The commission Jesus gave us is very clear, " . . . make disciples . . ." (Matthew 28:19).
At FOCUS Conference, Dan Austin said it very well, "if disciple-making is not intentional, the Great Commission may become the Great Omission."
. . . While you are going, make disciples
"Intentional" is a word you've heard our superintendent use often in the past months. Making disciples takes effort. It does not just happen automatically. It must become intentional. "Intentional" is another way of saying "purpose-driven." And our interpretation of "purpose-driven" means "Spirit-driven" or "Spirit-directed." When we take our Lord's command seriously, we will be eager to be led by the Holy Spirit in making disciples. "Make" is an action verb. It is the key verb in verse 19 of Matthew 28. The first verb in this verse is "Go" which has often been used as the primary action expected---such as a challenge to missionary ministry. However, the idea that should come through is "while you are going, make disciples."
We are all going somewhere, even if it is just around the neighborhood. Wherever we are going or whatever we are doing, we are to be making disciples. The third verb in verse 19 is "baptizing" which in the context indicates "immersing" into the teachings of Jesus, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit. This is how disciples are made.
Teaching is not just telling, but helping to put into practice (to obey) what is taught. That means those who become disciples will live by the scripture as it is revealed to them.
Is this why we often hear the complaint, "I'm not getting fed!"? It is my observation that generally those who say they are not getting fed, are ones who are not applying the teaching they have already received. They are the people who come to church Sunday morning expecting a one-time feeding that will last them until the next Sunday or two. They haven't developed that constant deep spiritual communion with the Spirit of Christ that gives them "daily bread" for nourishment and growth.
...Put into practice... what is taught.
If our church attenders were regularly communing with the Spirit of Christ, they would come to church services to serve and not to be fed. Their spiritual communion with the Lord would transform their hearts into the image of Christ, so that they would express His compassion to the lost, wounded and disenfranchised of the community.
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20.NIV)
By Harold Antrim
When our church's attendance was beginning to approach 1,000 in the early 70's, an evangelical magazine sent a writer to do an article on the phenomenal growth we were experiencing. He spent quite a lot of time visiting our services and gathering information, then wrote an article titled, "The Church with 900 Ministers."
His point was that almost no one at Grace Community Church viewed ministry as the exclusive domain of paid clergy. Lay people understood that doing the work of ministry was their own duty; the pastor's task was to equip them. Unfortunately, many Christians view lay ministry as a radical concept. "We're not supposed to do ministry. That's what we pay our pastor for," they think. Even our language reflects this dichotomy. We speak of ministers and laymen as if they were functional opposites.
Entertaining the Church?
Unfortunately, the modern trends seem to be moving the church in exactly the opposite direction. Pastors are being told that the way to excite people's interest is to provide entertainment. Preaching and teaching are being discarded or downplayed in favor of newer means of "ministry" -- drama, dance, comedy, variety, slide-show histrionics, pop-psychology, and other entertainment forms. Everything seems to be in fashion in the church today except Biblical preaching and teaching. In May 1991, The Wall Street Journal reported that one of America's largest evangelical churches had held a wrestling match between church employees in one of the Sunday services. "To train for the event, ten game employees got lessons from Tugboat Taylor, a former professional wrestler, in pulling hair, kicking shins, and tossing bodies around without doing her harm." No physical harm to the staff members, perhaps, but what is the spiritual effect on the church itself of such an exhibition?
There seems no limit to what some churches will do to keep their people entertained. Another Wall Street Journal article (December 1990) profiled a large evangelical church in the Southwest that has taken the entertainment philosophy to an extreme. This church sent staff members to study live special effects at Bally's Casino in Las Vegas. Then they installed a half-million-dollar special-effects system in the main auditorium. Now they can produce smoke, fire, sparks, and laser lights to accent the key points in the pastor's messages.
The article describes how the pastor ended one service by ascending to "heaven" via invisible wires that drew him up out of sight while the choir and orchestra added a musical accompaniment to the smoke, fire, and light show. It was just a typical Sunday show for that pastor: "He packs his church with such special effects as: cranking up a chain saw and toppling a tree to make a point; the biggest Fourth of July fireworks display in town; and a Christmas service with a rented elephant, kangaroo, and zebra. The Christmas show features 100 clowns with gifts for the congregation's children."
Evangelizing the lost?
Closely allied with the entertainment-first philosophy is another trend that undermines the Biblical priorities for the church. It is the tendency to treat all church services as evangelistic meetings. Biblically, the church is "the household of the faith" (Galatians 6:10). The church's priorities should be teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer (Acts 2:42). All of that is part of the process of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.
But the Biblical norm is for the church to gather for worship and edification, and then to scatter for evangelism. Our Lord's Great Commission began with the word "go."
Equipping the Saints?
But the church leader sho allows entertainment or even evangelism to supersede the task of equipping the saints abdicates his Biblical calling. Paul's whole point in Ephesians 4 is that those entrusted with spiritual leadership are gifts from Christ to the church so that the saints can be equipped for ministry and consequently the body can be edified. No church-growth strategy--no matter how spectacular the results--can ever transcend that calling.
The church leader who truly understands this priority will gain a fresh perspective of the Lord's work. Church ministry is never to be defined in terms of activities and programs. True growth cannot be measured merely in terms of numbers. God's design for the church has to do with individuals, not crowds. And His purpose for the church is first of all that individuals be taught and challenged and equipped for the ministry. All of this underscores the importance of the local church in the divine strategy. Media ministries, parachurch organizations, campus fellowships, home Bible studies, and other similar structures certainly have their place. But none of them can substitute for a local church fellowship with leaders who live up to the Biblical standards.
Christ Himself is building the church (Matthew 16:18). He loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Those verses, of course, speak of the universal church--not of any particular denomination or earthly hierarchy, but throughout the New Testament, the church is manifested on earth in the shape of local congregations who meet and worship together under recognized Biblically qualified leaders (Acts 5:11; 8:1; 11:26; Revelation 2:1-3:14). Those who see the local church as optional do not understand the heart of God or His purpose for our age. [Editors note: see also Ephesians 3:7-11.] The church is where the saints are to be equipped, and it is to the whole church body--not just select leaders--that the work of the ministry is assigned.
Or perhaps you are a pastor or church leader looking for ways to increase your church's effectiveness. Don't buy into the worldly fads of pragmatic methodology. Consider how you can equip the saints who are under your care, and thus oversee the work of the ministry in a Biblical fashion.
John MacArthur, Jr.,
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John MacArthur, Jr.