“We exist to make disciples of Jesus,” a church’s mission statement might say. You’ve probably seen that on a website or a church sign before. There are some in the evangelical world — especially some in the non-denominational church-planting networks — that place a heavy emphasis on making disciples.
As I was reading the book I could tell the author was driven by the prospect of making disciples. Every other word was “mission” “culture” “multiplication” “evangelism” “outreach” and so forth. Governing the author’s intention was his understanding of the great commission which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a good start.
“We exist to make disciples of Jesus,” a church’s mission statement might say. You’ve probably seen that on a website or a church sign before. There are some in the evangelical world — especially some in the non-denominational church-planting networks — that place a heavy emphasis on making disciples. They want to see lost people come to Christ. And this should be commended. Too many churches have become an insular Christian bubble that never see anyone come to Christ. Worse, they don’t seem to care about outreach at all. Yes, those who are reaching those far from the God of the Bible and encouraging others to jump suit should be emulated.
But is the great commission only to make converts for Jesus?
Making and Maturing Disciples of Jesus
To be sure, the main focus of the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is to make disciples. We know this because in the Greek, the only imperative (command) Matthew uses is for the word for “make disciples.” This is important to note. But there are other instructions in the great commission that serve this central theme. There are other aspects of the great commission that must be obeyed if we’re going to be faithful to the mission.
If you read the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus does say “make disciples.” This is the popular phrase. But what is less popular is what Jesus says in verse 20: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Teaching is a means to make disciples, but teaching should not cease post-conversion. After the disciple is made (which is only possible by the initiating regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, of course) we are called to teach new disciples to obey the commands of Jesus. The emphasis, then, on making disciples is not wrong; it’s deficient. The goal of the great commission is not just to make disciples, but to mature them. 1