Obstacles to Disciple Making
By: John Ankerberg Show
September 27, 2015
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
Good morning! Good to see you this morning. I want to give you the title of the message today and the title is, I want to talk about obstacles that will derail a disciple making movement. I want to talk about obstacles that will derail a discipleship movement. And if you haven’t figured it out already, Brainerd Baptist has experienced a multiplying movement of disciple making to the scale of being miraculous. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean, it is really phenomenal what God has done here in the area of disciple making. So I want to make you aware so that you can prepare for these obstacles that could impede the progress of what God has already done and will continue to do here in the days ahead.
I love the German theologian’s quote, Dietrich Bonheoffer when he said, “Discipleship will cost you your life.” You see, we know salvation is free, right? But discipleship will cost you your life. And what he is saying is, it is costly. It takes work.
I want to introduce you this morning to three different men who have three different circumstances that are hindering them from following Jesus. And what you will notice is that these men have a difficult time with saying yes to Jesus’ inquiry about following Him. These three would-be disciples are candidates that Jesus calls to Himself.
And what we notice about Jesus is, He never lowers the bar for anybody, right? In fact, Jesus never sugar-coats the requirements to follow Him. Jesus is constantly raising the bar of expectation. And for those who have been in discipling relationships, you know that if you have to beg someone to be in a discipleship group with you or to journey with you, you are going to have to beg them to continue with you, right? And so Jesus never does that.
And I want to show you what Jesus does here. He is not giving us a universal expectation for everyone, He is giving us the expectation of being totally committed to Him. You see, Jesus does not expect like one man to live without shelter or in another instance to retreat from telling your family farewell or in another instance from not going home and burying your family intently. He is not saying any of that. What Jesus is saying collectively is, I want you guys to follow Me faithfully. In essence, what He is saying is, I need to be paramount in your Christian life.
And so in our time together, I want to give you the three obstacles that will derail a discipleship ministry so that you will be aware of them but more importantly, that you can prepare for them.
And so, if you have your Bibles, turn with me to Luke Chapter 9. Luke Chapter 9 and Verse 57. And when you get to Luke 9, say “Word.” Amen. Amen.
Longhollow folks are going to have to work at that. I gave them a free pass last week, but you guys have made me proud because you love to study the Word of God. The Word of the Lord.
And I am back in the Holman. Just for the folks who went out last year and bought a Holman Christian Standard. Anybody in here did that? This one is for you. Okay, for the glory of God. Sorry.
“As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You where You go!’ Jesus told him, ‘Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘first let me go bury my father.’ But He told him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’ Another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” The Word of the Lord.
Let me give you the three obstacles. Write them down. Here is the first one. The first man had a problem with misguided expectations. He had a problem with misguided expectations.
Robby, what is a misguided expectation? Every time the garbage rises to the top of the lid at the Gallaty home, Kandi, my wife, expects me to bag it up and take it out. And I have to be honest with you, I have every intention of doing that, I just never get around to doing it. Anybody else been there before? And Kandi added during the service, she said, you need to say that when that happens, I take it out for you. And I said, Kandi, I don’t want to roll myself under the bus, but she wanted me to say that for her. That is a misguided expectation.
This man comes to Jesus and he thinks Jesus is like the other rabbis of the day. And what Jesus is saying is, listen, I am not one of these high-profile rabbis. Now, it is kind of ironic that Jesus would say that the Son of Man doesn’t even have a place to sleep. He said, the birds have places to nest and foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has nothing.
Now, Jesus, haven’t you read Psalm 8 that says, “the Son of Man has authority over the animals?” So how is it that you are saying, you don’t even have a place to stay. What Jesus is saying here, come in real close, Jesus is saying, I am not like the other guys that you are used to. I don’t have a Delta Sky Miles Frequent Flyer Club Membership. I am not staying at the best hotels. I am not passing a love offering at the end of every message in order to line My own pockets. I am not that kind of guy.
And I think what Jesus is saying more importantly is this, I have Myself no earthly security at all. Now notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say Jesus promises to them that they won’t have security. Jesus is saying to this man, you have no promise of earthly security.
Now, what do you mean by that? For the Christian, we are never promised that we will ever have our home forever. We are never promised that our finances will be intact, amen? We are never promised that we will be comfortable. We are never promised that we will have a 401(k) when we retire. We are never even promised the relationships we have. What Jesus is saying here clearly is this, when you follow Me, you have to realize, there is no earthly security, but you will have complete security in One and that is Me.
Friends, you have to get to the place in the Christian life when you have to realize that Jesus Christ Himself is your treasure. Not, Jesus, I am trying to make a deal with You in order to gain something from You. Jesus, I want You and You alone, right? Jesus becomes our treasure.
Let me ask you a personal question. Is Jesus Christ enough for you? Is Jesus Christ enough for you? Because I think what Jesus is doing for this man is, He is trying to remove anything comfortable in his life.
What I have realized about studying the New Testament and particularly church history in general, is that God always uses a man or woman mightily when He has stripped them of everything and anything that is more important than He is. Let me say that again. You want to be used mightily by the Lord, as a man or woman of God? God will have to go through in your life a pruning process of removing everything and anything that is more important than He is.
Let me give you an example. In the Old Testament, God went to Moses and said, hey, I want you to rescue My people from the bondage of Egypt. Now, they had security although it was bondage, they still had security. They had the security of the Egyptians, Pharaoh basically protected them although they were laboring for him. And basically they had a home and they had a roof over their head and they had food, but they were in bondage. And God says, listen, My people have forsaken Me, so I am going to bring them out of that bondage, I am going to set them free and I am going to bring them into the Promised Land. And so what was supposed to be a six-month journey, you and I know, took how long during that wandering period? Forty years, right? That is a long lesson God had to teach them. And I believe the reason they remained in the desert for so long is because they disobeyed God. They complained and they constantly were upset with God. And God said, you are going to learn this lesson. In fact, you are not even going to see the promise that I gave you. And would you know that. Watch this…every single person that left Egypt in bondage died in the desert. Did you know that? Every one of them. They left Egypt. They died in the desert except for two. Two people from Egypt made it to the Promised Land. Do you know who they are? Joshua and Caleb.
Now Joshua and Caleb made it because as they scoped out the land, they were the only two who had faith in God. They said, guys, we can take them. The other ten said, listen, we are like grasshoppers in the sight of giants. We can’t do it. And those two men were the only two to make it into the Promised Land.
Now why would God do that? You see, what God did is, He took every person that went from the desert into the Promised Land as first generation descendents of the wilderness. You see, they were nomads. They had no place to go back to. They could never say, lets go back and do it the way we used to do it because who in the world wants to go to the desert again, right? They couldn’t say, man, I wish things were like they were in the past. Nobody said that.
God had to get them to a place where they were absolutely and completely dependent upon God. Come in real close. Not only did God have to get the people out of Egypt, God had to get Egypt out of the people.
Friends, do you know God will do that in your life? God will come into your life when you are comfortable and things are going well and that is when things begin to shake up, right? Do you know comfort ability for the Christian is one of the sure fire ways to squelch the working of God. You see, when we start to get comfortable or lacksidasical, that is a sure fire way to quinch the Spirit. And if you study the New Testament, you realkize, their lives were anything but comfortable, right? In fact, my friend, David Platt says it this way. He says, “You can either choose the cross or you can choose comfort, but you can’t choose both.” Right? You can choose the cross or you can choose comfort. And I have realized personally in my own life that God looked at me, I think, and said, Robby, you are getting too comfortable in your life, right? And that is what happens to us. We get a little too comfortable. And you know what He does, He reassigns us.
Friends, you are either going to choose comfort or you are going to choose the cross. And that is what Jesus tells this man. Listen, I am not the guy you think I am. I know you thought everything is going to be hunky-dory. I know you thought everything is going to be a blessing now that I am here, but it is actually going to be just the opposite.
And the eleven guys or the twelve who were listening, particularly the eleven, all would lose their lives for the gospel except for one. And so Jesus was speaking to him, but more importantly, he was speaking to the twelve and He showed them, you can’t follow Me with misguided expectations. It is going to be tough. The Christian life is going to be hard.
But secondly, Jesus shows us the problem with the other guy and his problem, write it down, is he had a problem with misplaced priorities. Misplaced priorities. Now I have to be honest with you, church, I have every expectation and every desire to take the trash out most days. I really do. But something always gets in the way. Can guys amen to that? I mean, it is a phone call or an email to answer or God forbid, it is Twitter post you have to view, right? Or Instagram you have to like. Or a Facebook comment you have to…I mean, it is something always getting in the way.
And I love what this guy says. He says, Listen, I will follow You, but first…right? I will take the trash out, but first…I will follow You, Jesus, but first.
Now you have to admit, this guys excuse seems like the most legitimate of all. I mean, come on Jesus, you are going to fault a guy for wanting to go home and take care of his father’s burial process. I mean, come on, Jesus, lighten up, right?
Look at the text. “Jesus said to the man, ‘Follow Me.’ And the man said, “Lord, let me first go bury my father.’ But He told him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom.’”
Jesus says, literally, come follow Me, come walk after Me, commit your life to Me. And the man says, hey, let me go take care of my father’s corpse, in a sense. Now what Jesus is doing here is pretty amazing. He has a play on words. Because what Jesus is saying is, let the physically dead be a picture of the spiritually dead who don’t follow Me. And what He is saying is, those people are not going to follow Me, but you have to follow Me. Jesus is not being harsh here, He is being factual. He is saying, the only way into the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is to be born again or to be (what?) to be alive. So let the dead bury the dead.
Now it looks like Jesus is being really domineering and overbearing, like, come on, you have to follow Me now. Don’t fool with your father. But you have to understand the burial practices back then. In the First Century, when a person would die, the burial process would start with 24 hours. But that process…get this…could last up to eleven months of mourning and tending to the family. And I found an interesting insight from a Jewish theologian who said it this way. D. T. Lancaster said, “After entombment of a parent, Jewish custom dictates an eleven month mourning process period in which the surviving sons would recite the Kiddush prayers.” And so they were like ritualistic daily prayers over the dead body. “An appropriate length of time after the parent’s death, perhaps at the completion of the eleven months, someone opened the tomb, gathered the dead parent’s bones and placed them in a stone box called an ossuary which was stored in the tomb.”
And so what the man is asking in a sense is, Jesus, I will follow You, but I am going to need about an eleven months’ sabbatical, and then I will be back to follow You. And Jesus says, that is not the time or the place for that. Let someone else handle that business. As for you, you come follow Me now. And you know what Jesus shows us? That when He calls you to do something, you need to do it now, right?
You know, so often I hear people say, hey, I will start serving the Lord. I will give my life to Jesus, but let me get my life in order, and then I will come to Jesus. You have heard this before, right? Let me just get my finances intact and then I will come follow Jesus. Let me just finish school. I mean, golly, I want to enjoy college education. You only go to college once. So let me do that and then I will come to Christ. Let me get married and when I have kids and then and only then, once I get that settled, then I will come and follow Jesus Christ.
And it reminds me of what happened to me. Years ago when I worked for my father, my Dad had a body shop in New Orleans and it was a God-forsaken place and he would agree with you. But there was one man who was a glimmer of hope in the shop. His name was Mike. We called him Mexican Mike because he was from Mexico. But anyway, Mike was the only Christian that I knew in my entire life before I became a believer in 2002. And Mike was one of those obnoxious Christians. You know those guys, right? He would constantly talk about Jesus. And I thank God all the time for him that he was so blatant with me because God knew I needed it. And I would come in on the weekends to get money from my Dad before I headed back to college from a drunken stupor the night before and I would walk into the shop and Mike would be there and he would always tell me the same thing every time he would see me. He would say, Robby, you need to get saved. And he was right. I knew I needed to be saved. And I said, Mike, I know that. I said, but listen, I am in college, man. I want to have fun. And when I am finished having fun, I will have time, Mike, to follow Jesus. When I get out of college and I get married one day, I will give my life to Jesus. Have you ever said that before? When I get out of college, then I will give my life to Jesus. Do you know, delayed obedience is disobedience? Do you know that? Like when you say to God, no way, that is disobedience to the Lord. When Jesus calls you to come, when do you come? Now. When Jesus leads you to go, when do you go? Now.
I think the most disheartening account for me personally in the Bible…I have always been bothered by this man…was the rich young ruler. Have you ever read that account. Matthew Chapter 19? This man comes to Jesus and says, Jesus, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And I love Jesus. He responds to a question with a question. He says, why do you call Me good? And he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life? To be in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus says, You should keep all the commandments and He lists them. And what does the man say? The man said, I have kept them all. I have checked all the boxes. I have attended Sunday School since I was a child. I never missed a worship service. Came even on Wednesday night. I have studied the Bible studies. I have got all the boxes checked. And Jesus says, oh, by the way, there is one thing you lack. Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor and then come follow Me.
Now pastors through the years, I think, have wrongly misapplied this text. This is not a sweeping statement to all Christians. You need to sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Although it may be a challenge to you personally, I don’t know, that is between you and God. But for this man, it was an individual insight for him. Jesus said, you have a heart condition, Brother, and your heart condition has to do with possessions. So he says, sell everything and give it to the poor and come follow Me.
And as the man is walking away, the text says, “He left and refused the offer in a sense because he had too many possessions.” Now Jesus is not an American pastor, because if an American pastor would give that invitation and a man comes up who is very wealthy and he starts walking away, some American pastors would say, hey, listen, I didn’t mean sell everything, Brother. How about 50 cents on the dollar. Just sell half of it to give to the poor and then come follow us, right?
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say either. Jesus doesn’t say, sell everything you have and give it to Me. Hey, why don’t you sow a good seed into our ministry and come help us. That is not what Jesus says because He is not worried about his money, He wants his heart. Jesus says, sell it all and come follow Me.
Do you know this man’s problem? He let his possessions get in the way of heavenly priorities. Friends, don’t you ever let obstacles or obligations in your life get in the way of your obedience to Christ. You see, when Jesus calls you to come, you come. When Jesus leads you to go, you (what?) you have to go. And so this man had a problem with misplaced priorities. He wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t paramount in his life. Jesus wasn’t superior in his life. Jesus wasn’t his treasure. He treasured other things.
But the final problem I want to show you is, is a man who had a problem with a misdirected focus. This man had a problem with a misdirected focus. Look at the text. Jesus comes to the man and the man says, hey, I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go say good-bye to those at my house. I want to tell Mom and Dad bye. Just give Mom a kiss, hug Dad and then I am out of here, right? And look at what Jesus says. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
This man had a problem with a misdirected focus. And I think what Jesus is getting at is this, He is saying, I have to be first in your life above your family, above your friends, above your relationships. I need to be first. And He uses the illustration of a plowman.
If you have ever tried to plow a field, which I haven’t, but I have seen it before. A man takes a plow and he begins to cut through the field. And the idea is, you want to spot a tree or a bush in the distance that you can line up with the plow in order to cut a straight furrow. That is what you are trying to do. And if you have ever done this before and you are pushing ahead and you look back, it is very easy to get off course. And Jesus likens that to the Christian life. He says, “No one who follows Me can look back.” It is kind of like driving a car looking in the rear view mirror. You couldn’t do that. You can’t follow Christ with divided loyalties. Jesus has to be first.
Now if you were in the audience that day, your mind would have immediately gone back to two Old Testament scriptures which I believe are cashers or connections to the Old Testament. And the Jewish audience would have thought of both of them.
The first one is I Kings Chapter 19. So hold your place here. I want you to go back to I Kings Chapter 19 and I want you to see this passage, a pretty amazing passage. And it is no accident that Jesus uses that terminology to bring our minds back to this passage. I Kings 19:19. When you are there, say, “Word.” Thank you in the back.
“Elijah left there and found Elisha son of Shaphat as he was (what?) plowing.” No accident there. Now, let me explain because it is going to get confusing. Elijah, with a j, is the older. Elisha with the s is the younger. And the way I remember it is s is son. You know me, I illiterate everything, so the s is son, younger. So sha is younger, jah is older. I don’t know if that helps or hurts.
Okay, “Twelve teams of oxen were in front of him, and he was with the twelfth team.” Now here is the question and I don’t want to get to allegorical here, but there are so many connections to the New Testament and you can’t help but think of the twelve disciples, the discipleship emphasis here and the twelve tribes of Israel. You can make those connections yourself.
Here is the key. “Elijah walked by him and threw his mantle over him.” Circle “mantle,” that is the key word. And “Elisha left the oxen, ran to follow Elijah, the older, and said, ‘Please let me kiss my mother and father and then I will follow you.” Elijah said, “Go on back, for what have I done to you?’ So he turned back from following him, took the team of oxen, and slaughtered them. With the oxen’s wooden yoke and plow, he cooked the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he left, followed Elijah, and serve him.”
Now the key word here, which is vivid word picture for us, is the word “mantle.” That word “mantle” is another word for cloak. It is another word for robe. Watch this. It is another word for glory and it is another word for splendor. And it is the word picture of a disciple maker passing the torch to a disciple. It is another word picture for a mentor passing the torch to his mentee. And in essence, what we have here is this wonderful picture of discipleship which has an amazing parallel to Jesus with this would-be disciple.
Now let me give you the two or three connections. The first is this. Both instances talk about plowing. That is no accident. Both instances have this idea of discipleship going on. One giving the ministry to the other one. The older giving it to the future one.
But there is one glaring difference here. Did you catch it? When Elisha goes to Elijah and says, hey, I want to go back and tell Mom and Dad good-bye. What does Jesus say? I mean, Jesus wasn’t there yet. He was there, but He wasn’t there in person. Anyway. You know what I am saying. What does Elijah say to Elisha? He says, sure, go back and tell your parents bye. I don’t care. And what he does is, he takes all the time in the world. He not only tells his parents bye, he cooks a banquet. He provides a banquet table of food for the family. He takes his time. He tells everybody good-bye and then he comes and follows him.
When the man tells Jesus or asks Jesus, hey, can I go tell Mom and Dad good-bye, what does Jesus say? No one follows Me and turns around. Brother, it is now or never!
Now, Jesus, what is the big deal? He just wants to go kiss his Mama’s cheek. I mean, come on. He just wants to go say good-bye. What is the big deal? This is what Jesus is showing us. He is showing us the urgency of a decision of obedience. He is saying that was a different time and day, my friends, but today, you need to make your yes yes and you no no. When I call you to come follow Me, you have to respond immediately.
Now there is another connection to another Old Testament passage in Genesis Chapter 19. Did you catch that catcher? No one puts his hand to the plow and what? Looks back. What happened in Genesis 19? Lot and his wife were leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, right? That city with that allure and that sexuality and all the enticements of the world, as they were evacuating the city, it was too much for her that she had to what? Look back. And when she looked back, she dissolved or turned into a pillar of salt.
What are you saying here with all these three, Robby? Don’t miss this. Jesus is saying that when He calls you to come, you need to respond immediately. And what Jesus is saying is, that our allegiance to Him must be superior to anything else in this world.
John Stott was talking about this passage and he said, it is really about counting the cost, that when someone gives you an invitation to follow Jesus or go for Jesus, you really need to count the cost because the problem is really impactful to the church at large.
Listen at what John Stott says. He says, “The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict half-built towers, the ruins of people who began to build but were unable to finish.” You know these people, they start off great for God, but then, what I call bottle-rocket Christians, right? They start off good, but they fizzle out quick. And that is what he is talking about here. We see ruins of that all over. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, what we call “nominal Christianity.” In countries to which civilization has spread, Christian civilization, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a descent thin veneer of Christianity. They have just allowed themselves to be somewhat involved, enough to be respectable, but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is like a great soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their own conveniences. It is no wonder that the cynics today speak of Christians as hypocrites in the church and dismiss our belief as escapism.”
You know, I was thinking about this passage this week and I was thinking, why are none of the apostles speaking up? Like, why did these guys not say something? Peter, it never was a problem for Peter, right? If Peter wanted to say something, he would speak up. So why didn’t they say something? Why didn’t they interject to some of these would-be candidates? For example, Peter could have said to one of these guys, the rich young ruler or any of them, what do you mean you don’t want to give everything up for Jesus? I left everything for the Lord. I left my family. I left my wife. I left my mother-in-law. I left my business for Jesus. What do you mean? When Jesus said, follow Me, I gave everything up!
John could have done the same thing, right? John could have been like, hey, listen, I had a family business. I had a lucrative seafood enterprise and I got to work with my Dad. And I gave it all up. When Jesus walked by the seashore that day and He said, Come, follow Me, I left it all behind immediately. What do you mean, you don’t want to follow Jesus?
Matthew, probably the greatest example of obedience. Matthew could have said, hey, listen, I had all these dreams and aspirations. I wanted to be wealthy by the world’s standards. I was climbing the corporate ladder of success. I went to school. I had earned my place at that tax table. I wanted to have a home in Jerusalem. I wanted to have a home in Galilee and I wanted to have another home in Jericho at the same time. But when Jesus Christ walked past that tax table and said to me, Come follow Me, I had a decision to make. You see, if I would have left the tax table that day, Rome would have replaced me the next day. Immediately I would have lost it all. And when Jesus said, come follow Me, I got up and I was obedient.
You know, the question you have to ask yourself about these men is, how is it that they left everything by the world’s standards to follow Jesus who had nothing by the world’s standards. I mean, you have to understand, we know Jesus now, but you have to put yourself in their mind, Jesus is a penniless, traveling, itinerate rabbi with no following. He has got no money. He has got no ministry at this point. He doesn’t even have people following Him. Jesus is like, oh, by the way, I don’t even have a home to sleep at. We don’t have a place to worship at and I really don’t even have anything to promise you by the world’s standards. In fact, it is going to be difficult and all you guys will die. Come follow Me!
I mean, how is it that these guys gave up everything to follow Jesus, who by the world’s standards had nothing. Here is how. Because Jesus Christ was everything to them. You see, they knew that they could have nothing and have Jesus and they would have all things, right? See, they weren’t about to please man. Pleasing Jesus was paramount to everything else. And so they left it all. In the face of counsel probably against it, against people talking behind their backs, why would you do that? They did it.
You know, there is going to come a time in your Christian life when God may call you to step out by faith. And what that means is, you are probably going to have to leave family and you will probably have to leave loved ones and you will probably have to leave friends that you have developed this amazing relationship through the years, and He is going to call you by faith to step out and follow Him.
And I just want to warn you, when you do that, there are going to be people who you love and respect who don’t agree with you. There are going to be people who love you and you know well who don’t support you. And there are going to be people who don’t understand you. But listen to me, when God calls you to step out in faith, church, listen to me, you have to be obedient. You have to because your allegiance is not to a man or a ministry or even a church or a family. Your allegiance is to Jesus Christ. And when Jesus calls, you have to come. And when Jesus says go, you have to go.
Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? You better believe it.
You know, Kandi and I are going to take with us a lot of things from this place. Over the last seven years, God has really done an amazing work in our own life personally. I was talking to Kandi this weekend and I said, do you realize we got to serve alongside, which we believe some of the greatest people on the planet. And we have really close relationships with many of you. Will we miss that? You better believe it. And whether you are in a personal discipleship group with me or Kandi or whether you went overseas with us or whether you served in the community or whether you worshiped alongside of us here corporately every week, it has been an amazing ride the last seven years. And we have enjoyed every minute. There has never been a day that I didn’t wake up and I thanked the Lord that I was the pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, not one day.
One of the things we are going to take with us is the amazing discipleship movement that has taken place here. It is really nothing short of miraculous. I mean, just to think, God started this with just a handful of people in 2008 and now almost 1200 in 2015 and now this thing is going to continue to grow exponentially. I mean, you just think about how this grows. Someone said on my staff, Robby, if someone tried to come in and stop disciple making here at Brainerd, they couldn’t do it. It is embedded within the DNA of the people here to the glory of God.
Do you know what we got to see here over the last years? We got to see a group of people who took the Great Commission seriously. And I think God is pleased with that. We are going to take with us just this passion Brainerd has, this environment of missions, just that you have been so passionate about taking the gospel to people who have no access to the gospel. Brainerd right now has adopted to reach 50 unengaged unreached people groups, 50! And I know you don’t feel the weight of that because I don’t feel all the weight of that, but I do know what it means that when we sit at the Marriage Supper and Jesus Christ is the honored guest, we will have people that will tap us on the shoulder, I believe this, and say, because your church took the Great Commission seriously and came to us with the gospel, we are here and we thank you for that. Thank you for being obedient to do that.
And then finally, I will take personally the privilege and joy of preaching every single week to a group of people who love God and love His Word. I have said this before and I will say it again, there is no…and I have had the privilege of speaking all over the world. I have had the privilege of speaking in different contexts and I want to say and I have said this before, my favorite place to come back and preach to is Brainerd Baptist Church because your passion for the Word has motivated me to spend hours every week to prepare fresh manna to present to you guys. And so I will always remember that.
And we are excited. Listen, we believe that the ministry we started, the ministry God started years ago and the ministry we were a part of…we didn’t start it, we were a part of it, God will continue to use that in the days ahead. And I really believe some of the best days at Brainerd Baptist are ahead.
Bill Hull, who is a good friend and kind of a mentor to me, he has written just about every book on discipleship. He is the guru in the industry of discipleship. He was talking to me this week and he said, Robby, you know the world will be watching Brainerd Baptist, the Christian world, to see what happens when a pastor who is passionate about disciple making leaves the ministry to the people he has invested in.
You have to realize, Jesus’ ministry did not come into full realization until He left. Now I am not saying I am Jesus, so just for the record, but you have to see where…if Jesus would have stayed with these guys, they probably never would have left Jerusalem. And it wasn’t until Jesus left and evacuated the area that the ministry multiplied exponentially.
And so Bill Hull said, your ministry at Brainerd is not going to be in the books you wrote or the places you preached, it is on the hearts of the men and women who have taken the Great Commission seriously and who will impact the world for the glory of God. And only when we get to heaven will we fully realize what that means. And so we are excited about the days ahead. We can’t wait to see what God is going to continue to do here.
I want to invite you to come tonight at 5:00. We are going to have a Members Meeting first and then we are going to have kind of a going away get together. And the lead team came up with this idea. I thought it was a great idea. They said, listen, we are going parley your going away celebration with the Members Meeting to entice people to come to the Members Meeting. And I said, I am fine with that. If I can go out on record with the largest attended Members Meeting in the history of Brainerd Baptist, I am fine with that, right? That is a joke. But hopefully you will come tonight. It will be the last time we see you guys. And I would ask you personally, as you always have, to pray for us. We covet your prayers and prayerfully we will be back. My parents are here. I have a vested interest in the future of this church. My parents are here. My sister is here. And they said, we have followed you enough, we will come visit. And you can visit us. So anyway , for the glory of God, they will stay here. Let me pray for us as our praise team comes, worship team comes, I will pray for us as we close.
Father, one of the first songs that I learned, the first hymns that I learned as a new believer was “I have decided to follow Jesus.” I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. And I pray, Lord, that that would be the mantra of our hearts, that would be the mission statement of our life, that when You call, we come and when You say go, we go. And Lord, I don’t know what everyone is dealing with today, but I know there are many in here who would say to me if I asked them, Pastor Robby, God is calling me out to take a step of faith, to follow Him. And God, would you give them the courage to do that? Would you walk with them as they do? And we trust God, that you know our future better than we know our own past. We ask you to be with us now. For your glory, we ask it in the only name we know how and that is the strong and powerful name of Jesus Christ. And everyone said, Amen