5 COMMON MYTHS ABOUT DISCIPLEMAKING
And Jesus came and
said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that
I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
This passage is “The
Great Commission.” Jesus spoke these words to his followers before ascending
back to heaven to be with the Father. His followers were left to discover the
Holy Spirit and to change the world through one simple process—making and
multiplying disciples [learners] of Jesus. Many people teach on this passage,
most of us don’t regularly obey it.
Below are five of the more common myths about the Great Commission that lead us
to miss out on disciple making.
Myth 1: It will just
Many Christians think,
consciously or unconsciously, that we can make disciples without changing
anything in our daily lives; that as we go about doing our own thing, disciples
will be almost accidentally made. This comes across in phrases like, “I will
just live my daily life and if someone wants to ask about the Gospel, I will
share it ”or,“ I just ‘do life’ with others and pray that they will start
becoming interested in Jesus.”
Many Christians are
willing to talk about or declare the Gospel, but only if opportunities
pleasantly come their way. They are waiting for the perfect moment to drop from
the sky upon them to actually verbalize the Gospel or start demonstrating the
Gospel. The myth here is that merely “doing life” with others is a straight
path to making disciples.
Like all pervasive
myths, this contains a nugget of truth, but it is incomplete. Living your life
with others is a part of making disciples, but without intentional proclamation
and demonstration of the Gospel, just doing life with others will not alone
lead to making and multiplying disciples.
The ministry of Jesus is
a great example. Jesus did life with others, but every step of the way he
prayed, planned, and pursued intentionally the growth and transformation of his
followers. Jesus lived a very intentional life.
For example, he did not
just happen upon 12 disciples accidentally. He spent all night in prayer before
selecting his disciples. He carefully, strategically and prayerfully developed
his followers. Thus, he modeled a distinct process of how to make disciples
(for more on this process, see the classic outline in Dr. Robert Coleman’s
book, The Master Plan of Evangelism).
In fact, the Greek text
of the Great Commission conveys intentionality. There is a participle in the
Greek used in the Great Commission that implies “going” is the intentional
action that has to take place in order to achieve “making disciples.” The nations will never become disciples if
people do not go to them. In other words, “going” is the prerequisite of
“making disciples.” Intentionality
is built into the very words of the Great Commission!
The bottom line here is
that the Great Commission will be completed only by intentional action and
resoluteness. Jesus commands us today to set our eyes on the goal of disciple
making and pursue that goal with stubborn focus. This means that unless you
pray and plan to make disciples, you won’t do it!
Myth 2: Crossing
cultures is a step beyond the general mandate.
This myth holds that
only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make
disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture.
The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands
otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience
to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus
commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words,
the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!
Furthermore, the model of Jesus mandates crossing
cultures. Jesus left his home (with the Father), his culture, his language,
his people (the trinity) to come to our home (earth), to our people, to speak
our language, to grow up in a Jewish culture, and so on. Jesus was a
cross-cultural missionary and he commands us to follow in his steps, cross any
boundary, live incarnationally and make disciples.
Myth 3: Jesus wants
The most interesting
thing about the Great Commission is that it does not command us to make
converts of Christianity. Instead, we are to make disciples of Jesus. The
difference between convert making and disciple making is crucial. Converts change religions. Disciples change
masters. Converts follow a system. Disciples follow a Person. Converts
build Christendom. Disciples build the Kingdom of God. Converts embrace
rituals. Disciples embrace a way of life. Converts love the command to “baptize
them” in the Great Commission, but that is all. Disciples baptize others but
only in context of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
Converts love conversion. Disciples love transformation.
Are you making converts
or are you making disciples? One way to answer this question is to evaluate
your relationships with unbelievers. What do you feel when you share the Gospel
with others and they blatantly reject it? If you are offended by them and their
rejection, perhaps you are too interested in “being right” and in making a
convert rather than a disciple. Jesus grew frustrated with the disbelief of
others but his frustration grew out of his love and compassion for others
rather than his desire to merely be “right” and “win a convert.”
Another way of
discovering if you making converts or disciples is to evaluate whether those
you lead to faith in Jesus Christ endure to the end. A disciple maker has their
eyes fixed on the goal of helping others finish well (either in death, or in
the return of Christ). A convert maker has their eyes on the goal of converting
others well. Do you lose focus on your disciples after their conversion? If so,
perhaps you are mostly interested in building your resume of converts.
Myth 4: When I am
ready and able, I will start making disciples.
This is the ultimate delay tactic. Have you ever
told yourself that you aren’t capable for some reason—lack of training, lack of
experience, lack of skill, etc.—of making and multiplying disciples like Jesus?
Have you ever thought of someone who is making and multiplying disciples as a
super Christian? Have you ever said or prayed something like this, “We just ask
you God to send out to the nations the best among us, yes, Lord, send out our
marines!” If so, then you are believing the myth that making and multiplying
disciples is for “elite” Christians.
I think Jesus knew the
gravity of the command that he was giving in Matthew 28:19-20. He was asking
his followers, most of them unlearned and lower/middle class, to go to every
conceivable people group on earth by multiplying disciples of a Person who is
physically unseen (after giving the Great Commission, Jesus ascended to
heaven). This is a heavy-duty command!
The reason I think that
Jesus knew the gravity of this command is that he buffers his commandment here
with two powerful promises of his authority and presence. Matthew 28:18, “And
Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been
given to me.’” Matthew 28:20b, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of
the age.” In the Great Commission, Jesus gives a command along with a promise
of His power and presence.
To completely put off practicing the process of making disciples
now in your life because you claim that you need more equipping or growth,
therefore, is actually unbelief in God’s promises! Is having the promise of
Jesus’ power and presence not good enough for you to get started in the process
of making disciples?
Myth 5: Making
disciples is great advice.
loves this myth. Cultural Christians love to sing the praises of disciple
makers while simultaneously avoiding, through the most crafty cop-outs,
personal obedience to the Great Commission. In other words, when it comes down
to it, many view the Great Commission as
merely great advice.
The fact is, though,
that the Great Commission is a commandment coupled with the
commissioning of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my
commandments.” (John 14:15) Jesus expressed the same truth inversely, “Whoever
believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son
shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36,
emphasis added) In other words, the measure of one’s love for Jesus is one’s
obedience to Jesus!
You cannot love Jesus and not obey him. Stated inversely, you cannot disregard the
Great Commission and claim to love Jesus. The command is simple—go and make
disciples. Ask yourself, “Am I currently making disciples of others?” If not,
why not ask yourself, “Will I today”