You would be hard pressed to find a pastor who would tell you that making disciples isn’t a priority. After all, Jesus gave us our mission when he said: “19 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, 20 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
Even though almost every pastor would say that making disciples is important, very few actually do. Most pastors simply feed the flock week after week and day after day. They care for the sick, pray with the hurting, and take care of day to day operations at the church, all of which are important. But make disciples? Not really.
Barna research Group conducted a fascinating study that revealed 51% of Christians have never heard of the Great Commission. Twenty five percent of Christians have heard about the Great Commission but can’t recall what it actually means and only 17% claim to know what it means. (https://www.barna.com/research/half-churchgoers-not-heard-great-commission/, accessed 28 June 2018).
Whose fault is this? If you are a pastor like I am, it’s our fault. Since we are the primary teachers of God’s word it’s our responsibility to teach people about the Great Commission because it is the primary mission of the church. If your church isn’t obeying Jesus command to make disciples then you need to change business as usual. Here’s how.
1. Prioritize the gospel. Teach the Word of God and always draw people back to the good news that Jesus died for our sins and that salvation is found in no one else. Pastors can focus on so many other pressing matters that they actually forget to preach Christ crucified. You need to share the reason why the gospel matters to everyone. Share it often and with share it with passion and conviction.
2. Emphasize evangelism. In my opinion, the days of door to door evangelism are gone. Years ago a few people would enjoy knocking on doors to share the gospel but they were by far in the minority. What does work is friendship evangelism. In a nutshell that means be a disciple and live out your faith every day regardless of whether you are at work, home, church, or anywhere else. You need to teach your congregation to do this. Teach them how to share their personal story and what it looks like to live out their faith.
3. Model disciple making yourself. If you want to make disciples, make disciples. You should be the first one to live out your faith and talk about it with others. If everyone you know is already a believer, get some new friends. When you live out your faith it will give you something to talk about when you preach and this will inspire others to do the same.
4. Champion discipleship. Once you prioritize disciple making and start to talk about it others will follow your lead. It might not happen overnight but when you champion it, others will celebrate it.
5. Hold your church accountable. Ask your key leaders who they are trying to reach for Christ. Talk to them about who they are sharing their faith with. Ask them who they are inviting to church. Tell them to ask their ministry teams and friends the same question. As the pastor, you need to set the tone and you will only be able to do this effectively if you are making disciples yourself.
Now is the time to go all in when it comes to making disciples. I believe that we are living precariously close to the return of Christ and that Jesus will indeed return when the whole world hears the gospel. You might not be able to reach the whole world, but you can reach your family and neighbors and teach your congregation to do the same. Jesus has given us our mission, now it’s time to fulfill it. Disciple making starts with you.