It seems to be an annual rite of passage in many Bible-believing churches. As summer draws to a close, pastors assure the faithful that their church remains committed to the Great Commission. It’s the mission of the church, and thus everyone must help fill the building with people in the coming year.
Please know that I don’t doubt the sincerity of these pastors nor their desire to see people come to saving faith in Jesus. I very much share that same longing.
What makes me a misfit in many churches is that I have a different perspective of what it means to fulfill the Great Commission.
What’s missing, in my opinion, is a biblical understanding of all that it means to “make disciples.” Thus, the teaching aspect of Matthew 28:19-20 receives little, if any, consideration.
I believe that Jesus’ command…
Extends Beyond Filling a Building with People
In many “seeker-friendly” churches today, the emphasis is upon butts in the seats rather than genuine disciple-making. As a result, church leaders settle for professions of faith rather than evidence of authentic regeneration in the hearts of those who respond to the Gospel.
Fulfilling the Great Commission thus becomes a matter of getting others to church and the number of professions of faith. The problem with this approach is that pastors duly avoid any and all biblical teaching that might cause divisions among those professing faith.
You will never hear the word “Rapture” in these churches unless it’s in a negative context.
Embraces the Differing Spiritual Gifts of All the Saints
Over the course of my life, I have shared the Gospel with many people, and the Lord has used me to play a part in bringing some to Himself. However, my giftedness lies in other areas than evangelism. In spite of this understanding, I almost always feel a ton of guilt after hearing sermons on the Great Commission.
What’s missing in such messages is that all believers possess differing spiritual gifts that all contribute to the furthering of the Gospel, even if many serve in ways that are not out front and visible.
Several years ago, a family in the church that I attended in Iowa incurred considerable damage to their country home and acreage due to a fierce tornado. The following Saturday, a large number of people from my church showed up to help the family with the cleanup. As a result of our show of support, a neighbor came to saving faith in Christ.
All the passages on spiritual gifts in the New Testament emphasize that Jesus gives His church a wide variety of gifts that differ greatly. Romans 12:3-8 is one such passage that encourages the use of one’s gift to bless the entire body of Christ.
My point is that the proper functioning of all the gifts contributes to the growth of the body of Christ as well as to the furthering of the Gospel, even the ones that very few notice. Gifts that enable the proclamation of the Gospel and God’s Word are equally essential to the proper functioning of the body of Christ.
Has As Its Goal Maturity in Christ
In Colossians 1:28-29, I believe that Paul aptly sums up the goal of disciple-making as bringing believers to maturity in Christ:
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
We see this same emphasis in Ephesians 4:11-16; mature saints are those who are “no longer children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (v. 14). If there ever was a time when we see believers tossed “about by every wind of doctrine,” it’s now. Social media intensifies this phenomenon with the many bogus ideas of Christianity that one finds there.
If the goal of church leadership is a building full of people, the true saints will rarely receive teaching by which they can grow to maturity in Christ. If the object of the pastor is not to touch any controversial topic of Scripture lest it offends someone, believers will not hear the full counsel of God that they need in order to mature in Christ.
The purpose of the Great Commission is ultimately to bring saints to maturity in the faith. It’s so much more than a matter of gaining professions of faith.
Signifies that Preaching Must Go Beyond the Milk of God’s Word
Those who attend seeker-friendly churches often hear just the milk of God’s Word consisting of the “basic principles” of the Gospel and simple steps for Christian growth.
In Hebrews 5:12-14, the writer addresses the matter of believers who can only handle the “milk” of God’s Word or its “basic principles.” He puts the responsibility on his readers, but I believe this also applies to pastors and the content of their sermons.
Notice the words of verses 13-14 in regard to this matter:
“for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (vv. 13-14).
I believe that these verses sum up the weakness of the church in America today. How many believers sit in church week after week listening to messages that only provide the “milk” of God’s Word and then support political candidates that wholeheartedly and avidly promote abortion up to and beyond birth as well as the LGBTQ agenda? Such believers lack the proper training in Scripture in order for them to properly “distinguish good from evil.”
The problem with putting the burden on attendance at small groups for spiritual growth is that the leaders are in the same boat as everyone else that hears only the bare necessities of the faith each Sunday. They can only pass on the milk of the Word rather than a deep understanding of the Gospel that’s needed to facilitate maturity in the faith.
Includes Teaching on Our “Blessed Hope”
For those who have read my previous articles, you know that I believe the apostles initially carried out the Great Commission with a message that emphasized Jesus’ appearing for His church. I will not dwell on this matter here.
I am a misfit in many churches for believing that fulfilling the Great Commission should include teaching about our “blessed hope.” It’s a message that both seekers and those already in the faith should hear on a consistent basis.
Implies Commitment to Jesus Rather Than Just to a Local Church
Today, a number of parachurch organizations contribute to the furthering of Jesus’ kingdom. Samaritan’s Purse, for example, is able to go far beyond what any local body of believers could do in ministering to people around the globe after calamities. Groups such as Navigators and Campus Crusade for Christ have impacted a great many college students for the cause of Jesus over the past several decades.
However, I have found that most churches are myopic in this regard as well. Although they recognize the contribution of the above ministries to Jesus’ kingdom, they only care about how one can serve their church. Membership constitutes “commitment to church XYZ” rather than an ongoing dedication to the overall cause of Christ.
Even though I work full-time in my writing ministry — because it does not fit with the preordained functions of the churches that I have recently attended — they regard me as an outsider, a tinkling wind chime that they no longer hear.
Please, please understand that I care deeply about bringing others to Christ and pray daily for the unsaved in my family as well as for those around me that do not know Him. I’m all about furthering the cause of Christ in any way that the Lord leads me. The Lord has used my writing ministry to clearly explain the Gospel to a large number of unsaved people.
My complaint is with churches that only provide the milk of God’s Word on Sunday mornings and provide only a surface understanding of the Gospel and matters such as justification by faith and our hope of glory and eternal life.
Sadly, if I see that a church’s statement of beliefs strongly emphasizes the Great Commission, I instinctively know its pastor will completely ignore Bible prophecy. He will most likely regard it as nonessential to the cause of Christ and furthering His kingdom.
If I see the word “premillennial” in the declaration of a church’s faith, I have discovered that it does not necessarily signify that its pastor believes in a millennium with a restored Israel.
I’m a misfit in most churches primarily because I believe that the apostles fulfilled the Great Commission with an emphasis on future things, and it’s the lack of an emphasis on these things today that is weakening the witness of the church in today’s world.
Apart from an understanding of Bible prophecy shedding light on the day in which we live, believers will continue to walk out of such churches on Sunday morning ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the perilous times in which we live. Many have no clue that we live in biblical times with Jesus’ appearing close at hand.
These things ought not to be.
My book, The Triumph of the Redeemed-An eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times, is available on Amazon. I wrote this book to fill in the gap of teaching in most churches today that fail to provide a proper understanding of biblical prophecy and thus leave the saints unprepared to deal with the perilous times in which we live.
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Jonathan C. Brentner
Website: Our Journey Home