I have never started a business, but I have watched nearly every episode of the hit ABC show Shark Tank. Some of the most frequent criticism given to over-zealous entrepreneurs is to not get distracted by all the exciting potential applications the product could have or by diversifying the product line before the initial concept is proven. These are examples of what is called “mission-drift, ”when business leaders lose focus of what is most crucial to accomplish their mission. Such distractions are understandable but can quickly compromise the success of an otherwise thriving company. This caution is not limited to business but pertains to any and every industry imaginable and has been the sad commentary of many who failed to keep the main thing the main thing.
Steven Covey is quoted saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. ”This proverb is profound. It shouldn’t be; but it is. By definition, the most important thing would, in fact, be to regard the most important thing as most important. The only reason this quote has compelled so many to reorder their priorities is because of how easily preoccupied we are by things that are easier, give more instant gratification, or are more interesting than the main things. And if this was ever of any consequence, it is in Christ’s Church.
Mission-drift and distraction are all-too-common in our churches. It is possible to be busy, even productive, all while prioritizing things above the main things. After all, the church is commanded and compelled to do many good and important things. In addition, we have core values like Gospel-centrality, missional-living, expository preaching, and more to which we are radically committed. Even these are glorious means to a supreme end, the “how,” not the“what.” In the same way that God’s holiness is not just another of His attributes, but the place from which every other attribute flows, all Christian behavior flows out of our commitment to the main things: glorifying God and making disciples.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “paramount” as “superior to all others.” Elsewhere, it is described as ”more important than all else, or supreme.” It’s a beautiful word because of how conclusive and simple it is. There is no grey area, no exceptions or fine print. Whatever is paramount is in a league of its own and has no competition. In the Christian life, our commitment to the glory of God and the making of disciples is of paramount importance. Glorifying God is the highest privilege of the Christian and to make disciples of Jesus Christ, the ultimate duty of the church. And it is by means of every other biblical command that we accomplish this goal. If Glorifying God is our mindset, making disciples is our mission.Together, they capture all that it means to worship and serve God, individually and corporately.
“…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Cor. 10:31
God is the center of the universe. Life as we know it began, and will one day end, according to His master plan (Rev. 4:11). All things find their purpose and meaning only within the context of who He is and His sovereign work throughout redemptive history. Therefore, the job and the joy of all creation is to glorify the greatest being there is, one true and living God. Nature itself proclaims the divine attributes of God (Rom. 1:20). If necessary, even the stones would cry out in worship (Lk. 19:40). And if this is the case for lifeless creation, how much more so for those made in His image (Gen. 1:26), especially those who know His great salvation (Heb. 2:3)! As we see on full display in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s unwavering commitment to His own name results in our blessing. Because of His radical grace, His glory always means our good.
What does it mean to glorify? Glorification has various expressions. On one hand, glory is something we offer to God, while of the other, it is something of which God infinitely and eternally consists (Rev. 7:12). Technically, to glorify is to praise. We glorify God when we esteem or worship Him for who He is, or when we give Him credit and honor for things that only He can do. By doing so, we simply give Him the recognition He deserves. And when we see Him as totally deserving, we will desire that every aspect of our life point others to Him and please Him above all else. After all, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:20, we do not belong to ourselves, for we “have been bought with a price” and, therefore, are to “glorify God in our body.”
Notice how broadly the term glorify is applied and how comprehensive it is in the Christian life (1 Cor. 10:31). To follow and trust Him is to glorify Him (Lk. 18:43). To fear and be in awe of Him is to glorify Him (Lk. 7:15, Rev. 15:4). To attribute to Him miracle-working power is to glorify Him (Matt. 15:31). To selflessly steward our spiritual gifts for the good of others is to glorify Him (1 Pt. 4:11). Our good works and love for one another even compel the world to glorify God (1 Pt. 2:12, Matt. 5:14-16). Eventually, every knee will bow, and every tongue will give supreme glory to God (Hab. 2:14, Phil. 2:10-11). There is no higher calling, no higher privilege than to make God famous with our lives. And while God will ultimately receive from us all the glory He deserves (Rom. 9:22-23), we have the unspeakable grace to humbly and happily submit to the will and way of God that leads to eternal life - all for His name’s sake!
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”– Matt. 28:19
God is a missionary God. And His people are a missionary people (2 Cor. 5:19). Contrary to common perception, “it is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a church in the world.” – Unknown. Notice how the great commission predates the official establishment of the local church. The church is the vehicle God has chosen to seek and save, baptize and sanctify the lost. Salvation through faith in the Gospel is central and the church is God’s glorious means to that end. God is the one powerfully at work predestining, adopting, reconciling, and giving eternal life – all “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:3-14). And yet it is His people, His church, called to such astonishing levels of cooperation as we see in Christ’s commission: “Go,”“make disciples,” “baptize” and “teach.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
What does it mean to “make disciples”? A disciple is technically a learner. The term also had a Jewish connotation of following that Jesus clearly intended to preserve (Lk. 9). In first-century Judaism, students followed their rabbi everywhere, zealously learning how to understand and apply the Scriptures. Not too different was the role of Greek philosopher, teaching his students the profound things about life. This kind of disciple is a following-learner, or a learning-follower. It is not insignificant, then, that Jesus comes onto the world’s stage as a teacher. As soon as Jesus was old enough to enter the temple, he is found “sitting among the teachers,” asking and answering questions with profound accuracy and authority (Lk. 2:41-47). And Jesus would spend the vast majority of his earthly ministry “teaching and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). But Jesus’ school was unlike that of any other philosopher or rabbi. One was not a disciple who was not making other disciples, and one is not truly taught until he is teaching others.
From the beginning, Jesus’ students freely invited others to follow and learn from Him. Andrew recruited his brother Peter, and Philip recruited Nathaniel (Jn. 1:40-49). At one point, Jesus had at least 70 followers He trusted to go out and witness about Him (Lk. 10). This sort of evangelism is by nature an invitation to join in following Jesus (See Jn. 4:39-42). After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people who Paul suggests were sincere followers (1 Cor. 15:6). Christianity grew exponentially for this reason; every follower was an evangelistic recruiter. The most striking example is John’s version of the Great Commission, where Jesus tells the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn. 20:21). Soon after, he would supernaturally equip them to go and be His witnesses…”to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Being sent out to make disciples is so core to our faith that it’s about the only thing that explains why we are not immediately transported into His presence upon salvation.
Only when these are paramount, can our lives have true eternal significance. This is because we are investing in what God Himself is up to, namely, glorifying Himself and drawing a people to Himself from every corner of the world. It is not an overstatement that a life spent on anything other than making much of God and making disciples is a life misused. These two realities are grand and glorious enough to govern our every attitude and every action. What better use of our lives than to contribute to the fame of God! What better us of our energy and resources than seeing someone come to faith as a result of our evangelism! What greater privilege than to baptize and educate a new believer who has come to know and follow Christ as Savior and Lord! With these main things firmly in place, not only does the rest of the Christian life work according to plan, but by His grace, is most rewarding, fulfilling, and blessed.