(Matthew 28:19, 20- ESV)
Almost all fundamental or evangelical churches that consider themselves to be biblically based identify this passage of scripture as "The Great Commission." A majority of churches utilize this particular verse as their mission or vision statement. In other words this passage of scripture identifies and describes the purpose and reason that their church exists. I submit to you as familiar and as well-known as this scripture has become, I believe it is read incorrectly in the majority of cases.
Read this passage very carefully. What one thing does it say that we are to do? Now, what one thing does it not say that we are to do? When this passage is read, I believe the majority of churches read it this way: "Go therefore and make converts of all nations..." It does not say this. Christ gave the command to "go and make disciples." Granted, before you can make a disciple you must have a "convert." Why do we stop there? Why are we seemingly satisfied with converts? Why do we expend a great deal of energy, effort, and resources to make converts?
I think it is because of a number of reasons:
- The make-over of the gospel
- How we peddle this made-over gospel
- What we have let our services degenerate into
- The lack of commitment & involvement of the Elders of the church
The Great Gospel Make-Over
In our zeal to "win" as many converts as possible and to enlist as many people as possible for heaven, we have "dumbed-down" the gospel. The gospel has been reduced to simply believing minimal information through an intellectual acquiescence to certain facts. This zeal has caused good men to attempt to remove anything offensive from the gospel so that there would be more takers. Zealous and well meaning individuals have wanted to make "receiving Christ for salvation" as easy as possible.
The gospel is no longer agonized over. Men no longer take days to wrestle with the implications of sin, repentance, judgment, wrath, or an angry God with whom they are enmity with. The gospel is reduced to do you believe the death of Christ, the burial of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. Don't forget what Pastor James of the Jerusalem Bible Church said, "the devils believe and tremble."
How We Peddle this Changed Gospel
The gospel has been reduced to a simple prayer with no counsel to count the cost of becoming a believer. Prospective converts are told, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He gave his Son to die for you, don't you want to go to heaven and enjoy all the requisite perks? Sign here or pray this and you will receive one free, guaranteed, non-refundable ticket through those pearly gates. Oh by the way, we can throw in streets paved with gold and your very own mansion.
Very rarely are people told to count the cost: that repentance is required, that self-denial is required, that death is required, and that one must pick up a cross (which is an instrument of death) and that one is signing up for a lifetime of servitude as a bond-slave to a new master. Repentance is glossed over lightly if mentioned at all. Mourning for sin has become a thing of the past.
What we have allowed the services to degenerate into
First, let me say that I think we miss the point when it comes to the Sunday morning service. The service has been come either a setting for a theological information transfer session or an entertainment venue. When the Greek influence of oration overtook the gathering, the main purpose of the service was supplanted. If you read Acts 20 very carefully you will note that the body gathered for the express purpose of observing the Lord's table. Yes, an exhortation from the Word was given along with a number of readings from both the Old and New Testament. The sermon was not the focal point, the Lord's Table was.
We preachers like to pontificate. We have learned to craft very complex sermons and sermon outlines. We work very hard on delivery and presentation. We prepare everything around the sermon. The trouble with this procedure is that it is not conducive to discipleship. Yes, some information is transferred and some learning takes place. There is no longer any opportunity for dialogue. Questions cannot be asked.A model of what is being said cannot be seen. There is no opportunity for the dynamics that are necessary for effective discipleship to take place in the morning service.
Secondly, many services today are nothing more than "Tony Robbins" motivational meetings. We are apparently turning into 12 Step, hi may name is Christian and I need your 12 steps and a chorus or two to make it until next week.
The lack of commitment & involvement of the Elders of the church
The leadership of many churches seem almost oblivious if not opposed to discipleship. They are afraid to develop or allow a system to develop that will be conducive for the training and development of believers. The Elders need to be committed to the command, concept, and course of making disciples.
The sad truth is that many people have been in the church for a long time and are still spiritual babes. Since the gospel has been so diluted and dumbed down many people are in the church and are not even believers. Add to that a good supply of spiritual babes present, no wonder the average pastor is either pulling his hair out or "being called to another field of service."
Discipleship is critical. Christ's last words to his apostles was to make disciples. We certainly need to be passionate about preaching the gospel to every creature. We can not stop there. We need to take these spiritual infants and invest our lives and the word in them until they can become spiritual parents and reproduce themselves in others.
30 Days of Thanksgiving
I am thankful for the evangelists and those with the gift of evangelism who labor in the ripe feasts of the harvest leading people to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for those pastors and elders who labor hard in the word and teach the Scriptures expositionally. I am thankful for the balance that God intends the body to have by gifted individuals differently.