The Great CommissionAnd Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)]
Effectively fulfilling the Great Commission is no simple task as you have probably discovered if you have been in ministry for any length of time. Most of us - with good intentions - have been doing it wrong. The problem is in understanding what we are called to do.
Please forgive my suggested books which address the area of discipleship. They do provide help for your discipleship program if you are interested.
Step one of the Great Commission is, "To go." When we go out of the church and share God's love, God shows up and does wonderful things. St. Patrick was at home in England when a band of Irish marauders kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. Six years later he escaped and fled on a boat back to England. A few years later, young Patrick had a vision calling him back to Ireland. Talk about getting out of his comfort zone.
Obeying God, he went back to the nation that had enslaved him. But this time he took the message of God's love. He baptized thousands of people including some wealthy women and the sons of kings. Every day he faced imprisonment and death.
"To go," means to leave your comfort zone, to get out of the church and interact with people who are not like you. It is a mission for the Lord. Leaving our comfort zone can be very scary, but that's where we will see God in action.
Sharing the love of God with a stranger is not easy for most people. It is especially difficult when people are radically different from us. But Jesus calls us to GO. And as we go He can work through us. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, "A small rudder can turn a big boat as long as the boat is moving. But when it is sitting still the rudder has no effect."
In the Gospel of John, Jesus was on His way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Tired and needing rest, He stopped at Jacob's well while His disciples went into Schecham to fetch food and drink. You know the story. A Samaritan woman comes along, Jesus asks her for a drink, and they dialogue for a while. Jesus knows her heart and shares the "Good News" with her in an interesting way. She believes and GOES into town to tell her story to everyone there. She left her comfort zone. The townspeople came out to meet this Jesus, and they also believe.
Make disciples is a faulty translation of this passage. A better translation would be to "disciple all nations." So we do not make disciples, we disciple people. The word that is translated "disciple" is the Greek word "Mathetes." In ancient Greece, it was an individual that attached himself to master craftsman, teacher, or leader in order to be mentored by them. In our present world we might use the term "apprentice," the way in which electricians, plumbers, etc are accredited.
Since becoming a disciple is a purely voluntary act it cannot be forced upon someone or made it a requirement. Postmoderns rebel at coercion. This could be the cause of the church losing its young people as soon as they get outside the influence of the church and home.
The implications of voluntary discipleship are far-reaching. First discipleship, is not programmatic, it is relational. The discipler, must have something significant that the potential disciple wants to become.
The relationship between the discipler and disciple must be close. It must be so important that the disciple gives up other desires and reaches out to enter into the relationship. On the other side, the discipler must be perceived as worthy of the relationship. We great resource for becoming the leader others want to follow
Second, if discipleship is voluntary, the discipler must present discipleship as important to the disciple. In other words, he must provide a solid justification and present the benefits of discipleship.
Lastly, since discipleship is relational, it should be obvious that it is an interpersonal activity between the discipler and the disciple. The discipler has a responsibility to the relationship. If he is not willing to spend the time necessary to maintain the relationship, he will not be an effective discipler.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
The Christian church has a variety of understandings and practices of baptism, but Baptism is the entry into the body of Christ. In Baptism you are baptized into the community of Jesus Christ. The church proclaims that you are loved and wanted and a child of God in baptism.
Water is a symbol of purification. It is used to mark the beginning of a new life. In water baptism we are transformed from death to life, rising as a new person, born anew. Satan no longer has a hold on us. The early church included an exorcism in their baptismal rite which is continued in Orthodox Christian churches today.
Jesus' methods of Discipling.
The first thing we notice about Jesus' methods of discipling is that He spent time
- Demonstrate: With the twelve standing by, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storms, raised the dead. Each miracle demonstrated His mission; to destroy the works of the enemy - Satan.
- Explain: After demonstrating His power, Jesus explained to His disciples why He was able to accomplish the task while they were not
- Instruct: Then He instructed them on how to go forth and minister to the needs around the country.
- Send: He sent them out two by two to heal the sick. He gave them an opportunity to minister without Him standing over their shoulders.
- Critique: When they returned He gave them a critique of how they did and cautioned them as to what was important.
If you choose to take on this vital role, you must count the cost in your time, your emotions, and your freedom. But there is nothing as rewarding as seeing your efforts come to fruition as new people step into leadership and expand the Kingdom of God.