“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” – Matthew 28:18-20
As followers of Christ we have all been commissioned to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). By the all-encompassing authority and power of King Jesus (v. 18), we have been commanded to take the gospel of the Kingdom and take it to all nations (v. 19; cf. Matt. 24:14). We are to lead them to saving faith in Christ Jesus through the proclamation of his gospel. We are to baptize these new disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (v. 19). And we are to teach these new disciples to obey the commands of Jesus–one of which is to make disciples of all nations (v. 20). Literally, we are to lead these individuals through an apprenticeship as we train them by God’s grace to do what we are doing. In short, we are to make disciples who make disciples…who make disciples.
This task is daunting. The mission to disciple peoples from all nations is overwhelming. The reason it is overwhelming to think of discipling peoples in other nations is because it is overwhelming for 21st century American Christians to think of discipling our neighbors. Our fears paralyze us, so we remain motionless. We freeze up on the battle field of the lost. We have communities and neighborhoods around us that are in dire need of a Savior and we have a Savior who is supremely deserving of their worship. Yet, we are afraid. We fear rejection. We fear opposition. We fear questions. While we fear that they will not want to know more, I am concerned that most Christians who ponder discipleship worry more that the one they share the gospel with will show interest. To be blunt, weak disciples of Christ will cower under these fears. But there is good news: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18, 20b). The most daunting mission in the world is rooted in the two most assuring statements in the world. Jesus says, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16) and you will be hated by the world because of me. Go anyway. Take my gospel to them and I will be with you. Take my gospel with confidence and without fear because I am Lord over everything.” Have no fear for Jesus is with you. Go with confidence because Jesus is Lord and ultimately sovereign over the results. Here is the Great Commission: “I am Lord and have authority over all things. Go. Proclaim. Baptize. Teach. I am with you.”
I believe from multiple conversations I have had with fellow Christians that the primary reasons we as believers are living in disobedience to the Great Commission are:
2. Lack of trust in Jesus
3. Thinking that the Great Commission is only a special calling for some, rather than a divine command for all.
With these three reasons in mind, I would suggest a fourth reason that is maybe a little more subtle at first, but then rises to our minds once we are convinced and convicted that we are living in disobedience and are going to begin to disciple others. Reason number four:
4. We do not know what to say.
We can have correct biblical truths in mind concerning the imperative to make disciples, but that does not mean we have tangible and practical ways in which to do so. So we question, “How can I do this?” This question is not one of ability, for we know that it is Christ who works in us to accomplish this mission even as we work. The question is, what do we do? How do we work as he works in us?
Option #1: Do we just gather everyone in our neighborhood together and proclaim the gospel and go back home?
Option #2: Do we go door to door and ask to come in and talk about Jesus with them?
Option #3: Or do we make relationships with our neighbors and be their “very best friend” and some time later share the gospel.
The first two options can be a little forward and overwhelming at times. The last option can be an excuse to avoid proclaiming the gospel. We sometimes never get around to discipling anyone using option #3. However, there is nothing wrong with any of these. Group gatherings can be used by God to make disciples. Random door home visits can be used just as effectively. And relational discipleship works as well.
I would say that there is no one answer as to how we should disciple others. There are many options and methods that work. The Holy Spirit does is not waiting for the right way for you to make disciples to work in the hearts of unbelievers. He will work in their hearts whenever the gospel is proclaimed. However, it must first be proclaimed. We have this great fear that when we share the gospel, the respondent will say “Tell me more” or begin a question with, “But what about…” We do not want to be wrong. We want to know exactly what to say when we approach them. We wish to avoid awkward moments and we wish to have our heart rates stay at a resting rate. Be cool and real. It will be awkward. It will be hard. Your rate will jump. Be calm–you will not have a heart attack, at least I hope not. Disciple-making is blue-collar Christianity. But what are we to say? In short, there is no one answer. Ha! I am sure that is just a ton of help. But it is true. What you would say to your father before sharing the gospel will be totally different from what you say to your coworker or neighbor that you only see when you are mowing the lawn. How you approach a Buddhist will be different from how you would approach a Muslim or an Atheist. And what about that family member who has been baptized into the church, but looks nothing like a believer? How will you disciple them? Your words will flow from your heart. And to your heart is where we will turn. The principles for discovering what to say when you start making disciples are rooted in your heart.
I would give counsel to do three things. If you have a desire to obey Jesus in making disciples of all nations (and neighborhoods); if you are sick and tired of being too afraid; if you are finished with putting off your duty as a Christian, then I would advise you to begin with these three things. Begin making disciples today with these suggestions:
1. Radically Read the Bible
2. Purposefully Pray
3. Just Do Something
Over the next three days, I will go into much deeper detail on each of these three things. I am in the David Platt school of thought which teaches that “Every disciple is a disciple-maker and every follower is a fisher of men.” May we as Christ-followers spend and possibly even lose our lives in making disciples of all nations for the sake of the glory of Christ Jesus. May the glory of God’s grace be praised forever.
“Hallelujah, let the nations sing Jesus Christ is King Lord of Heaven Hallelujah, where all joys increase Sin and sorrow cease Christ forever”
By His Grace — For His Glory — For Our Joy