If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you are surely familiar with the passage called “The Great Commission” found in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. This is where, at the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus tells the disciples to go into all the world preaching and making disciples.
Up to this point, the disciples have spent three years with Jesus. They have heard His teachings, seen Him minister, and observed countless miracles. They have scattered and hidden in fear since Jesus died. However, now the resurrection has taken place, and Jesus has been appearing to them to build up their faith. At this great commissioning, it seems as if Jesus is telling them, “I am leaving, but you are now ready to do what I have been doing.” Finally, their training will be put into practice, right? We’ll come back to that…
“I’M STILL WORKING ON MYSELF!”
As a senior leader in an international ministry, I have the privilege of speaking to people at every level of life in Christ in many different cultures, yet one thing that comes up often no matter where I am is people who say things like “I am not ready to share the gospel; I’m not prepared” or “I still need to work on myself before I try to help others.”
This sounds spiritual, and to some extent, there probably does need to be some time “settling in” to Christian life and understanding what Jesus has done for us before a person goes out and tries and make converts. Still, this usually sounds more like an excuse for being uncomfortable and insecure than it does a sincere desire for growth.
If we look back at the disciples at the moment of the Great Commission, it would be easy to say, “Well, Jesus had trained them for so long until they were finally prepared, so we should be trained and ready before we try our hand at evangelism, too.” The problem with this interpretation is that, although this is Jesus’s last instruction to the disciples before He leaves them — to “go and make disciples” — it is also the first instruction He gave them when they first met.
THE FIRST COMMISSION
In Mark, chapter 1, we find Jesus walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilee where He comes across the brothers Simon and Andrew fishing. As He calls out to them, His invitation is, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.” From this first call, Jesus is essentially saying, “Come and be my disciples so that you can go and make more disciples.”
We know that many of these first encounters with Jesus were followed by the immediate sharing of Jesus with others. John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus through a prophetic word, shares the truth about Jesus with his disciples who immediately go and follow Jesus themselves (John 1:29-39). Philip, after meeting Jesus, goes and tells Nathaniel, who also ends up leaving what he was doing to become a disciple of Jesus (John 1:46). Throughout the Bible (and Christian history), there is clear evidence that a single encounter with Jesus, His gospel, and the power of God, is enough to then turn around and take the gospel to others as well.
As we follow along with the story, it doesn’t take long for Jesus to have a large crowd of followers in which He heals the sick, casts out demons, and to whom He preaches salvation from the Lord. In all of this time doing ministry, Jesus never says to the disciples, “Sit closely and take notes because, one day, you will take over when I am gone.” In fact, it is only a short time later that Jesus tells them to go out in pairs and do what they have seen Him do: heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach salvation. Essentially, “Go and make disciples” (you can read about this in Luke 9).
When they return to Him after this first mission trip, they have many amazing testimonies to share (and probably some problems to discuss as well), but after some debriefing with them, Jesus simply returns to the work He had been doing all along. It doesn’t take long before He sends them right back out again, this time with a larger number going than before (you can read this in Luke 10).
“GO” REQUIRES OBEDIENCE, NOT PERFECTION.
When we look at the disciples, we can easily say that they weren’t prepared to go. Just look at some of them. Peter will soon deny Jesus three times for his own self-preservation. We can’t exactly say his faith was solid at the time. Even Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for money, was one of those who had been sent out doing the work. Despite all these flaws and imperfections, Jesus never said that they needed to step back and work on themselves before going and reaching others. What He demonstrated was that the Kingdom of God is too big to be contained and must be taken into the world with urgency.
The commission to “go” never required perfection on the part of those being sent. It simply required the boldness to be obedient. More than that, though, what those who went out discovered was that it is actually through their going that they themselves grew in the grace of God, in theological clarity, in personal holiness, and in love. We cannot grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit without sowing into the lives of others. It is impossible.
If we really want to grow, both in our ability to reach out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to work on our own development as disciples, then it is time to get up and “go.”
Go tell someone about Jesus today. Don’t wait. There will never be a perfect time, and you will never be “ready,” but if you will just do it, it will be worth it. I promise. Seeds will be planted in those you meet, and your own fruit will begin to steadily grow as well.
This is an updated edition of a post that was originally published on AnthonyIngram.com.
Featured Image by Paula May