The “Great Commission” is a command for all disciples, then and now, to be evangelists – going into the world making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that Christ commands. But why is this so important to Jesus?
The importance of these commands cannot be emphasized enough. In the book of Daniel we learn of the coming Kingdom that would be established by a rock cut from a mountain, not by human hands.
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” – Daniel 2:44-45
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream a few verses prior, Daniel details that when the King saw this rock in his dream it became a great mountain and it filled the whole earth (v. 35). The Great Commission, the call for all disciples to spread the Gospel to all nations, is important to fulfill this prophecy. The Kingdom Christ established on this earth, His church, needs to reach all nations. The world needs to hear the Gospel message as much now as they did back when the commission was first uttered. In order for the Kingdom to grow into a mountain covering the entire earth, the church must follow Christ’s command to GO (first and foremost), make new disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded. New disciples means more members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19), members added to His church (Acts 2:41).
In 2015, the Pew Research Center did an extensive look into the religious atmosphere of America. In their search, they found church attendance was down across the board, no matter the denomination. More people were dying or falling away from faith than were being added. In fact, when you look at the statistics, the younger generations are less likely to be in attendance on a weekly basis. Thirty-four percent of Generation X (1965-1980), 27% of older Millennials (1981-1989) and 28% of younger Millennials (1990-1996) to be exact.
Why are churches shrinking faster than they’re growing? Very simply, I feel churches have turned away from evangelistic outreach, and shifted their focus to creating programs that draw people in. They call these things “ministries,” but are they truly fulfilling the great & final commission of Christ? In the vast majority of the cases, I would posit, “No.” I think “programs” and break-off ministries can be beneficial, if done with the focus of evangelism and not socialization. If those ministries are teaching all to observe Christ’s commands, rebuking sin, and submitting to the authority of scripture, then they’ll find success. The problem is – outside of false doctrines being propagated – these programs are drawing from other churches, not from the lost (for the most part). The lost may be drawn in by the programs, but are they being taught to observe all of Christ’s commands, including His command for water baptism for the remission of sins? Drawing people in, waiting for them to walk in the doors to do all that Christ commands on their own accord is not equal to Christ’s command to “Go.” It’s a bad plan for growth, to say the least.
It seems like today, the only way a church grows is if someone who is already a Christian moves into the area, or switches churches because of negative things happening at their former congregation, etc. This isn’t true at all places, but very bluntly, I see it more times than not here in the north. For some reason, churches in the south are better at getting out and evangelizing in their communities (side note: I hope to some day dig deeper into the great differences between churches in the north and south). It’s not true growth because it hasn’t expanded the mountain at all. A piece of the mountain simply changed position. In order to make that mountain grow, we need to be growing in the way Christ commands us… Going, teaching, and baptizing new disciples. Growing the church through evangelism.
Evangelism is a responsibility of every Christian united with Christ in baptism, not just the minister, elders and deacons. All disciples. It starts first in the church pews. Making disciples of those who are already in your church building, but aren’t getting the personal study they need. It starts at home with bringing family members to Christ. If you’re keeping all the commands of Christ, your friends likely know you’re a Christian, and they see something special in you. There’s an opportunity to make disciples in your circle of friends. If you’re reading this and you can list 1 or 2 (or more) people that you think you could evangelize to, I hope this encourages you to act on your impulse. Pray hard about the opportunity, that the truth will be shared, and the Gospel ultimately heard and obeyed.
If I can assist you in any way with this effort, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are millennials flocking away from churches? That’s a topic for another article. But it all ties into evangelism. Do you have a topic you’d like to read about, or hear my take on? Submit your suggestions in the comments below or email me at the address listed above.
– DD –