When Jesus’ gave his great commission he gave the church its focus: going and growing.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Even though this is a foundational verse we refer to often, as modern evangelicals we have often separated the going (mission) and the growing (discipleship). In many churches, being involved in community outreach or going on a short term mission trip is seen as an optional add-on to the core of discipleship: bible study and prayer.
But the first Christians didn’t separate growing from going. Rather, the real growth comes when we are obedient to go into the world with the message of Jesus. It was when they began to connect with the nations around Israel that the good news of Jesus began to spread rapidly. The church was stretched by these new cross-cultural experiences, but it grew tremendously.
The sense of verse 19 is “as you are going” – that is, as you interact with the world every day, be disciple-makers. As you work, study, clean, cook, commute and play, make disciples. When they respond in faith, baptize them. When they are baptized teach them to obey the commands of Jesus.
It’s not one or the other: mission and discipleship are the same thing. That’s the way Jesus designed it. We grow as we go. If we’re not growing, is it because we’re not going? Do we see the fields ripe with harvest all around us? Are we more concerned with “being fed” than “feeding Jesus’ lambs”? As we explore mission together, I’m excited to learn how we can grow as we respond in obedience to the command to go.