WWJD in the Far North? Put on a coat and make disciples
November 2017

By Jim Stamberg in Alaska — As any parent knows, raising kids to be mature adults can feel impossible at times. Are they mature just because they can pay rent, drive a car, hold a job, or cook Ramen Noodles? What is our goal?

I will consider my two boys mature when they can adequately care and provide for their own families. As a result, at times I remind them, “When you are a parent someday, you will …” or “When you are a husband, you will need to … .”

The goal is not just for them to “show up” to adulthood with a job and a place to live; they need to learn that maturity means caring for the people God has entrusted to them.

It was obviously not an accident that Jesus’ final words to his disciples commanded them to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). He did not want them to simply live out their lives remembering the “good old days” of Jesus’ time on Earth. He left them with a job. He expected them to care for the spiritual needs of the people next door and around the world.

Jesus explained that making disciples meant to “baptize them” (i.e., witness to people and bring them to the point of following Jesus) and to “teach them to obey all I have commanded you.” Notice he did not simply say “teach them,” but “teach them to obey.” Jesus did not want knowledgeable students; he wanted committed followers. Furthermore, he wanted disciples who would take ALL of his commands seriously.

Take a moment and write down as many of Christ’s commands as you can remember. Did you remember to include his command to “go and make disciples?” If not, your list is incomplete.

If we are going to take Christ’s Great Commission seriously, we have to remember that the job is not done until those people whom we disciple also learn to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples. Disciple-making is not only for pastors, missionaries, and other perceived “super” Christians. Jesus expects all of his followers to grow to maturity, and maturity means learning to raise up the next generation.

For the past 15 years, SEND North has passionately focused on gospel proclamation in Alaskan and northern Canadian villages. God has grown our village church-planting presence from four families to nearly 50 people, yet we know the work is far from finished. Although many Northern people have heard the gospel, there are very few healthy churches because there are very few local people who understand their part in making disciples.

To help us focus on this reality, SEND North adopted a new vision statement:

To see every community of the 60/70 Window filled with local disciple-makers who meet together regularly and have established regional leadership.

It’s a challenging vision — but how does vision become reality in our workers’ day-to-day lives? One of our teammates shares:

Since moving to Northern Canada, I have seen how discipleship and disciple-making can be very organic, much like it was in the days of Jesus. Instead of spending time with men on the sandy shores of Galilee, it’s on the gravelly beaches and rough waves of Teslin Lake where I enjoy teaching and talking with people. Instead of the dusty streets of Jerusalem, it’s the wood-cutting lot where we help people get their winter firewood. Northern discipleship requires meeting people where they are and living out the Christian life alongside them.

Moose in Far North

One of my favorite discipleship moments included taking a younger man from our church out moose hunting. He was having a little trouble finding a bull for his family’s winter meat supply, which is a crucial thing to have in the North. I knew where to go and what to do because an older friend had shown me when we needed help getting a moose for the freezer. I was able to teach the younger man what to do after he shot the moose, and how to properly care for the 1,200-pound animal to respectfully harvest all the usable meat. 

While we worked, we talked about life and faith and discussed how he could be involved in our church’s ministry. A couple of weeks later, he preached his first message at our church. God is continuing to work in his life, and I am excited to watch him as he disciples others.

Jesus was a master at using common things, such as water, wheat, and even fish, to teach Kingdom lessons to those who followed him. He gives each of us common things every day that are opportunities to teach those around us. Are we willing to take the opportunities he gives us, regardless of where we live, to advance the Kingdom and make disciple makers?

Even in North America, some communities have not heard of the saving love of Christ. Learn more about how SEND’s teams live out the gospel in these areas. 

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Jim Stamberg
Jim serves as the Area Director of our SEND North team, which works in Alaska and Northern Canada.