Jesus said, “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As Southern Baptists, we absolutely live for that first part. Everything we do is focused on getting people baptized, and without rest we preach that we are sent by God to make that happen. It’s seemingly all we do, and yet we continue to fall farther and farther behind.
Because of that, we’re constantly analyzing why that is and what we can do about it. The two solutions I hear most often is that we need to teach people “strategies for sharing their faith” and that we need to “work harder.” I don’t think those are wrong — they absolutely produce results — but, at least in my life, I’ve realized that they only address surface-level symptoms of a fundamental problem.
For me, the real answer is the second part of that very same sentence: teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. I see so much emphasis on “getting them saved” and motivating us to “go and tell,” but so little on making us the kind of people for whom exhortations like that would be completely unnecessary. If we were living our lives as God wanted us to live them, those things would be a very natural result, not something we had to beg and plead for. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Instead, this is the impression I have of how we commission our people to go and tell:
That’s definitely not what we think we’re doing, but I think it’s how many of us feel. Our only qualifications are that we love Andy God and we want to do something for him. Other than that, we’re being forced into a role that we accept very begrudgingly (if at all) because we don’t feel at all adequate for it.
That’s not how God planned it. We’ve all been given gifts by the Spirit for use in his ministry, so we’re completely equipped for what he wants us to do. But we have to remember that it’s his ministry that we’re carrying out, not our own.
Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Paul said, “Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I’ve totally missed all of that. In my own life, the talk of needing to work harder and of my own personal responsibility to help people connect to God has led to me trying to do this not in the power of the Spirit, but in my own power. That’s a death spiral. The harder I work, the worse results I have. The worse results I have, the harder I work. The harder I work, the worse results I have…
I need to completely change my focus. Rather than focusing on what I’ve been called to do, I need to focus on who has called me to do it. As I do that, everything else begins to fall into place. “Shazam,” as Gomer would say.
I also have to remember that making disciples is much more than just “getting them saved.” The more we can help people become completely devoted followers of Christ, the more the “getting them saved” begins to take care of itself. I need to focus on discipleship at least as much as I focus on going and telling — if not much more.