Did you know that Southern Baptist Churches can legally refer to themselves as “Great Commission Baptists?” That’s right. Several years ago messengers to the SBC approved the alternate identity and gave churches the authority to use either designation. While it has not caught on widely it is a good designation—one we should be mindful of at Calvary, even though we are not Southern Baptists.
As S. H. M. pointed out 150 years ago (see my previous blog) it is perhaps a Commission we do not fully appreciate. “The Great Commission” is not a term the Bible uses but was coined sometime during the tide of church history to describe the final words of our Lord before ascending into heaven.
Go, therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and remember, I will be with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:29-20)
Note first that this is not merely a command to evangelize. It surly is that, but it is so much more. We are to be “making disciples” i.e. followers of Christ. We have not fulfilled Christ’s commission when we see people come forward at an invitation. How many people populate our “inactive membership list” who have done just that? We are to make disciples of these folk.
Second, it is important to see where this discipling effort is to be aimed—“all nations.” For first century Jews this was a major paradigm shift. Not just Jewish people, Gentiles as well! A few days earlier Jesus had appeared to His disciples and over lunch had told them they were to be His witnesses even (to use the KJV language) “to the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
If you have access to a globe do this. Put your finger on Jerusalem, where Jesus issued these instructions to His disciples. Then, leaving your finger on Jerusalem, put the index finger of your other hand on Simpsonville. Do you see it? Simpsonville is located in the uttermost part of the earth! Disciple making is not only something we send missionaries out to do, it is what Christ has commissioned us to do here on the campus of Calvary.
Now to the point made by S. H. M. in my previous blog. How are disciples made? By teaching people to DO (observe) all the things Christ has commanded. This is why I have pressed the case for the teaching of sound theology in my previous blogs. Disciples are made by teaching. If we are to fulfill the Great Commission at Calvary we must make teaching a priority.
If our new pastor is the kind of man we want him to be, one of his first priorities will be to take a sweeping inventory of the ministries of our church and ask if each one contributes toward this priority. He will urge us to either retool or drop those ministries that fail in this and he will lead us in the establishment of new ministries that promote sound teaching. We should decide now how we will respond to the changes he will want to make. Will we be receptive to them and encourage him in his leadership, or will we resist doing things differently than we have done in the past?
Finally, note that Jesus told us to teach “all” that He has commanded. Nothing is to be excluded. Listen to Paul’s testimony after three years ministering in Ephesus—
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)
How are we doing? Can this be said of the ministry of Calvary? Is the teaching of the “whole counsel of God” a priority in our church? Is learning more and more about Christ and His Word a priority in your life?
Lord, send to us a pastor who will lead us to be more and more the kind of disciple making church that pleases you and fulfills your Great Commission.