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, even unto the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
2: The Command to Make Disciples
When Jesus rose from the grave He left His disciples with one final command: to take His message to the world (known as the Great Commission). Can you imagine what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t been obedient? Christianity would have ceased to exist before it began! The disciples took Jesus’s words very seriously, traveling, teaching, and baptizing many; turning what began as a tiny off-shoot of Judaism, into Christianity, as we know it today.
Francis Chan writes, regarding the Great Commission:
Reading the New Testament , it’s not surprising to read that Jesus’s followers were focused on making disciples–it makes sense in light of Jesus’s ministry and the Great Commission. The surprise comes when we look at our churches today in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples.
Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 30)
Ouch! It hurts to hear the truth, doesn’t it? Next, Francis Chan goes on to talk about how “The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple making entails: go, baptize people, and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded” (p 31).
But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice. Let’s start with baptism. In your church setting, baptism may not seem like that big of a deal. Maybe that’s why so many Christians today have never been baptized. But in the early days of the church, baptism was huge. Baptism was an unmistakable act that marked a person as a follower of Jesus Christ. As Jesus died and was buried in the earth, so a Christian is plunged beneath the surface of the water. As Jesus emerged from the tomb in a resurrected body, so a Christian comes out of the waters of baptism as a new creation…
Just as baptism is more significant than we might have thought, so teaching people to obey Jesus’s command is an enormous task. Realistically, this will require a lifetime of devotion of studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around us. Neither of these things is easy, nor can they be checked off a list. We are never really “done.” We continually devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures so that we can learn with ever-greater depth and clarity what God wants us to know, practice, and pass on . (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 31-32)
I find this part so important. I’ve realized that the more I study God’s word, the more I want to share it, and pour it into the lives of others. Right now, as I study the book of Romans, I find myself sharing things not just with my blog followers, but with coworkers, family members, and my brothers & sisters in Christ. We cannot disciple others if we don’t know what God’s word says and aren’t putting it into practice in our own lives!
However, I’m also going to admit to you, that this has been no easy transformation in my life. I grew up wanting to be loved and accepted by everybody. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I’d rather be hated for speaking truth into the lives of others than to keep my mouth shut and let those I love and care about be left behind when Christ returns, or even worse, find themselves in the pit of hell; all because I was afraid of not being liked. It seems rather selfish, doesn’t it? We have to remember that we are not of this world.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20)
Right now you’re probably thinking of all sorts of excuses as to why you can’t minister to others (I know, because I used to think the same way and still struggle with this sometimes), however, “as convincing as these excuses may seem to us, Jesus’s commands don’t come with exception clauses. He doesn’t tell us to follow unless we’re busy. He doesn’t call us to love our neighbors unless we don’t feel prepared” (p. 35). As Francis Chan states:
God made you the way you are; He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task. Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 35).
Thanks for joining me for this week’s look at Multiply by Francis Chan & Mark Beuvig. I hope you’ll return next week for chapter three. Take care and God bless.