I am often having a conversation about Matthew 28:18–20 and the mission of the church with pastors and leaders who have both theological training and years of ministry behind them.
In many of these conversations it is clear that these pastors and leaders have adopted a “modern” interpretation of this well-known text. They believe the Great Commission is all about evangelism. The mission of the church, they believe, is to “reach people who have no connection with God.”
But is that what Jesus said in Matthew 28:18–20?
Together we read this passage and look at what Jesus actually said:
It’s not some add-on that you do later. It isn’t even evangelism plus discipleship. It’s discipleship, which includes evangelism. In other words, disciple making is the core mission of the church.
When we make the mission of the church simply reaching the lost or growing church attendance or teaching biblical information – or anything other than making fully-fledged disciples of Jesus – we form shallow churches, leave people stuck in immature and un-Christlike patterns of living..
The mission of the church is aimed at helping people become disciples and live as disciples, which means they have to rearrange their life to become like Jesus.
So, here’s a subtle shift in thinking that makes a massive impact on our ministries:
Disciple making isn’t something we do; it’s everything we do.
The purpose of every relationship, every activity of the church is either to help people become disciples or to help them live as disciples.
If we’re making lots of converts who aren’t learning how to do everything Jesus commanded (i.e., live as disciples of Jesus), we’re failing to carry out the mission Jesus gave us.
If we have lots of active, involved Christians who are attending, serving, and giving but not becoming like Jesus in character, life and mission, then we’re not making disciples. And that means we’re failing in the mission Jesus gave us.
We have one mission: make disciples.
Every pastor is a disciple making pastor. Every volunteer leader needs to see their role as a disciple maker and understand how they can help people become and live as disciples of Jesus.
For every activity we should ask: How does this help people either become disciples or live as disciples?
And this isn’t just true for the church corporately. This is true for each individual disciple as well – we are to live as disciples and seek to make disciples. Discipleship should shape every facet and activity of our life as a follower of Jesus.
It’s everything we do, and it’s the greatest opportunity any human being could ever have because Jesus is the true source of life.