The power of Character: A closer look at Acts 1:8 shows us the clear instruction and swift strategy Jesus gives to his disciples for making an impact around the world. It’s a simple and powerful yet heavily overlooked model in Western Christianity. The church was birthed on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power and sent them on mission. Before that moment, they had been waiting diligently in prayer and community because they knew going without the Holy Spirit was fruitless. Their character was developed during their time with Jesus and after his death and resurrection in their waiting. These disciples stood up for the rights of the oppressed and continued to heal and teach people just as Jesus had taught them to do.
Being in worship of Christ and in ministry in the United States, I have observed a false dichotomy in Western mission movements, one that emphasizes going somewhere far away without first making sure those going have a lifestyle that resembles Christ.… I have seen greater emphasis on “stay until you’re filled with power” than on “go and make disciples” in other cultures who cling on to the power of the Holy Spirit for their ability to be a missionary.
There is in Western theology a lack of emphasis on prayer, fasting, and the teaching of Christian persecution and identifying with Christ in our suffering; therefore we don’t see the fruit of long-suffering in believers. This robs the church of the ability to not only send but even have faithful Christians who can do gospel work where they are. An emphasis to “BE” a disciple before “MAKING” disciples is necessary if the Western church is to remain an essential part of the global mission movement.
The power of a believer’s testimony is the ultimate weapon of destruction against the enemy. As seen in Revelation 12:11:
They conquered him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
for they did not love their lives
to the point of death.
As believers who are called to carry the gospel around the world, our ability to testify of God’s goodness in our lives has far more power than our ability to indoctrinate others.
Greg Ogden uses the acronym FAT in the book Discipleship Essentials, which stands for faithful, available, and teachable, to describe the people Jesus invested in and sent off as disciple makers. Ogden also incorporates this tool and describes making disciples a few at a time in his book Transforming Discipleship, emphasizing character and willingness as deciding factors in whether time and energy should be invested in teaching someone to become a disciple maker. This is ultimately the call to the mission field. We must ask ourselves, “What type of testimony do we have as believers that is worthy of spreading to the ends of the earth?”
The mission is not an expedition, nor is it a story of us saving others. It is a call to die to self and live for Christ. It is sacrificial, it is costly, it is brutal, and it truly is a call to lose our presupposed identity so we can be one with Christ. Our life is to be eclipsed by his all-consuming fire that unites us with everything he is so that we are sure examples of Christ when the world interacts with us.