“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted. 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.””
Throughout the long history of the Christian Church there has always been an intense wrestling with the task of the expansion of the Christian Church. We might call the task evangelism, or disciple making. Some might refer to such terms as Church Growth or a missional approach to Church life. As we have debated, and developed our work we have had a whole variety of approaches, some better than others. At the heart of the debate however has been a desire to see people brought into a genuine discipleship. Hugh Halter, in his book The Tangible Kingdom points to the absolute necessity of the working of the Holy Spirit in our attempts to carry out our call to lead others to genuine faith. A century ago a missionary writer by the name of Roland Allan touched upon the same theme in his books Missionary Methods: Ours or Saint Paul’s? And The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. In both Allan pointed us towards faith in the Holy Spirit as He causes us to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ as the power source for authentic expansion of the Kingdom of God.
It seems as if our present debate is leading us back to a real wrestling with the Great Commission as it is found at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew 28:16-20 we encounter several helpful thoughts which push us forward in mission. The first is that such a work is in fact the response that we make to genuine worship. Worship requires faith. Matthew tells us that when the Disciples met Jesus on the mountain in Galilee they worshipped Him, “but some doubted”. What was required was faith. We might ask however; “Faith in what?” As Jesus delivers the commission He leads us into that faith. What these disciples have experienced, and what we are called to believe is that the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled in His ministry the prophesy Daniel delivers which is really the promise of a coming Kingdom. In Daniel 7:14 we read, “He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Later on in Daniel 7:27 we read further that, “Then the sovereignty power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and adore Him.” There are many things that could be said about these verses and how we can understand them, but for our purposes here I will confine myself to these thoughts.
1) Jesus is claiming, in Matthew 28:16-20 that this promise has been fulfilled in Him.
2) Faith that this is so is a necessity if we are to be part of the promised kingdom.
3) It is fulfilled in Him and in His people, who are in fact “in Him.”
4) We abide in Him as the Holy Spirit unites us with Him. This is one of the central doctrines of our faith.
5) John Miller in Outgrowing the Ingrown Church describes how this became a reality for him as he gave himself without reservation to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. Miller goes on to say that he then stepped out in faith obeying that command of the Lord even when he did not feel like it.
6) This is what Jesus means when He tells His disciples that they are to make disciples of all nations “as they are going.” For me this means that in every place that I find myself I am called to obey my Lord’s command to make disciples of Him.
7) This command is for all Christians. It is not restricted to Disciples, or Apostles, or Pastors, or to those who some hired to serve. It is for every believer.
8) The command requires faith that recognises that as we are going, He is going with us.
In times of revival in the church I believe that we draw close to this reality. We begin to pray and to live as those who have heard the call of the Lord to go out with this faith, courageously making disciples of the nations.