I got thinking, "What if churches had accrediting agencies?" I guess those that are part of denominations in some sense do have a regulatory body, but I'd bet that there is not a lot of rigor with regard to the expectations.
What if Jesus showed up occasionally to see how we're doing with regard to the mission he left us? The Great Commission in Matthew has four components to it as normally translated:
- Go into the whole world;
- Make disciples of everybody;
- Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
- Teach them to obey all that I have commanded.
When people talk about the Great Commission, they rarely make it to #4. What if the accrediting agency came around to our churches to check up on this one? Disregarding for the moment all of those people who aren't in the church (whom we're supposed to be going to, discipling, and baptizing), could we demonstrate that those who are in our churches have been taught to obey all that Jesus commanded? Notice that this is not just teaching them what the commands of Jesus are (though we might not do so well on this easier task either). Rather, we have been charged to teach people to obey.
I'd even like to claim that it is not just declaring to people that they ought to obey the commandments. If I were writing a Message-esque paraphrase, this passage would be rendered, "Teach them how to obey all that I have commanded." For that is the sense of what Jesus is expecting. And these were pretty tough commandments: Love your neighbor, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, be perfect, etc. Have we been teaching people how to do this stuff? This is the beginning of spiritual formation.