Imagine your reaction if someone came back from the dead to speak to you. Seriously—try to imagine that right now. What would you feel? How intensely would you listen? How seriously would you take his or her words?
Think about what this must have been like for the disciples. They had been working their everyday jobs when a mysterious teacher asked them to follow Him. As they followed, they saw Him challenge religious leaders, embrace sinners, heal the sick and even raise the dead. They knew He was not ordinary. At various times and to varying degrees, people saw Him as the Messiah who would bring salvation for God’s people. But He never quite fit anyone’s expectations of what the Messiah would do or say.
And then He died. Just like that, it was over.
The disciples spent three days in confusion and disillusionment. Perhaps they had wasted their time following this mysterious person for three years.
Then it happened. He came back from the dead! Now that Jesus had conquered even sin and death, He would certainly fix this broken world. There could be no stopping Him.
But once again, Jesus surprised everyone. Instead of telling them that He would immediately transform the Earth, Jesus gave His disciples one final command and then ascended into heaven.
Essentially, He told them it was their job to finish what He started—to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Many read these words as if they were meant to inspire pastors or missionaries on their way out to the mission field. But have you ever considered that maybe Jesus’ command is meant for you?
Do we really believe Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the 21st-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’ command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple-making looks like.
For some of us, our church experiences have been so focused on programs that we immediately think about Jesus’ command to make disciples in programmatic terms. We expect our church leaders to create some sort of disciple-maker campaign where we sign up, commit to participating for a few months and then get to cross the Great Commission off our list. But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple-maker.
So, what does this look like? The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple-making entails: go, baptize people and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.
It’s incredibly simple in the sense that it doesn’t require a degree, an ordination process or some sort of hierarchical status. The concept itself is not very difficult. But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice.
Realistically, the task will require a lifetime of devotion to 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. We continually invest in the people around us, teaching them and walking with them through life’s joys and trials.
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.
Adapted from Multiply © 2012 Francis Chan and Mark Beuving. Permission granted for limited use. Published by David C Cook.
Francis Chan is the bestselling author of multiple books including his latest Letters to the Church He is currently pastor of We Are Church, a house church network planting churches in Northern California. Francis and his wife Lisa have seven children and one granddaughter.