It’s interesting that when Jesus gave us the Great Commission he began with ‘Go’. He didn’t have to. He could have started with the main thing – disciple-making. Or, he could have started with ‘Baptising’ or ‘Training’. He didn’t. Instead, he started with the most difficult and the most challenging part to disciple-making, the first step. ‘Go’
I acknowledge up front that there is disagreement among some as to whether Jesus meant, “While you are going [about your daily life] make disciples” vs “Go [intentionally and deliberately out of your way] to make disciples”. I will deal with this in the next post but for now trust me when I say that the difference doesn’t matter. Jesus began with ‘Go/Going’. Jesus chose to tell us the most difficult step is to ‘Go/Going’.
We know that this is the most difficult step because it’s THE thing Jesus told the 12 Apostles, and then again the 72, to pray for just before he sent them out to preach the good news. Notice in the prayer what Jesus doesn’t say and what he does say. He doesn’t pray for more money. He doesn’t pray for buildings. He doesn’t even pray for more labourers. He prays that God would sent out labourers into the harvest.
“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2, ESV)
There is enough money to ‘Go’. There are enough buildings to ‘Go’. There are even enough ‘Labourers’ to ‘Go’. But they don’t. The labourers are not going. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to. I don’t think it’s because they are apathetic. I do believe that it’s spiritual warfare. If our enemy can stop us before we get out of the front door, for whatever reason, the battle is already lost.
Thom Rainer lists “Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today“. In my context I find 1, 2 and 6 to be the most prolific of reasons. There is no priority of evangelism. Laypersons believe that that’s what the staff are paid to do (and who taught them that – the staff!) and that most church ministries are not intentionally evangelistic. The other 12 are worth reading too. The bottom line, churches are not making disciples because they are not ‘Going’.
For a long time I separated out evangelism from making disciples. In my mind, evangelism toward a person is what we do before they become a Christian and discipleship is what we do with them after they become a Christian. My passion is making-disciples. Evangelism is probably one of my weakest gifts. I was happy to focus on discipleship and leave evangelism for those who are good at it. But God never let me off the hook. What God has shown me through the years is that evangelism is not separate from making-disciples but rather it’s the first step.
Years ago I read “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, ESV) Grrrr. I realised that even though I wasn’t a gifted evangelist I could still do the work of evangelist. And so I tried. And I failed. My heart wasn’t in it. I know that we are supposed to have a passion for the lost but it wasn’t there. I loved to see people grow in Christ. My passion was discipleship. And I tried and I fell short.
It took me a long time to realise that ‘Go’, evangelism, is a part of making disciples. Not just a precursor, but a central component of it. To take out evangelism is to rip out the heart of making disciples. Jesus made it the first word. Evangelism is not separate from making disciples – it’s the first step.
When we make discipleship and evangelism two subjects we lose the heart and soul of making disciples. We don’t weave evangelism into every step of the discipleship process. We take the most difficult part of making disciples and we side-line it.
When Jesus brought healing to the demoniac in Mark 5 Jesus tell him to ‘Go’. Jesus didn’t send him away on a mission trip. Jesus sent him away to begin his discipleship journey. Jesus gave him a path of progress (discipleship) that lies at the very heart of following Jesus, that lies at the very heart of living in the Kingdom of God. If we are going to see people transformed into the likeness of Jesus we need to reintroduce ‘Go’ as a crucial component of making disciples.
I see three applications.
Firstly, every disciple who is seeking to fulfil the Great Commission needs to be a part of the ‘Go’. If you are in leadership it’s important to train everybody in church how to do this. You may not know how to do this yet but I will talk on this later and show just how easy it is for people to do this. It’s not nearly as difficult as we make it out to be. The hardest part is ‘going’. ‘Going’ is hard; Sharing is easy.
Secondly, when someone does put their faith in Jesus the first thing we need to do is to help them ‘Go’. Help them see who they can share with. Teach them to share the gospel. Send them out. They may have nothing more than their testimony and a simple gospel presentation. That’s all the demoniac had. That’s all the Samaritan woman had. Help them to fulfil Great Commission and get them out there.
Lastly, and this really should be the first step but I left the hardest part till last, you need to personally get out there and share. You need to ‘Go’. In the upcoming post I will share a simple way to do this.
For now, ask God to send out more labourers and listen for whom he asking to go. You might just hear your name.