The Great Commission has only one command in it, which is “make disciples”. The Church of Jesus Christ is to be committed to making disciples. In fact most congregations, pastors, board members and congregants agree that this is what the Church of Jesus Christ needs to be doing. Yet in our nation most congregations are not doing well, in terms of either adding new disciples or seeing the disciples that make up the congregation grow and develop significantly.
Therefore, if fulfilling this command would build the Church, as Jesus expects, what is the problem? I would like to suggest that too often we take a very narrow view of what Jesus meant, when he said, “make disciples.” I think disciple making involves three major areas of responsibility.
THE FIRST MAJOR RESPONSIBILITY
First congregations must regularly and consistently help people who are currently not disciples of Jesus Christ become disciples. This is perhaps the biggest failure in most congregations. Too often most of the congregation’s resources (time, money, energy, focus etc.) is spent on those who are already disciples rather than making it a priority to devise plans, strategies and tactics to mobilize the congregation to be about fishing for men and women. This is why the Church of Jesus Christ in our nation is not growing when compared to our population growth and why more and more congregations are dying.
THE SECOND MAJOR RESPONSIBILITY
Congregations need to help those who are disciples develop and mature in order that they might be sold out to doing whatever it is that our Lord demands. This means helping current disciples develop in knowledge (knowing God’s will), in character (becoming like Jesus Christ), in service (giving away to the point of sacrifice) and in sharing with the lost the Good News of the Gospel (evangelism). Most congregations focus on knowledge, knowledge and more knowledge as the primary way to develop disciples. However, there is little focus on helping current disciples become sold out in terms of their lives, as evidenced by the lack of responsible financial stewardship, lack off of sacrificial service, putting family over God (especially children), the inability to control the tongue and the lack of sharing the Good News of the Gospel with others, just to name a few examples.
THE THIRD MAJOR RESPONSIBILITY
Congregations have the responsibility to help those who comprise the congregation become reproducing Christians. God’s enterprise to reach the world and make disciples is based upon the assumption that the Church will be a reproducing body. Christians who do not reproduce must understand that they are highly underdeveloped disciples of Jesus Christ.
The good news is that there are congregations in our nation that are taking seriously the command of our Lord to, “make disciples.” The tragedy is that these congregations are in the minority. The other tragedy is that many congregations call themselves disciple making when in reality they are not.