And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
What is often called the Great Commission is an excellent place to start when dealing with the purpose of the church. It is just the beginning of defining the purpose of the church, but this verse, accompanied by a couple others really help to take what is a very large and seemingly insurmountable task, and putting it in simple terms that should call us all into action.
When Jesus spoke these words He was speaking to the foundation of the New Testament church; His disciples. At this point just eleven of them, and these same men would soon be ‘elevated’ to the position of Apostles. These were the men, along with Saul of Tarsus who would become our beloved Apostle Paul, would take the message of the gospel to all the corners of the known world. By their retelling of the gospel story as firsthand observers, by their confessing to its truth, by their expounding of the words of Jesus – the world would be changed forever as the foundations of the Christian church, the Body of Christ, would be laid by their hands, and their blood. Yes, Jesus died so that we might be saved, but these Apostles (with the exception of John) also gave their blood, and their lives so that the church might live and that you and I would have the opportunity to become part of it.
How did these men do this? By making disciples. By baptizing. By teaching. Solid leadership makes disciples, but solid leadership without a continued zeal towards seeing that those who are discipled are nurtured pointless.
How many of you remember Pathagrium’s Theory? Can you tell me why the name Pavlov is famous? If Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is so important to mankind, how is it that so few of us can define and explain it? I don’t ask these questions to make us feel in adequate, or to show that these things are so important to world events that we should be shamed for not knowing the answers. I ask it just to prove the point that if any of us felt as though our lives, our futures, our eternity relied on knowing the answers to those questions, don’t you think that we’d have kept studying them? And more to the point, if we felt the lives of our friends, family and children was totally dependent on them getting the right answers when asked about those questions, don’t you think that we’d have been teaching it to them over and over and over?
The life of every single man woman and child is dependent on God. If we took our work in fulfilling the Great Commission as seriously as it really is, we’d not only know our purpose as a church, we’d be living it. Yes, our purpose as a church is to work together as a body to make disciples, but it is more. It is to continue to teach them, to help them grow. If you look at today’s verse it is not just to make disciples, but we have been commanded to teach them.
Paul does an excellent job in defining what is going on here in his letter to the Ephesian church in chapter 5
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Each being different parts of the body, we are all called to do something. None of us are called to sit on the sideline as cheerleaders. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard, “Oh I’m not an evangelist (or a missionary [or insert Christian work here…]), but I support those who are.” Really? How? Giving money to help fund church activities and missionaries and the spreading of the gospel is vitally important, don’t get me wrong, even the smallest local congregation has bills that must be paid, but God has called us to be ‘busy at His work’, to ‘not be slothful’, and to make disciples. We do this as a TEAM, as the BODY OF CHRIST. We must all be at this work together. We work to knit ourselves together, to equip each other, edify each other, all for the work for the ministry. THIS is our purpose as a church, as the Body.
Be strong. Be strong in the word. Be bold in declaring not only your faith but that others need Jesus as well. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can defend yourself against the world. Be equipped. Teach those who God has put in your sphere of influence. Be the body.