Summary: it is our responsibility to create disciples, but we often forget the Great Commission

Matthew 28:16-20

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Pentecost, also known as ‘Trinity Sunday.’ I have preached the last five Trinity Sundays! A favorite saying among the clergy (who quake at preaching this Sunday) is “It’s Trinity Sunday, Let the Deacon Preach,” thus avoiding trying to explain something unexplainable.

But this Sunday, I am addressing the Great Commission Jesus gave to his disciples and us in his Last Journey Discourse while traveling with His disciples on the road to His execution and resurrection.

In the Great Commission, there are three things Jesus commanded the disciples to do:

• make disciples,

• baptize them,

• teach them to obey Christ’s commands.

With slight variations, these words appear in all four gospels and the Book of Acts, but the most well-known phrase comes from Matthew 28:16-20:

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:

There is only one verb in this Great Commission, and that is the verb

"make disciples."

This is an imperative. Translated from Greek, it means:

"Therefore, as you're going, make disciples of all nations."

So the emphasis is not on going but rather on making disciples.

The eleven disciples were all Jews who had left their jobs and everything they owned to become an apprentice to Jesus. Now, He says

‘just as you have apprenticed yourself to me and learned from me during these past three years, you are to invite the non-Jews, the Gentiles, to do the same.’

That's what a disciple means, an apprentice or a student.

Becoming a disciple means you must learn about the person, and know what this person is and what He teaches, so you can become a follower and then go out and guide others to become disciples.

Fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher. He is the image of the glory and person of His Father in human flesh (Hebrews 1:3, John 1). Jesus wanted people to know His Father through Him. God planned Jesus’ life as an example, modeling how we can help others live like Jesus.

Saint John’s also receives The Great Commission; developing and obeying that command should be done within our congregation. We should spend our whole lives pursuing knowledge of Jesus’ person, character, and teachings.

Disciple-making is not a program but a lifestyle for each of us. It is not merely teaching, small groups, or Bible studies. It is not bound up in a book, a class, or one-to-one relationships. These may all be tools in the discipleship process, but none are discipleship.

Jesus didn’t give the church an impossible mission. Sharing the gospel becomes a lot easier when you know how and why you’re doing it.

Why is that?

Could it be that we see the Great Commission as something only overseas missioners can accomplish? Could it be that it can seem daunting to participate in? Could it be that we do not recognize the urgency of this command? Could we be so distracted with our own lives or “too busy” to listen when the Holy Spirit prompts us to share?

Believers have many reasons for not being fully committed. We should all take time to determine what is stopping us from obeying this command and gain a passion for sharing the Good News.

Make disciples, baptize, teach, remember.

With such basic instructions, I wonder how the church got so complicated. We have committees, boards, initiatives, task forces, councils, conferences, doctrines, and dogmas. We even have ecclesiastical trials to enforce them.

This bureaucracy may have something to do with how we refine and revise our processes. New procedures follow what came before. When we want to reform, we only go back as far as the last thing—more like renovating than reforming. We never go back to the basic building block of

make disciples

Basing our latest ideas on the most recent idea, which wasn’t so great, or we wouldn’t be revising it, runs the risk of continuing down a path already off course. A few centuries of this, and before we know it, we don’t recall the basics, much less the reasons for implementing them. Most of us can think of issues currently debated within church judicatories where we “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

The primary church growth plan Jesus offers is refreshingly simple:

“make disciples.”

Over the years, our process has become, instead, “wait and welcome converts.” Because we want to extend the utmost hospitality to those we are waiting for, we pour unbounded resources into the place where we wait. We wait in the comfort of our climate-controlled sanctuaries. When newcomers arrive, we provide extensive programming options. And we employ a passel of people to keep it all running.

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