19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
THE GREAT COMMISSION—it’s every Christian’s job description and every Church’s reason for existence. The interesting thing about The Great Commission is that it not only articulates our mission (making disciples), but it outlines the process. Our tendency is to embrace the mission and ignore the process. And that’s where we get into trouble.
There are four action words in The Great Commission that are important to notice; two verbs “go” and “make,” and two participles that describe the actual disciple-making process, “baptizing” (public confession of an encounter with Christ) and “teaching” (equipping the convert for a lifetime of obedience).
The problem is the “go” part of The Great Commission. We would love to make disciples, but we want people to come to us. Most of us are still used to the time when Americans were “pre-evangelized.” Nearly everybody believed in God and had some kind of church background and, quite frankly, it wasn’t that difficult to attract those “pre-evangelized” people to our churches.
But now we live in the age of the “nones.” Those are the folks that check “none” on the religious affiliation section of the census and they simply aren’t interested in attending our churches. That means evangelism has to take place on their turf, not ours, which brings me back to that word, “go.” Evangelism has to happen in break rooms at work, across back-yard fences, at the gym and at neighborhood barbecues. We Christians, not just pastors, but all of us, have to embrace our “sentness” (I know, that’s not even a word).
Part of the problem is faulty discipleship metrics. All of our metrics center around gathering rather than going. We are considered faithful disciples if we attend worship regularly, tithe and join a small group.
Those are great things, and I think we should count them, but can we really consider ourselves disciples if we aren’t connecting with the lost people in our individual worlds? As Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”