Reading the familiar passage known as “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20), it struck me I’ve been listening more to others interpret this Scripture than reading it plainly for myself. What we often hear is this is the commandment to take the Gospel to the entire world so everyone has a chance to hear about Jesus. But this isn’t what Jesus commanded us to do. He didn’t command us to simply go and tell others about Jesus. He said to go and make disciples of all nations.
Being a disciple goes far beyond merely hearing the gospel. It goes beyond believing in Jesus and even accepting Christ. Disciples are those whose lives are absolutely committed to the person and mission of Jesus Christ. We are to make disciples of all nations, not just make sure all nations have heard His name proclaimed.
Obviously, we can’t make disciples of those who have never heard of who Jesus is and what He has done on their behalf. If we stop there though, then we are not being obedient to the great commission. We aren’t doing what Jesus told us to do. What’s worse, we’re stopping with the job half done. When it comes to eternity, half-done isn’t going to cut it. Half-saved is no better than lost. We’ve got to move beyond the simple telling to the gritty work of walking with people as they mature in their faith.
There are massive efforts being undertaken to reach all people groups with the Word of God and to make it available in their native language. This is amazing and necessary work which gets me fired up. Beyond this, however, I have not seen huge efforts to help these folks advance to a deeper relationship with Jesus. The mission is not done once we have a Bible in their hands. The mission will not be accomplished in a two-week short-term mission project. Disciple-making is a long-term commitment to doing life with another person as you nurture them in the ways of Christ. While getting the Gospel into the hands of every unreached people group is daunting, it doesn’t go far enough.
There is an amazing initiative going on now which aims to have the Bible translated into every language by the year 2030. That’s incredible! I want to take nothing away from such a worthy and necessary enterprise. I do have to ask the obvious question though: “Then what?” Once people have a Bible in their hands what are we as the global Church going to do to disciple them?
This is a monumental undertaking. It’s bigger than any of us. But here’s what you can do: you can disciple one person in your life. If you have no one in your life whom you can disciple, go find someone! We are called to make disciples not converts. The more disciples we help create, the more opportunities those without Christ will have of observing someone who has that hope in their lives. And then the process will begin all over again. Replication starts with you and someone else. Make one disciple and teach them to make one themselves. Then go find another. Taking the gospel to all the world is vital. Let’s make certain we don’t stop there. Let’s make disciples not converts.