The Great Commission: Not Optional
Personally, I spend a lot of time talking about the Great Commission. We also talk a lot about the Great Commission at Redeeming Life Church because as David Platt once said, “The Great Commission is not an option to consider; it is a command to obey.” (see Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, John 20:21, Acts 1:8)
In terms of the Great Commission, "most people are willing to go, but planning to stay rather than planning to go, but willing to stay" says Donald McGavran and I tend to think he's absolutely right. Why have we drifted so far from the very DNA of Jesus' ministry in training up his disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? Why do we now think that the Great Commission is optional rather than the command for every believer?
If you're a disciple of Jesus, I'd like to encourage you to wrestle honestly with your current level of involvement in the Great Commission in terms of obedience or disobedience. How are you doing with making the Great Commission your lifestyle?
How engaged are you in going into all the world and making disciples and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded them?
Here's where things get scary: current statistics from Jeff Christopherson say that only 4% of American Evangelical churches are reproducing churches, meaning that disciples are making disciple-makers that are in turn making more disciple-makers and multiplying disciples, leaders, and churches. At the same time, only 16% of American Evangelical churches are growing by addition and, ever more sobering, is that 80% of American Evangelical churches are in some sort of decline in one form or another. So, basically, 96% of American Evangelical churches are not multiplying disciples, leaders, and churches as we are commanded by Jesus to do.
This is where I believe we have to wake up and deal honestly with our sinful and rebellious abandonment of the Great Commission that Jesus left us here to fulfill through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Bobby Harrington is known to have said that "we have divorced the teachings of Jesus from the methods of Jesus and yet we expect the results of Jesus".
The point: Jesus' methods are just as divine as His teaching. Therefore, if Jesus devoted his best time to developing and deploying disciples, we would be wise to follow His example.
While the task ahead of us is urgent and serious, don’t let that discourage you or stop you from digging into what all this looks like for your personally. It's taken me years to come to these convictions but I've also been reading, studying, and trying things in the real world for the last nine years. It's hard. It's scary. It's super uncomfortable at times...yet those moments are the moments I feel most fully alive!
Personally, I’d give any one of you 30 minutes over Skype if you wanted to discuss this seriously and be willing to apply it to your life (contact me). I can even recommend tons of books that may inspire and motivate you as well, but I’m convinced the best method to learning a new skill is to try it first hand: go out and do it. Once again, I’d personally be willing to go out and do this with you. Obviously, you'd have to live in Salt Lake City for me to do that but if I'm in your area sometime, call me up.
As another helpful resource, this sermon by David Platt is hard hitting yet very practical and speaks powerfully to this topic. He draws some incredibly convicting conclusions from the book of Acts about every disciple being a disciple maker and how the spread of Christianity is owed almost completely to the unnamed believers who were faithful to the Great Commission. I encourage you to watch it here.
Lastly, the Great Commission is one of the major reasons you and I were left on this earth. Jesus said we will be witnesses; the only question is what kind of witness will you be? (Acts 1:8)
Never forget: He has given us His Spirit, His Word, and He has placed you inside of a group of His people. In short, He has gifted you and provided you with everything you need to fulfill the Great Commission…but our part is to get off the couch and engage.
Here are some questions I ask myself and those I'm discipling on a regular basis to help us cut through the rhetoric of the Great Commission and instead give ourselves an honest "Great Commission" assessment:
1. How many disciples have you made in the last 12 months? How are those disciples doing in their ministry to those they are now discipling?
2. How many people are you faithfully ministering to and being open about your faith?
3. How many people are you personally meeting with to help them learn, understand, and apply the Bible to their day-to-day lives?
4. How intentional are you in discipling your spouse? Your kids?
5. How many of your neighbors even know you’re a Christian? What are you intentionally doing to show them the Kingdom?
6. How many of your co-workers even know you’re a Christian? What are you intentionally doing to show them the Kingdom?
7. How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last month?
8. How many lost people are you regularly praying for?
While all of these questions may appear overwhelming, we can't afford to play games and pretend evangelism, disciple-making, and Great Commission work will "magically just happen" over time. Obviously, apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:1-5) but apart from obeying Jesus' command to fulfill the Great Commission we're left sitting in our own disobedience. Eternity is at stake and we simply can't afford for that to happen.
Kingdom First by Jeff Christopherson (one of the best books I've ever read about Kingdom minded church multiplication)
Discipleship.org with Bobby Harrington