Monday, July 08, 2013

I Don't Think Most Christians Even Know What the Great Commission Is

Growing up, I thought the Great Commission was "go."  It isn't.  Since I thought it was "go," I thought it was evangelism.  It isn't.  When you think it is "go," and you think it is evangelism, then you will miss out on the Great Commission.  That will also mess up your church in numbers of different ways. Don't get me wrong, evangelism is part of the Great Commission, but it isn't what the Great Commission is.  If your church doesn't know what the Great Commission is, then your church won't be obeying it, and, therefore, your church won't be obedient to the One Who has all authority in heaven and in earth.  If a pastor thinks his job is to "perfect the saints for the work of the ministry," and he doesn't know what the ministry is in a technical sense, the Great Commission, then he won't be doing his job either.  He can't and won't equip His people for what He doesn't know.

I got a B.A., M.A., and then M.Div. and I still didn't know the Great Commission until a little over a year after our church got started in 1987.  Nobody told me what it was, and I had interaction and reading from numbers of different sources in seminary. (As a matter of full disclosure, I believe Thomas Strouse knows what it is and probably knew then.  I just never heard it.)  A big part of people's lack of understanding of church growth and sanctification relates to not knowing what the Great Commission is.  Maybe you know what it is.  Maybe you just think you know what it is.  It's possible that many more know today than when I was going through my education.

Before I tell you what the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ is, I want you to know that I do think "go" is important.  I've talked a lot about that here.  We are to go.  Scripture teaches "go," not invite.  We go out from the assembly of believers to unbelievers, not invite the unbelievers to the assembly.  I'm not saying it's wrong to invite, just that the philosophy should be "go," not invite.  Missing out on that is big  It relates to a lot of problems in churches today, but again "go" is not the Great Commission.

Often in sentences there are several verbs.  Sometimes there are compound verbs.  Sometimes there is one main verb.  Other times there are main verbs with several other verbs within dependent clauses.  In Matthew 28:19-20 there is only one verb, period.  Since there is only one verb, there is only one main verb.  That main verb is also the Great Commission.

What verb is the main verb of Matthew 28:19-20?  It is the word "teach" in verse 19.  The Greek word translated "teach" is matheteuo.  You'll notice that there is the word "teaching" in verse 20.  That is a different Greek word, the Greek word didasko.  Ruckmanites won't appreciate this, because they don't receive the words God gave His own like Jesus said He would give them and His own would receive them in John 17:8.  "Teach" in verse 19 and "teaching" in verse 20 don't mean exactly the same thing.

Matheteuo in verse 19 means literally "to make disciples."  It is an imperative verb, so it is a command. The other verbal forms -- go, baptizing, and teaching -- are all three participles.  The latter two explain how disciples are made.   "Go" likely, because of the conditions that exist, which are unique, is a participle use called attendant circumstance.  Disciples are made by going, baptizing, and teaching.  One might ask, "So then why does the KJV translate 'go' like it's an imperative, a command?"  This participle coupled with an imperative verb comes with the force of an imperative, but it is still a complementary activity to the main verb, which is "make disciples."

If you know that the command is to make disciples, then that changes everything for you.  You are not out there attempting to "win people to Christ."  Your goal is to make disciples.  You can't make a disciple of a false convert.  If you preach an inadequate or shoddy gospel, when you try to make a disciple of that person, it won't happen.  Sometimes pastors wonder what is wrong with people in the church.  I believe that most often, they haven't been converted.

Once a person believes the gospel, he should be baptized and be taught everything he needs to know to follow Christ.  The idea of "disciple" is "learner."  He's someone who can sufficiently know and follow on his own.  He can reproduce himself in another person.  The plan of the Great Commission is exponential growth through multiplication.  Paul understood this too (2 Timothy 2:2).

Each Christian should think of being required by Jesus to make disciples.  If someone is going to make a disciple, he needs to know more than a little four step plan that might result in an easy prayer.  He's wanting to see a true worshiper of Jesus Christ, a lifetime learner of Jesus.

If the job of the pastor is to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry, and the work of the ministry is making disciples, then he must equip his people to make disciples.  Do your people know what the Great Commission is?  Does each member know he is to make disciples?  Can he do it?  Have you equipped him to do it?  Each individual member of a church should see himself as responsible to make a disciple.  If he isn't or he hasn't, then why not?


Lance Ketchum said...


Jack Lamb said...

Amen! Correct understanding of this doctrine would transform the practice of many churches!