I first became convinced that the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20) was THE MISSION of the church of Jesus Christ in 1988. I have never since doubted that, though I have come to prefer to call it “The Final Command.”
Beginning that year I tried to convince everyone I knew that it was so. Not only that it was so, but that we needed to reorient our common ministries to a single test: “Is it making disciples of Jesus Christ who then, in turn, are making disciples of Jesus Christ?”
Unconsciously I assumed my own denominational family would receive this insight. I never doubted that all Christians of good will would see the truth and challenge of the “Final Command.” But I was wrong.
I did find that many would agree to the notion of its centrality. It was rare to find overt dispute, though there was some. If I mentioned it to a friend who did not believe the New Testament was completely trustworthy and true, there was immediate pushback. But that was rare in those days. There was widespread agreement among my colleagues that stepping out in biblical mission in new ways was critical for us, and so, for a while, I had many coworkers who agreed with me. But, that agreement did not last very long.
Looking back, I can say that they almost all agreed that the “Final Command” was true, but they did not see that it challenged almost everything we were doing. There were many who heard but did not hear. They could see but did not see. Not if hearing and seeing meant realigning their lives and ministries to help fulfill the “Final Command.” There was some unconscious part of their minds that did not connect “agreeing” to “acting” in new ways. For years I thought I clearly saw the problem in others. Now I see it was my problem too.
Growing up in the church I learned to think like a churchman and to act like a churchman. My dad knelt to pray, so I knelt to pray. My choir director said pronounce the word “this way, “and so to this day I still do. The rector did things in a certain way, and I still like them done that way. In a hundred small ways I learned the traditions of my Christian family, and I loved them. I learned them in a community of love, and I am grateful to God. Then in early adulthood I came alive in Christ in a way I was not expecting. I became convinced that the things I said I believed I did believe. And that meant change. My journey from that day to this, with all its ups and downs, has been about learning to follow Jesus. But it did not mean that I realized how often I would still hear without hearing, or read without understanding, or see without seeing. It is sadly true to this day, but by God’s grace it is less frequent.
But of all the things I missed, the central one was this: the command to make disciples means me. It is not enough to teach it, I must learn to live it. I have no excuse. I am to learn to make disciples who can make disciples. Then I am to begin to do it among all people where I live and serve. It is a life’s work for me as a Christian.
If you are a man or woman in Christ, this may all be second nature to you, but it was not to me. This is my story. But, I wonder is there anything Jesus taught and commanded that you are hearing without hearing?