When planning church ministry strategy, beginning with the end in mind is essential. If not, then it’s probable the final product will be deficient. So, what is the goal or end product of any ministry in the local church? It’s been said that discipleship is not just a ministry of the church, it’s THE ministry of the church. What does the Bible say regarding this proposition?
Consider the Great Commission. It’s been labeled It’s “co-mission” for a reason. The church is a body of believers working together in concert with the Holy Spirit to accomplish this mission. There is a unified cooperation with believers and the Holy Spirit. It’s labeled “great” because it much more than normal. It’s not just good idea. These are some of the last words of Jesus that are recorded in the biblical record. So, it’s a Great Command!
Here’s the actual commandment: “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” (ESV). Mission Details. The mission of the church is to “make disciples” of all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching. This includes theses three participles that describe the commandment of imperative to make disciples. This is “why,” but what is the “how” of fulfilling this command?
“Go” is the evangelism verb of the New Testament which translates, “as you are going.” In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” Note that the “fruit” He mentions follows “going.” Jesus is not speaking of “the fruit of the Spirit” or the character fruit mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. One can bear all of those fruits without going anywhere. But if a disciple is going to “fish for men”, he must go to where the fish are.
“Baptize” is the enlistment verb in Jesus’ Great Commission. The word “baptize” pictures our incorporation into Christ, from which disciples are forever “in Christ.” Baptizing means to be identified – with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:1-4). Consider Paul’s statement, “I am (literally - “I have been and remain”) crucified with Christ”—Galatians 2:20. Baptism is a one-time event in the life of the believer and identifies the disciple with Christ and His bride, the church.
The word “teach” is the word for the one most important on-going action for fulfilling the Great Commission. This is the education and edification verb of the Great Commission. No education should be called “Christian” if it does not lead to the spiritual growth and edification of the disciple. So, this magnifies the teaching ministry of the church. Teaching in the church should go on at every moment of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year, etc., etc.—until Jesus comes. This happens by instruction, modeling (imitation) and discipline.
The End in Mind. So, church leaders and workers who are involved in leading and teaching others, consider the biblical goal of discipleship as a thread that ties ministry together. The Great commission provides both the “why” and the “how” of fulfilling the aim of discipleship. The Great Commission has both an evangelism and an edification (education) or spiritual growth component. To make a disciple, first one has to win a person (a non-disciple) to Christ. Then the new disciple needs to grow or mature as a disciple, hence the edification component. The command to “make disciples” stresses both evangelism and edification.
The aim of Christian discipleship is development of character and values that model Jesus in the life of individuals resulting in multiplication…fulfilling the commission. This process begins with a spiritual re-birth, continues in the development of Christ-like thoughts and values, and equips individuals to serve of God. And the process is multiplied or replicated over and over from one generation to the next. The apostle Paul provides spiritual insight. His words reveal that the aim of discipleship is to “…attain unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13 ESV). The Great Commission is the vehicle to keep the end in mind.