer missionaries who came to serve for a week at a time in camp activities. The aim was to help them experience a whole lot of laughter, and most importantly, grow in their relationship with Christ. Each week I got to pour into these campers and missionaries, so they have what most of them call “the best week of the year” and a week full of learning more about the Lord.
This story is not about me, however. I learned more about the gospel and grew more in my relationship with God this summer than any other time in my life. But that was because of these amazing people God handcrafted in his image to be exactly the way they are.
Every week we had a special time devoted to sharing the gospel. Each camper has a one-on-one missionary, and during gospel time the missionary has the chance to share the gospel with their camper. As cabin staff we spend the week talking to our missionaries about what it means to share the gospel and how to adapt the story to each camper's individual level of understanding.
We have some campers who have mental ages of just a few months, as well as adults who have physical disabilities where their physical and mental age match. As you can imagine, sharing the gospel looks different for every camper. It was absolutely amazing to see how each camper has the ability to understand the message at a different level. Each camper's spirit is touched no matter how well they might be able to grasp the deep theological meaning the gospel presents.
Over the summer I learned what it means to have pure and child-like faith. One of my campers, Ella*, understood the gospel very well. She could tell you the gospel and what Jesus did for her and knew exactly what it meant. Her faith and relationship with the Lord was not plagued by doubt, worldly views or comparison. Jesus loves her so much he died on the cross for her sins and that was that. She showed so much love and affection to everyone around her as well as sharing the gospel to almost everyone she met and it was so clear Jesus was using her to shine his light to others.
Another camper, Caroline*, was very interested in learning and understanding the gospel, but it was clear she wasn’t quite grasping the concept yet. In her understanding, the gospel was limited to caring for her friends and family and being kind. These ARE great gospel messages. Her missionary was so patient with her and shared the story over and over.
Although she did not get to the point where she could articulate the gospel and accept it as truth in her life by the end of the week, Jesus shined through her and spread like a wildfire. She cared so intensely for her friends. She always shared her bracelets with others, complimented everyone, checked in on her peers and just radiated positivity. Caroline clearly had the Lord working in and through her! Her daily actions and behaviors spoke more than words ever could, and she showed me and her other peers what it was like to follow Jesus.
Every member of God’s kingdom has a unique job fitted to their talents and abilities. The diversity of the kingdom is what makes it so beautiful and abundant. Each of us have influence whether we realize it or not. We are called to lead others to the cross, a process that looks different for each individual in God’s kingdom.
This summer I was discipled by my supervisors and leaders. I discipled the campers and missionaries who came through my cabin. The missionaries told the gospel in a way their campers could understand and discipled them all week. The campers discipled us by teaching us about themselves and radiating God's love.
Each of those looked very, very different. But they were all equally important in the way Jesus worked through everyone at Camp Barnabas this summer.
* name changed to preserve privacy
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