Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Evangelism Clouds the Great Commission … and How to Fix It

Evangelism Clouds the Great Commission … and How to Fix It

The Great Commission. A phrase we have adopted to describe the mission Jesus left for his followers. It sounds like an awesome mission (and it is), but I have struggled for years to understand the meaning of discipleship. Unfortunately, the church often serves to muddle the situation. Let’s be clear: We have a mission on this earth, and our mission is to make disciples. You and I will be held accountable for how we carried out our mission. This is not something to be taken lightly.

And I believe most Christians believe Jesus intends for us to take the mission seriously, but we have no clue what it means or what it looks like practically. It either seems too confusing or too daunting. Believe me, I am with you. For many, trying to get a firm grasp on discipleship is about as easy as trying to make your tongue touch your nose (if you want to waste a few minutes of your life, give it a try).

So, I want to make a few points about discipleship that might serve to clear the water a bit. Let’s do it.

1) Understand discipleship is the ultimate mission … not evangelism.

We need to start here … as followers of Jesus, we must break down the stigma that says if the person we are mentoring or teaching does not get baptized, we have failed. Making disciples includes those who know Jesus and those who do not. It can take place in entirely Christians contexts (like Christian schools), and it can occur in entirely non-Christian contexts. Young Christians need more mature Christians to model and teach for them new and greater truths about God. Those who do not know Jesus need people to model for them the redeeming power of Jesus. Both are important. There is not one way to make disciples. It looks different for each person because each person is unique. Our ultimate goal is not to ensure we baptize people or even get them to a certain spiritual maturity, the goal is to show them Jesus. David Platt said it this way:

Our goal is not to manipulate decisions … our goal is to make disciples.

Let’s not forget this truth: WE do not straighten up lives. We do not transform people. God handles that. Our goal is to be present in whatever situation God places us. This means we don’t focus on the outcomes as much as we focus on being present. Your job might be to plant the seed. Your job might be to simply speak a kind word or begin the process of turning somebody toward God. Your role might be to evangelize (preach the gospel), but your role might also be to feed the homeless, rescue the orphan or care for the widow. One is not more important than the other.

Primarily, we are ministers of reconciliation. We are redeemers. We have been called by God to step into brokenness and restore it by the power of the Spirit working through us.

When we begin to look at people only as souls that need to be saved from eternal damnation instead of broken people that need holistic redemption, we will start to objectify people and view them as projects.

This is the danger of seeing evangelism as the ultimate mission. It creates a dangerous mentality where we have no real concern with restoring lives. When people do not “get down” with the five steps, we kick them to the curb. When people do “get down” with the five steps, we add another mark on the tally board. Even before we get them out of the water, we have moved on to our next “project.” Either way, this is objectification.

Discipleship is walking with people. Being present in brokenness. Speaking life with our conversations. Constantly trying to model Jesus with our actions. Refusing to go away because our homosexual neighbor refuses to take the trajectory we have mapped out for him or her. Refusing to write off our co-worker because he or she turned down our invitation for a Bible study. This is discipleship. This is our mission.

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Frank lives in Jackson, TN with his amazing wife and two boys. He loves black coffee and doing stuff outside like golf and running.