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The Church’s exclusion of the Great Commission

Today’s culture of missions encourages only the “called.” | Photo courtesy of Marika Adamopoulos.


Since the beginning of Christianity, the intention was for every follower of Christ to become a committed and dedicated disciple who has a desire to make other disciples. Disciples are able to accomplish their mission by committing to going into the world in an effort to make disciples until everyone has heard the gospel. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus has a clear desire for his followers to become 'fishers of men,' which he continues in Matthew 28 with the Great Commission -- a statement that makes both a promise and command.

The promise Jesus makes is a two-part pledge intended for his followers. He says in Matthew 28:19 that he will make them disciples and disciple-makers themselves. In the following verse, Jesus commands his followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey his commandments. It appears that the modern American church has become comfortable in its calling, often skewing the meaning of the Great Commission when we consider the stark reality that the Great Commission is taken as intending what it does not mean.


It has become normal for Christians to simply fulfill aspects of the Great Commission that keep them comfortable. Thus, the church has transitioned from being evangelistically active to being complacent with a revised Great Commission to suit their contentment. We have seen a church that acts upon the Great Commission which commands us to receive Christ and be baptized ourselves, to the complacency of simply listening to a sermon on a Sunday morning. The stark reality of our culture is that the church is in real danger of ignoring the Great Commission.


The church’s intentions of making itself more seeker-sensitive to those searching these past few decades has certainly resulted in a consumerist mentality. The seeker-sensitive methodology that the church took to attract numerous people through the use of various programs is extremely understandable when taking into account the intent and purpose. Unfortunately, the downside is now evident, given the reality that our program driven methodologies have resulted in discipleship only being a part — at best — in a consumerist centered program. The program-centered approach has resulted in many individuals becoming left behind as spectators to the Great Commission believing active involvement only falls on the select few who are called into ministry.


The church is certainly experiencing a shift in philosophy in response to this mindset aimed at changing the church culture  — there are several movements with varying ideas and approaches leading the way in revitalizing the need for genuine discipleship. It is still too early to gauge the effectiveness or lasting power of these various movements. Nevertheless, we do know their efforts have caused a shift in thinking at a minimum.

There has been much progress on this front, yet plenty of growth opportunities remain. The hope is that the church continues striving toward leading people toward becoming genuine disciples of Christ who have a natural overflowing desire to make disciples.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. larry smith

    Amen, Ronald.

    The late Keith Green, one of my heroes, wasn't overstating the issue when he pronounced that every single Christian is obligated to spend significant time as an overseas missionary UNLESS the Lord makes it abundantly clear that he/she is being specifically CALLED to domestic service.

    We get it backwards - either thinking that a one-week SMU trip counts or that we'd gladly move to Uzbekistan but Jesus will have to first personally pop in our bedroom at 3:00 am and hand us a contract to plant Third World churches.

    I am not your role model: My family did a two-year stint in Papua New Guinea and I've directed Younglife clubs for two decades. All I know from my limited experience is that when I'm not actively involved in intentional service, I get spiritually bloated and cannot mask my chronic dissatisfaction by attending the Hollywood subsidiary of Saddleback and thinking I'm a cutting edge urban missionary.

    Biola exposes students to missions but often inoculates them from sacrificial service: buy a "Water Wells for Africa" t-shirt or briskly cheer the flag parade at Missions Conference and you can pacify your conscience.

    I have never felt sorry for missionaries because they "give up" so much. The rich lives they cultivate and the open-hearted lives they change make any "sacrifice" seem insignificant. Who I DO feel sorry for is Christians who spend their lives in South Orange County and fulfill their "missions service" by tossing a check at Wycliffe at the end of every fiscal year.

    Your heart will never be stretched unless it is challenged in settings where faith is all you have left and when the comfort of pathetic La Mirada is in your rearview mirror.

    Biola was founded to train pastors and missionaries. Why in the world do you think you got stuck taking Acts instead of John? So, hop on your own boat, get shipwrecked, and get a life!

    Lord bless you in your search for a significant ministry which will etch your name on the Great Commission contract.

    April 15, 2015

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