Teaching Them to Observe All That I Commanded You

Through the years I have had the privilege of receiving counsel and encouragement from a number of godly men and women whose wisdom has helped to shape me into the person I am today. One of those individuals was the former director of the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement, Pastor Jack Aamot. Pastor Jack began his ministry as a young missionary in Brazil, where he unexpectedly found himself the senior pastor of a 10,000 member, well established, German Lutheran congregation. While there were only a few hundred actually attending services each week, the remainder saw the church as their connection for baptisms, weddings and funerals. All of this kept Pastor Jack very busy.

I have heard him recount many times how he knew early on that the only way for the ministry to grow, and for him to survive, was to train leaders who could also do the work of the ministry. Thus began his emphasis on the establishment of small groups and 1x1 mentoring ministry. God used (and is using even now) Pastor Jack, and others, to bring renewal to the Lutheran Church in Brazil, a continuing movement that has seen several generations of Brazilians come to personal faith in Jesus Christ. 

Jack knew (suspected) that there were many attending the church who did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So he preached a Gospel message and gave an invitation for the people to respond in faith. But there was no response. The next week he preached the same message and again the next week. After the 3rd week of hearing the same message, one of the elders of the church confronted him. He demanded to know why he kept preaching the same message each week and if he intended to ever preach on anything else. Jack responded by saying that he was indeed ready to preach on other important matters of faith as soon as they had responded in faith to the person of Jesus Christ. One cannot build until the proper foundation has been laid down.

I have reflected on the significance of this encounter many times and have often thought about how this principle might apply to our churches today. While it is true that many within our churches have a personal relationship with Jesus, what about those that don’t? I think especially of the children? Luke 15 demonstrates Jesus’ heart and concern for even “the one” who was lost. Then there is the matter of the many who have deluded themselves by becoming “hearers only” and not doers of the Word (James 1:22-23). People clamor for new truth, new insight and new understanding of the Word without any thought given to living out the truth they already understand. We dare not assume that people have understood or will respond in obedience.

One of the great opportunities for us in the church today is to bring people back to the basics of “trust and obey.” I am thinking specifically to bring people to assurance of their salvation and then create an environment where they seek to observe (live out) the basic instructions of God. We can, and should, teach the whole counsel of God but unless the proper foundation has been laid it will bear little fruit. Let us together join in the Great Commission mandate of making disciples by teaching them to observe all that the Lord has commanded us.