Therefore go and make disciplesâ€¦
(This is a revision of a post that had such a short life, for it was posted just days before my December blog meltdown.)
When Jesus said, â€œTherefore 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,â€ have you ever given any thought to what he meant? I donâ€™t mean what you have been taught about what he meant, but what he really had in mind?
Having spent most of my formative spiritual years in a fine Southern Baptist community of faith, when this verse was read Iâ€™d immediately think of evangelism and not much beyond that. We were taught that what this â€œGreat Commissionâ€ meant was to go and evangelize the world. This was all well and good, but it focused all our efforts on a transaction, on getting the conversion, on getting someone baptized. But isnâ€™t there more to this charge than a transaction?
What is embodied in making disciples? Here are some thoughts that Iâ€™ve been journaling as Iâ€™ve meditated on this passage. I share them only to get you started on your own meditative work, for there are deep riches here yet to be mined and understood.
- It will be necessary for us to leave what is comfortable, familiar and known to go, to become exiles and strangers in the world. Going implies journey and making disciples is about calling others to this journey.
- As Luke communicated in his account, we have a story to tell, that the Christ lived and suffered and died and on the third day he rose from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins are in his name (this is not a transactional message, but a transformational one). We also have our own transformational story, which is interwoven with the story of Jesus and becomes part of the whole.
- There was no bounds put on who could be a follower of Jesus. It was for all nations and therefore transcends ethnic, religious, gender, national, economic and sociological boundaries. The bringing of people together from all nations as disciples on the same journey creates a unique community where there is no division into â€œJew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.â€ We are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other.
- There is intentionality in ones decision to become a Jesus follower which is first represented in the act of baptism. This baptism is also the act by which the disciple identifies with the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and indicates a union with God and his Body.
- Teaching involve one Jesus follower becoming intimately involved with other Jesus followers in all stages of their lives. This involvement is embodied in community and the interdependence among the disciples within a faith community.
- Obedience is an easy concept to understand and such a hard one to accept in our society that honors the rugged independent and self-sufficient individualist. But only in laying down â€œselfâ€ do we truly enter in to the fullness of relationship with Christ. Iâ€™m reminded of Johnâ€™s admonition, â€œThis is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.â€
- Teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded puts the emphasis on the teachings of Jesus as communicated to us by the Apostles. Our focus should always start with Jesus and his direct teachings. I know that all scripture is good for us and useful, but I do believe far to many Jesus followers dwell on the Old Testament law to excess and not enough on the direct teachings of Jesus and his Apostles.
What is embodied in making disciples. We should move beyond the traditional models we all learned in our faith communities and follow the method Jesus did. Briefly, this would entail:
- Teaching and building spiritual understanding. Good theology drives good praxis. And by theology I donâ€™t mean stuff like eschatology or predestination.
- Modeling the praxis and life that the spiritual understanding should produce.
- Going with them into situations that required the disciple to be out on the spiritual edge, in the deep water, where only God can produce a spiritual result — it is a place just beyond where they can rely on natural talent and skill.