Evangelism and discipling are key components of the basic Christian life; they are Christianity 101. Consider the Great Commission…
“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.”
Go ~ Nations ~ Baptizing: These three words all imply evangelism. What does it mean to go? It means to move or proceed to or from something… The word nations means all the peoples of the world, as in people from every tribe, tongue, and nation—all ethnicities… And to baptize is to affirm and portray a believer’s union with Christ by immersing them in water; it’s essentially a funeral for the old self. When a church baptizes a new Christian they are affirming that they are indeed a Christian, united to Christ, and by baptizing them they are formally uniting with that believer, marking them off from the world. When a person becomes a Christian they repent and believe in the gospel, and then link up with a local body through baptism. So we go to the peoples of the world and share the gospel with them (evangelize), calling them to repentance and faith; and if they repent and believe we baptize them into the church.
Make Disciples ~ Baptizing ~ Teaching Them To Observe: If the above paragraph is right, then discipleship starts with going to people, evangelizing people, seeing people saved by God’s grace, and then baptizing them into the church. But making disciples doesn’t stop there. Baptism implies more than just evangelism or conversion. Because baptism is a church’s act of affirmation of one’s Christianity, and in baptizing a person a church is uniting themselves to that person, then baptism also implies community and accountability. When a person is baptized they are essentially putting on the team jersey of Christianity and in so doing they are covenanting with that church to live as a faithful Christian among those people. That means they are committed to opening their life up to the church, and they expect the church to open up their lives to them. This is for mutual encouragement, accountability, and edification. And a major way in which we do those things is by teaching each other. By opening God’s Word with one another, and helping each other understand it, apply it, and live it out. Living it out is what is implied when Jesus says we are to teach them to observe His commands. That means helping each other know how to live as a Christian in all areas of life.
Jesus’ words in this commission were some of His last words. But this commission is extremely important, not only because it is Jesus’ final command, or because it focuses on world evangelism, but because it really summarizes the basic Christian life. The Christian life is to be lived in community, seeking to be obedient to all of God’s Word, especially the command to evangelize and make disciples. What we see here is that to be a Christian at the most basic level is to be an ever-growing disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus. Every Christian—no matter how young or how old in the faith—should be committed to helping others come into the faith, grow in the faith, and stay in the faith. This means being committed to a local church, committed to our own personal discipleship, committed to evangelism, and committed to the discipling of others.
Jesus starts this command by telling us that He has jurisdiction over the nations. He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He has every right to tell us what to do, and to call the nations to Himself through us because all authority has been given to Him. But then Jesus ends this command by reminding us that He is with us always. He will never leave or forsake us; in fact He has given us power from on high by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit. So now, by this power, we are to be His witnesses all day every day, from here to the ends of the earth. In other words, we have absolutely no excuse for not doing these things. And again, this is simply basic Christianity…
Now, if evangelism and discipling are basic parts of Christianity—Christianity 101, why are these the areas we need the most growth in? Across generational lines, in Christians of every range of maturity, these seem to be the common shortcomings. Why? Why are we not sharing our faith with others? Why are we not sharing our lives with others? Why are we claiming to be Christians yet at the most fundamental level we are walking in disobedience?
I don’t know for sure, but it seems like the reason we aren’t evangelizing and discipling like we should is because we have a small view of God and the gospel. It seems to me that if we were really amazed by grace and in love with Jesus we would joyfully obey the commands of Christ. That being the case, all I know to do is to pray, repent, dig into God’s Word, preach and teach God’s Word, and to walk in obedience myself. I pray you will do the same…
By Nick Esch