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
The Great Commission is the mission of the church. Christ commands us to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel and calling the lost to trust the crucified and risen Savior for salvation. We also are to mark disciples of Christ through water baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then we mature disciples in the faith in Christ by teaching them to obey all the Lord commands of us. This commission to make disciples of all the nations is the life, work, and aim of the church. Faithful Christians make disciples. Faithful pastors make disciples. Faithful churches make disciples.
What does it mean for a church to be on mission for Christ?
Here are ten commitments of a Great Commission church…
Christ-exalting worship. Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). This is a claim, not a commission. Yet this audacious claim is essential to the Great Commission. If verse 18 is not true, verses 19-20 are meaningless. The Great Commission is a fool’s errand if seek to make disciples without divine authority. We must be on mission with confidence that Christ reigns over all places and all peoples. Therefore, disciple-making churches are worshiping churches. The sovereignty authority of Christ is our spiritual power for ministry. Before we go out, we must look up in reverent, submissive, and joyful worship of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Personal Evangelism. There is only one imperative in the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to make disciples. This is the singular mission of the church. The disciple-making process begins with evangelism. Disciples are made through saving-faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Saving-faith comes in response to gospel witness. Evangelism and discipleship are not rivals. We do not choose one over the other. A disciple-making church is a soul-winning church. Sheep-stealing, saint-swapping, and membership-transfers do not accomplish the mission of the church. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). As ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), we must get the gospel right and get the gospel out.
World Missions. The Great Commission is a call to evangelism. But this evangelistic mandate is not limited to our relatives, friends, coworkers, and associates. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). This mission is as small as your neighborhood and as large as the more than seven billion people on planet earth. Your community needs the gospel. So does every community in the world. The one who has all authority deserves and demands to be worship by all nations. Great Commission churches pray, give, go to reach the unreached people groups of the world with the saving message of Jesus Christ. They are going churches for a coming Christ!
Ethnic Harmony. The command to make disciples of all nations is not just a call to world missions. It is also a call to ethnic harmony. You cannot be a Great Commission church without respecting the dignity of all peoples. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. And all who trust Christ for salvation become our brothers and sisters, regardless of gender, status, or ethnicity (Galatians 3:27-28). Racial reconciliation is embedded in gospel mission. By his death on the cross, Christ has redeemed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). A church that is committed to the Great Commission will seek to reflect the multi-ethnic redemption of Christ in its worship, work, and witness.
Biblical Ordinances. Many churches are consumed with new and novel strategies for making disciples. But the Great Commission keeps the process simple. We make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Baptism is not man-made tradition the disciple may reject as his own discretion. Jesus commands the church to mark disciples by water baptism in the name of the holy Trinity. Baptism is a Christian act of civil disobedience. In baptism, we pledge our allegiance to Christ and the church. Baptist does not save. But it is the first act of obedience Christ commands of those who are saved. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are symbols of salvation the church practices as silence lessons about what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
The Local Church. A commitment to the Great Commission requires a high view of the church. We make disciples, by leading lost people to trust the finished work of Christ for salvation. Once we bring them to Jesus, we are to bring them to the church. Disciples publicly declare their faith in Jesus through baptism. Water baptism identifies the believer with Christ and the church. Disciple are not to baptize themselves. It is an act of the church that affirms the profession of faith of the new believer. Likewise, disciples are not to teach themselves. Of course, personal Bible intake is essential for spiritual growth. But disciples are to submit to other disciples to teach them to observe all that Christ commands. This happens through the local church.
Biblical Teaching. New disciples are to be baptized to identify them with Christ and the church. This is a one-time rite of initiation. But this event is not the end of the disciple-making process. It is only the beginning of a lifelong process that involves teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. Man-centered worship services, a therapeutic preaching emphasis, and pragmatic ministry philosophies may draw large crowds, but will not make disciples. A disciple-making church is a teaching church. We are to teach all that Christ has commanded. This requires that a church that is sound, faithful, courageous, balanced, and systematic. The goal of our teaching must be transformation, not merely information. We are to teach disciples to observe, practice, and obey all that commands of Christ (James 1:22).
Lordship Salvation. Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ, plus or minus nothing. But the proof of faith is obedience. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” Jesus asks, “and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) It is a misunderstanding of the gospel to think that one may trust Christ for salvation without submitting to Christ as Lord. Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). You can come to Jesus for forgiveness of sin and decide later if you will submit to his authority. The one who saves is Lord! You do not get a vote on that. A Great Commission church teaches disciples to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
Christian Fellowship. A commitment to the Great Commission requires a commitment to Christ and to one another. It necessitates Christ-centered, gospel-driven fellowship. Jesus issued the commission to a group, not an individual. In a real sense, they were to go together. Baptism declares one’s commitment to Christ and his blood-bought people. And the teaching process is about more than learning a subject matter. The disciple-making process is life-upon-life. Disciples are to teach other disciples to live in obedience to Christ. Jesus did not teach his disciples in a classroom setting. He taught them as they did life together. A church that makes Christian disciples is a church that prioritizes Christian fellowship.
Spirit-Infilling. Jesus asserts, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The omnipotent one of verse 18 is the omnipresent one of verse 20. But this is more than an affirmation that Christ is everywhere. It is a person and perpetual promise of Christ’s presence with us. This is possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were commanded to witness for Christ after they received power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). By the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit, these frightened disciples became bold witnesses. Likewise, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission in our own wisdom, strength, and resources. The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills (Ephesians 5:18).