The Great Commission for the Rest of Us
By: Dr. Dillon Burroughs
Half of American Christians don’t even know what the Great Commission is according to a recent Barna study. Among the half who do, many view it as something for missionaries who serve on the other side of the planet. Does the Great Commission really apply to the rest of us?
When Jesus spoke these final earthly words, He applied them to all His followers. The words read:
“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” (Matthew 28:18-20).
New Testament scholars note the main verb in the passage is to “make disciples.” What does this mean? A disciple is literally a learner, someone who is growing in a certain area. For those who follow Jesus, a disciple is a person who is learning the teachings of Jesus.
To “make” disciples, we are called to help people learn more about Jesus. This can take place through a conversation over a cup of coffee or in a classroom. You do not need a degree in theology or year of training (though these can help). You are called to help other people learn more about Jesus.
Just Do It
In addition, Jesus gives us three parts in the process of making disciples. The first part is to “go.” Making disciples doesn’t usually happen by waiting for someone to come to us. We are commanded to leave our comfort zone to help someone learn about Jesus.
This can be a children’s class at church, a Bible study in your home, or meeting with a friend for lunch to encourage her spiritually. The goal is to go.
Make a Splash
The second part of the Great Commission’s focus of making disciples is to baptize those who believe. When a person chooses to believe in Jesus, he or she is challenged to make a public profession of faith through baptism.
This is why some denominations practice what is called believer’s baptism. Instead of sprinkling an infant with water, the Bible emphasizes the use of water after a person believes in Jesus as a public statement of his or her new life.
While most of us will not baptize other people, we can encourage those who believe in Jesus to be public about their faith. We receive the gift of new life in Jesus so we can share this gift with others.
We believe in Jesus, we belong to the family of Jesus, and we become more like Jesus through learning. In 2 Timothy 2:2 the apostle Paul wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Paul challenged Timothy not to stop with teaching someone else, but to teach others who would teach others. Paul’s plan includes four generations of making disciples!
It has been said if you’re not growing, it’s showing. But when we are taking daily steps to know more about Jesus and to share Him with others, people also notice. We make disciples through every action we take each day.
Jesus concludes with strong words regarding the power we receive to complete this important goal. He says He is with us always. We are not doing this on our own. The power of Jesus works in and through us to change our life and the lives of others.
We might be called to share Jesus with someone in another part of the world. However, it’s more likely your primary mission field will be in your home, on your school campus, in your workplace, and in your community. Look for opportunities to make disciples of your kids, your classmates, coworkers, and neighbors. “All nations” includes everyone, starting with the next person you meet.
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Dr. Dillon Burroughs
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.