Obeying the Call of Jesus to Make Disciples of All Nations

obeying the call of Jesus

In October 2017, Barna released a study[1] asking a thousand church-going evangelical[2] believers, “Have you ever heard of the Great Commission?” The study’s results were shocking: 51% said they had never heard of it. And alarmingly, another 25% said they thought they had heard of it but did not know what it meant. Only 17% of the people could say they had heard of it and knew what it was about.

The command of Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20 is to make disciples. This is normally called the Great Commission. It is interesting that if you study the life of Christ, you will discover that each of the four gospels, plus the book of Acts, has that commission recorded in unique ways. In John 20:21, Jesus said, “just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Here we have His model of the mission. If you look at Mark 15:16, Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Here we have the magnitude of that commission. In Luke 24:47, Jesus again commanded His disciples that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Here we have the message of the mission. And then, if we go to Acts 1:8, Jesus said – “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth,” here we have the means of the Great Commission.

But in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus is showing us the method of the Great Commission, the most precise approach of Jesus and how He made disciples.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The central command in this text is to Make Disciples. If you ask pastors and Church leaders what the command in Matthew 28 is, almost half will say that the imperative is to go to evangelize and count decisions for Christ. But in Greek, the command is not to go but to make disciples who make disciples.

But how should we make disciples? The three participles are to go, literally, as you go – as you go to work, as you go to school, etc., it’s an everyday commission for every believer of Christ in every moment of their life. And then He said to baptize. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an external expression of a new internal belief system. Go is to win the lost; baptize is to root and establish these believers in their newfound faith like Jesus did with His early disciples. In baptism, new believers identify with the work of Christ and the mission of Christ. And lastly, teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded them.

In the life of Christ, there are 405 commands. 260 plus of them is disciple-making commands.

Teaching them to obey means equipping them in every area of their life to walk as Jesus walked.

So, the commission is clear: to make disciples. How? By going, baptizing and teaching to obey. Jesus commanded the Church, then and now, to make disciples. The Church is God’s instrument in fulfilling the task of discipling the nations. There’s no plan B.

While the churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America are rapidly multiplying, the Church in Canada is in decline. The latest survey by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada[3] indicates that in 1996 Canada was 12 percent evangelical Christian. In 2015, Canada was 9 percent evangelical Christian. Today, the number of evangelicals in Canada dropped even further to 6 percent.

Worldwide, missiologists and mission researchers estimate that one-third of the world’s population, which represents 2.6 billion, are still unreached because the Church in the reached areas is not sending missionaries to them. The significant imbalance of missions is that most missionaries go to and are sent to reached areas of the world – regions where the Church already exists, and the name of Jesus is known. On the flip side, there are very few missionaries working among the remaining unreached people groups who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.

Are you making disciples who make disciples as Christ commanded? Are our churches and denominations making disciples in Canada and beyond? Jesus is calling the Church to obey what He commanded us to do – to make disciples who make disciples. May we be obedient to His call to disciple all the nations of the earth, beginning in our Jerusalem.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Barna, Translating the Great Commission Survey 2018 [2] Evangelicals are believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and take the Bible seriously, not a political and religious identity. [3] Faith Today, https://www.faithtoday.ca/Magazines/2020-Jan-Feb/Not-Christian-anymore