The Great Commission is the foundation of the spread of historic Christianity. There’s no question that Christianity’s rise to prominence is one of the great success stories of history, and that success comes directly from Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples:
Therefore 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20
One doesn’t have to be a Christian to recognize the impact that these two Bible verses have had on the world. With over 2.1 billion adherents, Christianity is the biggest religion on the planet…and it kicked off with the Great Commission. Here are a few thoughts about the Great Commission:
First: the word translated “go” is sometimes misunderstood to be a blanket statement. Generally, modern Christians have understood it as a mandate for some to engage in active, full-time missionary work in foreign lands. While I applaud my friends and others who sincerely give their lives in such service, this misunderstanding has done a great disservice to the unbelieving world. Why? Because the Greek word POREUO implies that one is continuing a process already begun. Instead of sending a few to be missionaries in faraway lands, Christians are all supposed to make disciples…as they go about their lives, doing what they do. The Great Commission isn’t something a select few can do…it’s something we should all do, all the time.
Second: the instruction to “make disciples” implies a simple fact that too many Christians have missed: disciples are willing learners. We shouldn’t be trying to convince people to want to believe…it’s God’s job to draw people to Himself. We’re called to tell our own story, and to teach what Jesus taught. Many who engage in apologetics do so in an attempt to bludgeon others into grudging compliance by sheer force of will, but that’s a lost cause. We should teach everyone who wants to learn, and witness to those who haven’t made up their minds. Many of the churches I’ve been in seem to have it backwards.
Apologetics and the Great Commission should go hand in hand. Apologetics is making a case for Christ, while the Great Commission is about informing seekers and teaching believers so they can make the same case to others.