Our purpose as a church is to make disciples. My personal take on that (for my own life) is that I’m here (wherever God has me at any given moment) to make disciples who become disciple makers. I realize that takes the language from our Book of Discipline a little farther – all it says is “make disciples of Jesus Christ” – but I think my sense is plainly included in scripture.
Do you remember what Jesus said? “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.” If you’re into grammar think of the importance of that perfect tense verb. But let’s continue. “Therefore,” in light of the fact I [Jesus] have been given this authority, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The main verb – the main action Jesus is commanding – is “make disciples.” We “make disciples” by doing three things. We go. Jesus didn’t envision the disciples just sitting were they were (or in a church building, however beautiful). That’s just not the place you went to find pre-disciples. They were supposed to do what Jesus did – go hang out with sinners. If we’re going to make disciples, we have to go to people. Sure, a few people might show up on their own. Jesus never relied on that model, however.
The second thing we do is baptize them. If all that meant was to get people wet, it’d be fairly simple: just pull out our Super Soaker and hose them down. But I think we’d miss what Jesus is talking about. While he had the literal act of baptism in view, I think he also had in mind the larger act of helping people come to faith. The idea is that we go to people and bring them to Jesus.
So we’ve gone, we’ve baptized. The new disciples have crossed the line of faith. They’ve given their lives to Jesus. Is that all? Not quite – not any more than entering a house is the same as living in a house. Jesus commands us to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” If it were only, “Teach them everything I commanded you,” it’d be fairly simple. We could to that in a short class, or hand them a book, tape or CD. But we’re teaching obedience. Teaching obedience takes time. It takes personal involvement in people’s lives.
How much of what Jesus commanded are we to teach? Everything. Even this final command – the command to “make disciples.” That’s why I say that if we’re truly making disciples, we’re making disciples who themselves become part of the disciple making team.