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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
“My mission statement?” the newly-minted church-planter asked his supervisor. “Why do I need a mission statement? I’m just going to share the Good News of Christ with those God brings along my path and then make disciples of those who want to follow Jesus.”
“Oh, but that’s not enough!” his supervisor exclaimed. “Everyone has to have a mission statement! Every successful church has one, just like all the corporations do! Your congregation will have to have a catchy phrase that captures the unique purpose and vision of your church. Take some time, now, to think and pray through it. It has to be short enough that everyone can remember it but it also has to be broad enough that it encapsulates what God wants to do both right now and for years to come.”
So the church-planter, eager to please his supervisor but still a bit unsure as to the necessity of a mission statement, went back home to think and pray over what God would have him use for a mission statement. He looked online at lots of different churches and their mission statements, but it seemed to him that they weren’t really that unique unless they were way off track theologically. Most revolved around making disciples of Jesus who then matured and became disciple-makers themselves. Sure, there were many different ways of saying it using catchy acronyms and word-plays but the bottom line was that fulfilling the Great Commission was their mission.
“Can it really be that simple?” the church-planter thought to himself. “And if it is, why is making a mission statement such a big deal? Can’t churches everywhere be about the business of making disciples who follow Jesus?”
What do you think? Is the church-planter missing something? Is it really that simple? In this modern church culture of specialized ministries, excellent performances, and skilled communicators, does it really get down to simply making disciples who follow Jesus by living according to His teachings – loving God, loving their neighbor, putting the needs of others before their own, laying down their lives for God and others? Is it really that simple?
It absolutely is! The Great Commission serves very well as our mission statement! There is no need for new mission statements – the church of Jesus Christ has been on the same mission for nearly 2,000 years! Jesus calls the whole body of Christ – not just some churches, not just some hand-picked disciplers who completed a discipleship program, not just leaders in the church, but everyone who follows Him – to make disciples.
"As you work, do your part to make a disciple. As you volunteer as a scout leader or little league coach, bring people to Jesus. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, do your part to tell people about Jesus and invite them to become followers of Him."
It is a corporate endeavor undertaken by the whole Body of Christ rather than one person making a disciple out of someone else. It is the whole Body of Christ sharing the Good News and giving birth to new followers of Jesus who then become a part of His Body.
A closer look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 makes this clear enough in English but is especially clear in the original Greek language. The verb used for “make disciples” is in the imperative, it is the central command, and it is given to not one person but a whole group of disciples that today has become the church worldwide. The other three verbs are participles that correlate to the main command. In other words, the command is to make disciples and the way we do that is by going, baptizing, and teaching:
Going: While some are called to be missionaries or evangelists who go to specific places to share the Gospel and make disciples, all of us are called to do that very same thing as we are going wherever life leads us. As you are going to the store, share the Good News. As you work, do your part to make a disciple. As you volunteer as a scout leader or little league coach, bring people to Jesus. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, do your part to tell people about Jesus and invite them to become followers of Him.
Baptizing: While this obviously refers to the actual initiation ritual of immersing someone in water, it also means so much more! Baptism is a declaration that someone is leaving behind and burying their former life so that they can be resurrected and born again to live a new life as a follower of Jesus. It is a public declaration that one’s life has changed and he or she is now a part of the Body of Christ. Baptism, then, includes the whole process of winning a person to Jesus and including him or her in the local church so that they can be nurtured, cared for, and taught how to be a disciple of Christ.
Teaching: The teaching part would seem to be a strength of many churches. There are a multitude of books, videos, and online resources available, and a lecture is the highlight of nearly every Sunday service. If you have a need, chances are that there will be a teaching out there to give you some guidance and good ideas. But how many of them teach the reader or listener to obey the commands of Jesus? Obedience to what Jesus taught is a critical component of being a true Christian, a disciple of Christ who follows Jesus and takes His teachings seriously. (See Matt. 28:20)
So then, when it got right down to it, the church-planter was right. We don’t really need lots of mission statements, unique ministries, and teachings for every hardship that life brings. If those things help people come to Jesus and give their lives to Him, then they are obviously good tools to use. But they are peripheral to the core mission of going out into the world and making disciples who follow Jesus by obeying His commands and being baptized into His Body.
Let’s Pray Together: Lord, forgive us for those times when we have been floating around on the periphery of church stuff and feel-good teachings instead of focusing in on the mission of making disciples who obey You and become a strong part of Your Body. Help us, and especially help me, to be a true follower of You who obeys Your commands and is actively involved in making disciples wherever I go. Speak to me as I pray and help me to listen for Your voice as I think about my life and ministry and how You would have me serve more effectively… (continue praying as you feel led...)
What Others Are Saying: “Baptize quickly and publicly and let the one doing the evangelizing do the baptizing. The Bible doesn’t command us to be baptized, but to be baptizers. It is absolutely foolish the way we hold the Great Commission over our people and then exclude them from obeying it at the same time.” Neil Cole in Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens.