March 27, 2023
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 18-19
This is Part 2 of 2 of a devotional on the Great Commission. Part 1 was featured last week.
The Priority Of the Great Commission
As we celebrate our PCA’s 50th anniversary, we should rejoice in all God has done through this portion of the body of Christ. But at the same time, we must continue to ask ourselves the hard questions which bring a pause, so as to consider what weaknesses need to be addressed. This is extremely important if we are going to strive to make the bride of Christ as beautiful as she can possibly be. In doing so, I think most of us who love the PCA would admit that making disciples is not one of our strengths to be celebrated.
I had the honor to preach during one of the evening worship services during the PCA’s 2006 General Assembly. The title of my message that night was “The PCA: A Missional Church?”
The previous year to that assembly, the PCA recorded a net growth of 74 members. But as I said in part one of this devotional, church growth is not the critical issue. However, what was disturbing is that during that same year, it took 47 PCA church members to reach 1 new member joining by profession of faith (and that number includes children and youth who joined by profession). In addition, our data from the stated clerk’s office revealed that only 8 churches in the PCA had averaged more than 35 new members (including children and youth) by profession of faith over the previous 5 years.
Though I do not have current data, I think it safe to say that our effectiveness in making disciples has only gotten worse over the past 16 years. In part, this discouraging reality could be explained by the shifting of our national culture, embracing a more secularistic world and life view. Regardless of the cause of our ineffectiveness to make disciples, we must address this problem.
The great commission is our Savior’s passion. He declared such when He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” With this being the case, we must ask ourselves the question “Why would the members of the PCA be so ineffective at making disciples?”
I would suggest a two-fold problem across Christendom and certainly including our beloved PCA. The first problem has to do with our “mindset”. The second problem can be explained by the absence of a needed “toolset”. Let’s look at these two.
What is meant by “the need for a missional mindset”? I am referring to a way of thinking which views obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to be a life-or-death issue. A life-or-death mindset is that which was demonstrated by those preparing to be church planters in Calvin’s seminary, knowing that in doing so, the life expectancy of a church planter was approximately 5 years. This is the same mindset demonstrated by America’s earliest missionaries who packed their belongings in their own caskets, assuming to never return until shipped home in those caskets.
A few years ago, I asked two small groups of believers to write down a list of reasons Christians should share their faith with lost people. Of all the many good answers listed, none mentioned the reality that without becoming believers, people perish and spend an eternity in hell.
On occasion, I have heard of the death of a loved one of one of our church members. Upon contacting that member to share my condolences, I hear words of appreciation followed by statements like this. “It really was good that my father went ahead and passed away because he had been living a long time with so much pain.” Upon hearing such a statement by a believer, I have commented, “Oh, your dad was a Christian.” To my shock I have heard something like, “Well, he would not have said he was a believer and we never saw any evidence of salvation.” In response, in order to pastor well, I would withhold my thoughts, but would certainly be thinking, “Do you actually believe that his temporal pain on earth could ever be worse than an eternity in hell?”
Lost people perishing in hell is only the first of a long list of reasons to make disciples, including to give glory to God by obeying His Word. But for sure, without the proper mindset, Christians will more than likely never be faithful or fruitful in making disciples.
The second problem I mentioned is what I referred to as the absence of an effective “missional toolset.” Imagine wanting to try your hand at building a piece of furniture, but having no tools. Perhaps the wood has been procured along with the necessary screws and nails. But what if you had no saw, screwdriver or hammer? A willing mindset and all the effort imagined could never produce a piece of furniture. And even with the required tools available, you would certainly need someone experienced in carpentry to assist by equipping you for your task. The same is true regarding making disciples. Given the right mindset, the appropriate tools and adequate equipping, believers become obedient to the great commission and become fruitful disciple makers.
What is your mindset? What kind of tools do you presently have in your toolbelt? What kind of equipping have you pursued so as to become confident in the use of your tools as you seek to obey the commission of Your Savior to “go and make disciples?”
Randy Pope is Founding Pastor of Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia and President of Life on Life Ministries.