The Great Commission as a Means of Grace

We can only go so deep with Jesus until we start yearning to reach out. When our life in him is healthy and vibrant, we not only ache to keep sinking our roots down deep in him, but also to stretch our branches out and extend his goodness to others.

But not only does going deep with Jesus soon lead us to reach out to others, but also reaching out sends us deeper with him. In other words, getting on board with Jesus’ mission to disciple the nations may be the very thing he uses to push through your spiritual slump and jumpstart your stalled sanctification. One veteran pastor writes,

Often I meet Christians who are in spiritual malaise, holding on to their faith but not advancing it much. Bible study has become a chore; prayer is a dry routine. The miracle of their own conversion, once recounted with great passion, is now a distant, fading memory. And going to church is—well, it’s something they just do. Mechanically and halfheartedly, these people trudge along through the drudgery of quarantined Christianity.

But when these lethargic believers break out of spiritual isolation and meet some spiritual seekers, something incredible starts to happen. As they experience the high-stakes conversations that tend to happen with unchurched people, they begin to notice a sort of inner renewal taking place. Areas long ignored suddenly come alive with fresh significance. … Isn’t it incredible how elevating our efforts to reach others can be a catalyst for personal growth? (Becoming a Contagious Christian, 30, 32)

Living on mission is not only an effect of God’s grace coming to us through the channels of his word, prayer and fellowship, but it also becomes a means of his grace to us in the Christian life.

Disciplemaking as a Means of Grace

Disciplemaking is the process in which a maturing believer invests himself, for a particular period of time, in one or just a few younger believers, in order to help their growth in the faith—including helping them also to invest in others who will invest in others. Such was the lion’s share of Jesus’s “public ministry”—from the time he called to only 12, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

It’s not surprising that we typically think of disciplemaking as one-sided. The “older,” more mature Christian is giving of their time and energy to intentionally invest in a younger believer. The discipler’s own enjoyment of the means of grace in God’s word, prayer and fellowship serves to fuel them spiritually for pouring out into others. However, disciplemaking is the stuff of Christian fellowship, and every believer, indwelt by God’s Spirit, can be a channel of God’s grace to another.

Which means good disciplemaking is always a two-way street. The “disciple” and the “discipler” are most fundamentally disciples of Jesus. And so, as Stephen Smallman says, “Our involvement in making disciples will be one of the most significant things we can do for our own growth as disciples” (The Walk, 211). It’s like any pursuit; we get it better as we teach it to others.

Making disciples is a great means of God’s ongoing grace in the life of the one doing the discipling. Here are four ways, among the many, that discipling others will help your own life, growth and joy in Christ.

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.