A central part of God’s mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 9:10), and we can see in Revelation 7:9 that God will accomplish this! Every nation (ethne), tongue, and tribe will be there worshiping Jesus. Today we often use the term “Unreached People Groups” to refer to “every nation, tongue, and tribe”. So, therefore, as leaders who love God, our mission and vision must be rooted in His mission. Our goals must be informed by God’s end goal of “every nation, tribe, people, and language” worshipping before the Lamb. Regardless of what sphere of society we work in (Church, Education, Economics, etc), our context is God’s mission to win back His world. This is the larger context of all of our journeys.
BAPTIZE AND TEACH
So if the conclusion of God’s mission is revealed in Revelation 7:9, how can we co-labor with Him to get to that point in the story? Well, God makes this very clear in Matthew 28:18,19. We are commanded to “go make disciples of all nations”. How do we do this? Well, Matthew 28:18,19 identifies two means (or tactics) for accomplishing God’s mission of reaching every nation (ethne). First, we are called to baptize disciples and second, we are to teach those disciples to obey everything that Jesus commanded. This is disciple-making.
Today there so many different types of work and ministries that we can choose to engage with. Many might think that the activities of baptizing and teaching disciples are just two options among many equally valid options. But actually, baptizing and teaching disciples can and should be integrated into every other type of ministry and vocation. The work of making disciples can happen anywhere. There are many good and important things we can and should be doing, but they must never be disconnected from Jesus’ mandate to make disciples. Discipleship is the main way God invites us to partner with Him to move the story forward toward His end goal (Rev 7:9).
WHAT ARE THE MARKS OF A DISCIPLE?
Ok, perhaps discipleship is inseparable from Christianity but who is a disciple? What are the indicators that we are a disciple? And how do we evaluate whether or not we are producing disciples or just consumers of our ministry efforts? Well, this question is not too tricky at all. Jesus was abundantly clear on the marks of a true disciple… very simply a disciple is one who obeys the commands of Christ. Jesus made it very clear that loving Him and obeying Him are inseparable.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:21 NIV)
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21 NIV)
“He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24 NIV)
(See also John 2:3-5)
DISCIPLES OBEY THE COMMANDS OF CHRIST.
The commands of Christ include things like: repent and believe (Mark 1:15), be baptized (Matt 28:18-20), love God and your neighbor (Matt 22:37-40), pray (Matt 6:5-15), give (Matt 6:19-21 & Luke 6:38), and go (Matt 28:18-20) which is known as the Great Commission – but in the original language these words are not just a “commission” but a “command”.
May I highlight that Matthew 28:18-20 is not about discipleship as an end in itself but discipleship as the means to realize God’s end goal of every nation redeemed. The goal of reaching all nations is a clear theme in Jesus’ teaching (Mark 16:15) (Act 1:8) (Luke 24:45-47). It seems clear that being a disciple and doing discipleship are inextricably wrapped up together with God’s mission to reach every nation, tongue, and tribe. We must never separate discipleship from impacting nations.
DOES EVERY DISCIPLE GO?
So does this mean that every disciple must go long-term to the least-reached? No, actually, going is only one of at least six ways to partner with God in His Mission. Praying, Sending, Going, Welcoming, Learning, and Mobilizing are equally valuable roles that enable every believer/disciple to intentionally and effectively participate in completing the Great Commission. If we are helping people in our sphere of influence not only grow as a follower of Jesus but also intentionally walk out obedience to Jesus’ command to reach all nations, then we are hitting the mark.
I HAVE A DREAM…
Dream with me; what would it be like if every Christian was a disciple of Christ who was personally motivated and engaged in one or more of those six roles as an expression of obedience and love for Jesus? What if each of those leaders were then discipling a few people to not only become happy and healthy in Jesus but challenging them to find their role in completing the Great Commission/commandment? Picture what it would look like if we did not measure success by how much of our teaching our followers understand but rather how much of Jesus’ commands they are living/obeying?
“If the people who follow you just imitated you, would they accomplish the mission?” – Dave Ferguson