When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
– John 21:15-18
“Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple’ (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, ‘If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.’ A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, ‘Now I see who Jesus is!’— that is the source of devotion.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru, struggled with the idea of witnessing to other people. He talked to many people who shared their faith with others. You might call them ‘street evangelists’. They all differed in their technique, but they had four points in common. 1) God has a perfect plan for your life. 2) BUT, we are all sinners. We are separated from God. 3) Jesus paid the price for our sins, bridging the gap between us and God, the Father. 4) We can be saved by faith, but we must individually receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The tract is a little different today, but not by much.
The tract and the training for those who went onto college campuses had nothing to do with getting someone to ‘church’ or preaching a church’s doctrine or ‘way of thinking’. The focus was on saving souls. Once they had prayed the ‘salvation prayer’, the ‘evangelist’ would then encourage them to attend the church of their choice. If they had none, then the ‘evangelist’ could interject their preference with a ‘see you there’ type salutation.
Never was the ‘evangelist’ to spout specific church doctrine. They were to stick to the four basic concepts, ‘laws’ as Bill Bright called it.
But Oswald Chambers throws the entire thing on its ear with the charge to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Or “Take care of my sheep.”
Does this eliminate the ‘street evangelist’? I don’t think so, but each of those people have a home church. They have people within that church that need feeding (physically and spiritually). They need taken care of.
One could be myopic and think that the church grows by increasing the membership, but, in my observations, the strongest, long-lasting churches are those who have a firm foundation in Scripture with strong, mature believers. There are other types of churches that survive for a while (mission oriented churches, program oriented churches, churches loyal to a specific pastor, etc.), but without a firm foundation in the Bible, they eventually fracture, or the strong believers move on, leaving the lukewarm, wishy-washy remnant to deal with a church that is far too large for their meager means to maintain.
Jesus’ last sentence in the Scripture above identifies Peter as being one of the followers who would be crucified, but what about the “Feed my lambs” commands? For one, I have heard that in the tradition of the time, to be told to do something three times was an insult or put-down. I have also heard the argument that the three commands are to counteract the three denials Peter made while Jesus was on trial. I personally think both interpretations may be correct. Peter was feeling guilty and ashamed. He was not confident. He needed the shock of Jesus saying it three times. He might have bit his tongue and thought, “Yes, Lord, I deserved that.” But, Jesus is also relying upon Peter to be the vocal leader of the group. Jesus did not belabor the point any longer. Peter is loud, brash, impulsive, but he is just bold enough to keep everyone in one room long enough for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there were twelve leaders of a church that had just been born that very moment.
And what does God expect of us? Just as Bill Bright wrote in the fourth Spiritual Law, the commitment is an individual thing. Your mission in life is going to be different than the next person’s, but to be sure, there is a mission. God placed none of us here to just coast to the finish line. But before you run off without hearing God’s voice, remember the point Chambers made when quoting from Luke 14:26. We each need a strong relationship with our Savior. We need to focus solely on Jesus and the teachings of Jesus. What might be left behind might even include the doctrines of a denomination or ‘our personal way of thinking’.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.