“Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations…
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;”
Matthew 28:19-20 New King James
Recently I was conducting a study in the Book of James with some men that I met while they were serving time in jail. While we were fellowshipping the thought crossed my mind that a couple of decades ago I would have never imagined that one day I would feel such camaraderie with cons, addicts and ex-cons. Because I responded to God’s invitation to join Him in reaching individuals impacted by crime, I have been walking through prison doors, gates, sliders and sally ports for about twenty four years to visit those incarcerated. I count many of these individuals as dear brothers in the Lord.
Going to prison really moved me out of my personal “comfort zone”. You know – that place where you feel safe, comfortable, and well within the perceived range of your spiritual gifts and abilities. But I have learned that it is hard to be a disciple of Jesus Christ from the comfort of my recliner. In the verse above that we call the “Divine Commission”, Jesus uses the Greek word, “ethnos”, when He refers to “nations”. That is the word that we get “ethnicity” from and certainly Jesus was encouraging the largely Jewish early church to evangelize and disciple the people of all nationalities in the world. But I think that Jesus had in mind a much broader definition of “ethnos” that included “every people group” – the elderly and the young, the single and the married, the poor and the wealthy, the white and blue collar workers, the homeless, the addicted, and the prisoners.
Every time we set out to fulfill Jesus’ commission to His disciples, trust me, we will be drawn out of our personal comfort zones. And that will be true whether you visit the local hospital, nursing homes, volunteer in a women’s center, at a soup kitchen, with a group of at-risk teenagers, in a homeless shelter or in a prison chapel. If you really want to discover the range of your spiritual gifts and callings, just say “yes” to the Lord’s commission and step outside your comfort zone.