The core purpose of a biblically based ministry is the great commission. The great commission begins with “go” and ends with teaching new believers “to observe all that I commanded you.” You will notice that this simplistic description of what we call the “Great Commission” is at odds with a widely proclaimed ministry philosophy that says, “it is all about the gospel.” Now, understood comprehensively, it is all about the gospel. The gospel is the most important thing and is the foundation of all we do. You cannot claim Christianity or cultivate Christian living in one that has never believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, the phrase, “it’s all about the gospel” often means, “let’s focus on the gospel and minimize Christian living.” The idea is, “let’s get people saved and not worry too much about how they live the Christian life.” “Let’s certainly not quibble over standards of Christian conduct – it just isn’t that important.” In fact, those who implement serious discipleship initiatives are often accused of dissension. The flaw in that thinking is that the great commission clearly exhorts us to “observe” (learn and keep) “all” of the commandments. How will a new believer learn the commandments if they are not preached?
There is, however, no need to quibble over the discipleship aspect of the great commission if we do not have anyone to teach. It is imperative that we “go.” The command to “go” is as clear as the command to teach. If I hold to the last part of the Lord’s command, I must doggedly hold to the first part. I fear the “go” part of the command has become the weakness of most fundamental Christians. It is not that we won’t witness and it is not that we can’t lead someone to the Lord. If the opportunity presents itself, we are thrilled to avail ourselves and introduce the person to Christ, but we tend to think that it is the Lord’s “job” to drop a salvation ready contact into our lap. That will occasionally happen, but the idea of “go” includes aggressively seeking the lost.
Jesus, Peter, Paul and a myriad of biblical characters model that concept. These men did not sit back in an isolated, safe environment and wait for unbelievers to come to them. They attended dinners, went to the market place, showed up at the meeting place on the bank of the river, and carefully selected places were they knew they could interact with the lost. The biblical characters never participated in sin, but they rubbed shoulders with sinners. They boldly and aggressively sought to win the lost for Christ.
I often hear the complaint that our churches are “dead.” Rather than incorporate the hedonistic philosophy of the world into our church, perhaps we should revive our personal soul-winning efforts. I don’t mean just the pastor and a few of the church leaders, but the house to house efforts of all believers (Acts 2). That mind-set will do more to enliven our churches than a hundred “praise teams.”
Doug Wright is pastor of Keystone Baptist Church, Berryville, VA.