If I informed you that Jesus left a note in your mailbox with critical directions, your schedule would instantaneously simplify. What clarity such a piece of information would bring into your life. The remarkable reality is that Jesus has left us clear marching orders. Your job today is to make disciples. We call his parting words the Great Commission.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20
Typically, someone’s last words have a unique impact on his or her loved ones. Those final pieces of communication should hold a lasting effect, especially if you are the Son of God. You would think that the followers of Jesus would take those parting words and base their lives upon them. In some ways, many believers have prioritized Jesus’ strategy over the last few centuries, but in other ways, we are still in danger of severe neglect. We are guilty of quoting the Great Commission more often than we have applied it.
- The Great Commission given to all disciples has turned into the Great Suggestion reserved for the serious few.
- The Great Commission intended for obedience has been altered to the Great Omission associated with negligence.
- The Great Commission urging us to make disciples has drifted to the Great Decommission enabling us to make excuses.
Instead of allowing Jesus’ words to reorient our purpose on earth, we have practically disregarded them from our everyday lives. While Jesus’ clarion call was meant to activate us to this work of discipleship, we have resorted to spectating upon the sidelines. We expect religious professionals to handle the task given to the Church at large. This decommission is unacceptable! There is a reason why “discipler” isn’t an actual word. Being a disciple implies that you should be discipling someone else, as well.
The end result of the Great Commission is explicit. Success will be determined by exponential multiplication rather than just explainable addition. If the primary growth of our churches is due to transferring people from one membership role to another, we are failing. We need conversion growth to increase and transfer growth to decrease.
Some Christians do take evangelism seriously. The positive trends are encouraging, but evangelism is not the complete solution. Much of the problem in the Church today is not that we have an evangelism problem but a discipleship problem. The Spirit causes people to be born again, and somehow we expect spiritual infants to transform into mature disciples overnight without any intentional supervision on our part.
The Great Commission calls us to make disciples – not converts.
As he ascended into the skies, Jesus clarified our purpose of discipleship when he delivered the Great Commission. The job is incomplete when someone comes to faith in Christ. Discipleship – and not conversion – is the goal.
Evangelism is necessary, but it is not ultimate. Even though many of us possess a crippling fear surrounding the task of evangelism, we at least acknowledge that we are supposed to be involved in such work. The danger lies not in focusing on evangelism but in neglecting discipleship.
So why are we so unwaveringly fixated on the originating moment of faith while neglecting the ongoing development of faith? Birthed out of legitimate concern to see sinners transformed by the gospel and to avoid the fires of hell, many Christians focus on pinpointing a moment of conversion rather than prioritizing a lifetime of progression. Once a person raises a hand, walks an aisle, or says a prayer, we all utter a collective sigh of relief that heaven issued another get-out-of-hell-free card before it was too late. For all practical purposes, the colossal burden of another’s spiritual condition is alleviated by us as soon as a person initially claims to follow Christ.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that our work is incomplete once a person becomes a Christian. The initial step of following Jesus is critical, and no other subsequent steps can be taken without it, but it is not the exclusive expectation. In fact, winning a soul for Christ was never meant to be a solitary goal. The point of conversion is not to escape the devil but to embrace the divine. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) – not the fear of hell. So if our spiritual strategies focus solely on evangelism to the neglect of discipleship, we are doing these immature believers a seismic disservice.
Realistically, we spend most of our efforts on making converts instead of disciples because it is easier to measure. We can graph how many people made a momentary decision, but how do we follow up to ensure those people continue to make lifelong commitments? We must grow disciples into maturity, but we are often immobilized by our inability to articulate how to do it and our fear of doing it wrong. Uncertainty is understandable, but idleness is intolerable.
The result of our inactivity has produced many immature believers who ought to be far more advanced by now (Heb. 5:12). Our churches have been overrun by spiritual infants caring for one another because many have never matured in their faith. We grieve the lack of spiritual vitality among us, but why should we be shocked if we focus on getting someone to walk across the threshold of salvation but rarely teach them how to walk upon the path of application?
Psalm 119:97-112 – Just because someone is seasoned does not mean they are scriptural. We need personal commitment and committed disciple-makers to follow God’s ways for the long haul.
We can only fully mature in Christ by acknowledging the work that still needs to be done. As we observe the rough edges of our spiritual conditions, we can work with Christ’s power to see progress in the most critical areas of our lives.
Our commitment to fleshing out our personal walks with Christ overlooks our need to learn from one another. True discipleship prioritizes imitation over information.
You cannot give directions to a person without knowing his or her starting place. The same is true with discipleship.
Just because the process of discipleship requires specific work does not imply that it is too complex to undertake. The task is undeniably simple: discover what is most broken within any given individual and get to work in that exact area at this specific time.
For those who feel stuck in their spiritual life, you no longer have to accept stagnation as the norm. In this 8-week Bible study, I want to walk you through a model called Distinctive Discipleship.