The Great Commission and Discipleship
Whenever people talk about the Great Commission, they often use it to talk about the mandate to reach the lost. We use it to preach about the urgency to evangelise to the lost world. Indeed, it is the heartbeat of God to save the lost. There is also a great sense of urgency to accomplish this task. However, to take the Great Commission as a mandate to evangelise is not enough. In fact, we can also see the Great Commission as a mandate for discipleship.
Christ’s last word was not to go and evangelise but to go and make disciples. This discipleship process instituted by the Lord is often overlooked. We forget that Christ’s goal was not bringing people to church but to train them as disciples. They are to be baptised and trained to obey the commandments of God. This is not to say that the church today is short of discipleship programs. I believe there are many to choose from. But the process of disciple making is often left to the work of Sunday school classes or cell groups that focus on biblical knowledge, spiritual discipines or simply fellowship. The disciples may know more and even practice various spiritual disciplines. But that does not mean that we are becoming more Christ-like. There are issues of character and worldview that may not have dealt with. There are just certain things that are beyond the classrooms. No wonder Jesus never confined Himself to teach in a synagogue. He spent His time walking around and used life issues to teach the disciples.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that biblical training is not important. But there are a few points that I would like to bring out through this:
1) Relook at the Great Commission. Due to the pressure for church growth, we have use this mandate lopsidedly. We press for evangelism, but less on discipleship. Where in fact, we may be able to say that evangelism is part of the discipleship process. Therefore we should not use the Great Commission to over-emphasize on only evangelism. It must include discipleship. For if we fail to make Christ-centred disciples who are obeying the commandments of God, rightfully speaking, we can say that we have not accomplished the Great Commission even if we have a massive attendence every meeting.
2) Reprioritise the use of our time. Like it or not, ministers spend a lot of their time forming committees, attending and chairing meetings, conducting rituals, teaching adult classes, preparing sermons and preaching the Gospel. We are left with very little time for discipleship. We do not have time like Jesus to talk casually with His disciples and discussed issues with them at their most teachable moments. We have become busier than Jesus and the result is that we have the least time to do the most important job. Jesus commanded us that making disciples is the most important task. We need to reprioritise the use of our time if we are really serious about the Great Commission. We cannot just be pleased with having lots of people attending our church every Sunday. We need to spend time discipling them especially the next generation of leaders.
3) Rethink our programs. Are we having too much programs that discipleship cannot take place naturally? People need to connect in a natural environment. From there, discipleship can take place among the people naturally. Not just from leaders to members, but also among members themselves. Though having classes can solve a lot of our problems but they must definitely be coupled with meaningful relationship. If not, we would only be giving knowledge and building spiritual disciplines without inner life transformation. It may be a good practice to evaluate how much percent of our training is placed on character and worldview transformation besides the usual biblical knowledge and ministry skills. Our programs should facilitate and encourage discipleship. Don’t run programs for programs sake. We may even have to delete certain programs that are taking up too much of our time.
Let us re-align our church according to the purpose of God as we take a fresh look at the Great Commission again.