by Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey
There are four ways to fulfill the Great Commission.
The Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without intentionally pursuing the lost. Just as He was sent by His Father, Jesus has sent us out in a deliberate quest to win nonbelievers to faith in Christ (John 20:21, 31). Those who are sent are disobedient until they go.
Aubrey Malphurs provides insight into the importance of the word “go” and the practice of pursuing the lost:
The Savior clarifies what He means by this word in such passages as Luke 5:27–32, 15:1–10, and 19:1–10, where He develops the concept of seeking lost people such as Levi the tax-gatherer and his friends, tax-gatherers and sinners in general, and Zacchaeus. Far too many churches are waiting for lost people to come to them . . . the church will have to take the initiative and pursue these lost people.
Jesus told several parables to reveal the importance of intentionally seeking the lost. In Luke 14, He speaks of going out “into the streets and alleys” to bring in “the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!” (Luke 14:21). Luke 15 opens with the Pharisees rebuking Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1–2). Jesus responded by telling them two parables about the need for a passionate pursuit of the lost. The first is about a shepherd who left his flock of ninety-nine sheep to find the one that was lost (Luke 15:3–6). The joy of the shepherd over finding his one lost sheep was compared with the joy in heaven when a lost sinner repents (Luke 15:7). Next, Jesus told of a woman who diligently searched to find one lost coin. Again, this is compared with the great joy in heaven when one lost sinner repents (Luke 15:8–10).
Luke’s Gospel tells of Jesus reaching out to a tax collector named Zacchaeus. After inviting Himself to dinner and proclaiming the coming of salvation to Zacchaeus’s house, Jesus stated His purpose, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:1–10).
It is not enough to go; we must also tell. The second practice needed to fulfill the Great Commission is evangelism: proclaiming the good news. Christians are to display the gospel. They must also tell nonbelievers the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for their sins. The Great Commission states, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached” (Luke 24:47 NIV). Believers are to “preach the Good News” with the goal of leading others to “believe” (Mark 16:15–16 TLB). The result of preaching or proclaiming the gospel should be “to make disciples” (Matt 28:19).
The third action that must be taken in fulfilling the Great Commission is “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). This involves incorporating them into a community of believers who identify themselves by the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since baptism is an ordinance of the local church, it is obvious that the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without the creation of local churches. Trying to make disciples apart from the local church is not only unproductive, it is also unbiblical.
The fourth action in fulfilling the Great Commission is “teaching them to observe everything” Jesus commanded. This involves more than downloading information. Disciple making is about comprehensive training in obedience leading to reproduction and multiplication.
When many speak of fulfilling the Great Commission, they are talking only about evangelism. Yet, Jesus was quite clear: disciple making is not complete until the disciple is practicing everything Jesus commanded, including the command to make more disciples.
Editor’s note: This is an adapted excerpt from Disciple Making Is . . . : How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence.
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