Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Does It Mean to Fulfill the Great Commission?

It is commonly asserted that the Great Commission is the mission of Christianity, and rightly so. In these days, which many suppose to be the very end times, there appears to be an increasing sense of urgency to fulfill the Great Commission. There is a passion to spread the gospel among all the nations and the unreached people. This is something to rejoice about.

However, there seems to be a blurred understanding about what it means to fulfill the Great Commission.

In my observation, when it comes to the talk about the fulfillment of the Great Commission, many of us just think about spreading the gospel of Christ Jesus. We suppose, evangelism is what the Great Commission is all about. As a result, many individuals and Christian organizations are only zealous about the propagation of the gospel. In doing so, they believe, they are fulfilling the Great Commission.

The Great Commission

When I ponder over the words of Christ Jesus, it becomes obvious that evangelism is not what the Great Commission is all about. It is simply a part of it. Listen carefully to what Christ had spoken in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”


“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

And what else?

“…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age".

How do we fulfill the Great Commission? Is it just by preaching the gospel of Christ Jesus? No. We fulfill it by preaching the gospel to the unsaved, baptizing the saved and teaching them to obey everything what Christ had commanded.

Planting Churches

Now, a question arises—in what context does baptism and continuous teaching take place? Don’t you think this happens in the context of a church community? It is in church that a saved person becomes a part of God’s family through faith in Christ and baptism. It is in church that he constantly learns to know more about God. It is in church that he grows towards maturity by continuous learning and obeying the word of Christ.

So, what does it mean to fulfill the Great Commission? It is to plant churches in every tribe and language and people, wherein folks get baptized and are frequently taught to obey everything what Christ had commanded.

Don’t you observe this is what the apostles did, particularly Paul, in the book of Acts? Throughout the book of Acts, this is what precisely happened—the apostles preached the gospel, baptized the saved, planted churches that gathered regularly and discipled them to obey the word of God. This is how the early church grew towards spiritual maturity and it is in this way the Great Commission was fulfilled in Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Galatia, Colossae, Ephesus…etc.

Two Common Problems

By reading the Great Commission of Christ Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles, I am convinced—without planting churches wherein people are baptized and continuously discipled, I don’t think we are truly fulfilling the Great Commission.

These are the two common problems that are conspicuous in our Christianity today:

First, there are those who just focus on proclaiming the gospel without having a vision to plant churches in order to completely fulfill the Great Commission. This is one reason why so many saved ones are left as spiritual orphans.

And second, there are those who plant churches but don’t focus on discipling them towards spiritual maturity. They simply gather the church to have a service without considering how to take care of the spiritual condition of believers. To them, church is nothing more than a building and a program.

But, according to the Holy Scripture, church is a community that is to be discipled towards spiritual maturity. This doesn’t just happen by the proclamation of God’s word from the pulpit but via personal discipleship.

For this reason, the leaders of the church, from the beginning of church planting, should focus on making disciples who in turn disciple the new believers. And this church ought to grow and multiply into more communities in other parts of the town, city, even nation. This is how, I believe, we effectively fulfill the Great Commission.

Call to Fulfill the Great Commission

This is my plea to the Christian leaders, believers and various ministries—let us not just focus on preaching the gospel, but make it our goal to plant churches where baptism and constant teaching to obey God’s word becomes a common activity. Also, let us not make church a material sanctuary or a program, but see to it that it would be a family community where discipleship becomes a regular activity. 

Let us, therefore, fulfill the Great Commission by preaching the gospel of Christ, baptizing people and teaching them to obey everything what Christ had commanded, which is effectively done in and through the church. Don’t you suppose this is how we fulfill the mission of Christ who said, “…I will build my church”? (Matt. 16:18)

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