Thursday, June 16

Great Commission Myths

Joey Shaw shares five Common Great Commission Myths. Regretably, the original links no longer function back to the original source of this fine article.

Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and said to them, “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.”

Below are five of the more common myths about the Great Commission...

1. The myth of accidental discipleship. Many Christians think, consciously or unconsciously, that we can make disciples without changing anything in our daily lives; that as we go about doing our own thing, disciples will be almost accidentally made. This comes across in phrases like, “I will just live my daily life and if someone wants to ask about the Gospel, I will share it”, or, “I just ‘do life’ with others and pray that they will start becoming interested in Jesus”... The bottom line here is that the Great Commission will be completed only by intentional action and resoluteness. Jesus commands us today to set our eyes on the goal of disciple making and pursue that goal with stubborn focus. This means, that unless you pray and plan to make disciples, you won’t do it!

2. Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. This myth is that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture. The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!

3. Jesus wants converts. The most interesting thing about the Great Commission is that it does not command us to make converts of Christianity. Instead, we are to make disciples of Jesus. The difference between convert making and disciple making is crucial. Converts change religions. Disciples change masters. Converts follow a system. Disciples follow a Person. Converts build Christendom. Disciples build the Kingdom of God. Converts embrace rituals. Disciples embrace a way of life. Converts love the command to “baptize them” in the Great Commission, but that is all. Disciples baptize others but only in context of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. Converts love conversion. Disciples love transformation. Are you making converts or are you making disciples?

4. When I am ready and able, I will start making disciples. This is the ultimate delay tactic. Have you ever told yourself that you aren’t capable for some reason – lack of training, lack of experience, lack of skill, etc. – of making and multiplying disciples like Jesus? Have you ever thought of someone who is making and multiplying disciples as a super Christian? Have you ever said or prayed something like this, “We just ask you God to send out to the nations the best among us, yes, Lord, send out our marines!” If so, then you have fallen to believe the myth that making and multiplying disciples is for “elite Christians”.

5. Making disciples is great advice. Cultural Christianity loves this myth. Cultural Christians love to sing the praise of disciple makers while themselves simultaneously avoiding, through the most crafty cop-outs, actually engaging in obedience to the Great Commission. In other words, when it comes down to it, many view the Great Commission as merely great advice.  The fact is, though, that the Great Commission is a commandment coupled with the commissioning of Jesus. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)...In other words, the measure of one’s love for Jesus is one’s obedience to Jesus! You cannot love Jesus and not obey cannot disregard the Great Commission and claim to love Jesus. The command is simple, “go and make disciples”. Ask yourself, “Am I currently making disciples of others?” If not, why not ask yourself, “Will I today commit myself to beginning the process of making disciples of Jesus?”

Joey Shaw is the Minister of International Mission at The Austin Stone Community Church. He is currently writing a book on evangelical Christian thought on Islam.


Sean Steckbeck said...

Great Article once again Guy!

Stephen M. Young II said...

Wow, another good find. These myths were better than what I expected the article to say, speaking right to the heart of GC avoidance.

Good going.

Aussie John said...


Great thoughts!

I can't help but think that the training of "professional" preachers/teachers,subtly instills these myths as reality, especially #3, in turn, flowing through to those they influence.

Michael Young said...

"Jesus commands us today to set our eyes on the goal of disciple making and pursue that goal with stubborn focus."

I agree somewhat with what you are saying here. However, I just don't see much evidence in the NT to support the idea that we are ALL called to this notion of "disciple making". The letters of Paul, James, John, and Peter have very little talk about going out and making disciples. It's just not a common theme in the Bible. Or at least I've never seen any evidence of such. (I could be wrong here, of course.) It seems to me the main focus of the NT epistles is to know Christ Jesus and to live by His life. It is also about the church, the bride of Jesus Christ. The church is to be the very expression of Jesus on earth. We all know very well that we can't live up to that standard on our own. We must live by His life. If we focus too hard on "disciple making" then we tend to lose focus on the goal---Christ Jesus.

A lot of guilt is placed on God's people because they aren't evangelizing enough, or aren't focusing or trying hard enough to make disciples.

Also, the "great commision" was given to the Apostles. Not everyone. I believe some have this gift of raising up believers, evangelizing and so on. I just see zero evidence of this in the NT letters and the gospels that says that we are ALL called to such a task. Some are prophets, some apostles, some teachers and preachers, some evangelists, some have gifts of administration, etc.

If someone can show me in the Bible where is says that we are all called to evangelization or to "disciple making", then I will change my mind.

(Just a friendly opionion). Blessings brother! :)

Oracio Sandoval said...

brother Guy, I thought the article was convicting and that the exhortation is much needed in the Church.
That said, I also see good points in Micael's comment. We do see that there is the gift of evangelism which is not for all. But it also seems clear to me that we are all called to be His witnesses here on earth. Maybe those with the gift of evangelism are called to a more serious focus on disciplemaking than those without that gift. Just a thought.

GuyMuse said...

Michael and Oracio,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I do appreciate what you have written because it reflects accurately a trend I am beginning to see amongst more and more Christians who are looking for ways to "wiggle out" of having to obey what Christ said.

Michael, you write, The letters of Paul, James, John, and Peter have very little talk about going out and making disciples... Could it be the reason they weren't TALKING about going out and making disciples, is because they were actually DOING what Christ commanded?

I believe one of the points of Joey Shaw's article is to address these myths that have dominated Churchianity for too long. I believe in myth #5 he calls this "Cultural Christianity."

If the Great Commission was given only to the eleven on the mount, then the same argument would have to also apply to all the other portions of the Gospels as well where Jesus was addressing his words to his disciples (eg. John 14,15,16, etc.) Would we make the same argument about the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7) and make it applicable only to those listeners to whom it was originally addressed?

While I can understand that not everyone is supposed to up and move overseas, I see nothing in the Gospels that say we are NOT to be involved in making disciples of the nations.

The reason we have not yet obeyed Jesus words given 2000 years ago is that too many in Christendom continue to believe, as you too have written, "...the "great commision" was given to the Apostles. Not everyone." We have left the task of making disciples of the nations to a handful of believers whom we call "missionaries" or "modern apostles" and "evangelists."

These few are the ones responsible for this portion of Jesus commands; the rest are "off the hook." Really? Try telling this to God who gave his son Jesus so that the world might know. But how are they to know unless we go?

I know my words sound "preachy" but until the sleeping church of America is awakened to take on the task of embracing "whatever it takes" to see the Great Commission fulfilled, we are just talk.

Please understand, I am not getting on your case personally, but upon this mindset that is becoming more and more prevalent in Christianity. Thanks for giving me a chance to voice my own convictions about this!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Paul say SOME were given to be evangelists? (Ephesians 4:11) Not all. Some.