The Great Omission

There are numerous churches all across America of various sizes, styles, and visions with variations of primary doctrine. These churches consider themselves evangelical, orthodox, mainline protestant or catholic. However, regardless of the traditions and denominations of these churches, there seems to be something missing in the broader spectrum.  There seems to be “The Great Omission.” What, you say? If you read any given translation of the Bible commonly used by any of these churches, they all include Matthew 28:18-20.

 MT 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in 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.”  (ESV)

Typically, church leaders across the spectrum refer to this particular passage as “The Great Commission.” Why? Simply, Jesus is Lord having all authority, and He gave us this to guide our mission. Many church leaders can quote it, at least they know where to find it, and have likely preached it, even recently. In addition to that, most would agree that it is the mission of the church. For that matter, any church and all churches. The question is, has “The Great Commission” become “The Great Omission”?

About 7 years ago, I was convicted that our claim didn’t match our practice. As a church, we had activities that may have been inspired by “The Great Commission,” but all in all it didn’t appear we were making disciples. The gospel was being proclaimed by a few but mostly irregularly. In some cases, Bible knowledge was increasing but, by in large, lacked evidence of transformation. You could also say we were making workers and church members slowly and steadily. However, by the standards of the Bible, it was obvious that we weren’t making disciples.  How did I know?  I studied the scripture to determine how a disciple is defined.

What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows Jesus and teaches others to follow Jesus.  What does it look like if we are following Jesus?

A disciple follows Jesus and makes disciples.

MT 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

A disciple follows Jesus once He denies himself and is willing to do whatever it takes, even die, for the cause of Christ.

LK 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

These are the questions that I asked of myself as a pastor:

Am I a disciple based on the biblical definition?

Am I intentionally making disciples of others?

Am I leading the church to make disciples?

Have I put the mechanisms and systems in place to turn our church toward becoming a disciple making church?

What is the result if any of my answers are “NO”?

Honestly, going back 7 years and beyond, I could only answer “YES” to the first question.  And, for that matter, I was not sure about my answer from a biblical perspective because I answered “NO” to the second question. And, since my answer to the last question was “NO,” I could only conclude that I was practicing “The Great Omission.” Since then, I’ve aggressively worked toward answering all the questions with “YES.”  I’m still “a work in progress” leading a “church in progress” but we are on our way.  I’m thankful to say, with the addition of our Discipleship Pastor, Tony Gulbrandsen, we’re making even greater and more intentional strides toward our vision, “Making disciples in our world, one heart at a time.”

It is my heart and passion to lead our people to become disciples who makes disciples resulting in a disciple making church. In the process we’ve identified, with the help of various others, 5 key strategies. These strategies include intentional, relational, reproducible, accountable and transformational.  At the core of what we do is introducing people to Jesus and teaching them the Bible to include memorization. However, without the presence of the 5 key strategies, we fall far short of becoming disciples who make disciples. At best, we make workers and church members. Of course, we pray for workers (Matthew 9:38) and need committed church members but that’s not the mandate from our LORD. In contrast, the proven environment for the implementation of these strategies that lead to making disciples, if applied properly, are small groups and smaller groups with various on-ramps. We have small groups of approximately 12 people studying the scripture tied to the weekly sermon and we have smaller groups of approximately 4 men walking through “Every Man a Warrior” or 4 women walking though “Cultivating Holy Beauty” together.  Tony and I also realize that there needs to be on-ramps for people new to the faith. This is where activities that include relationship building and the teaching and modeling of basic biblical principles are a necessity. By the way, please share your ideas for on-ramps.

Allow me to close with a challenge. Go to a quiet place and read and re-read Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 4:19 and Luke 9:23 and then ask yourself these questions:

Am I a disciple based on the biblical definition?

Am I intentionally making disciples of others?

Am I supporting my pastors in leading the church to make disciples?

Am I implementing the mechanisms and systems put in place by my pastors to turn our church toward becoming a disciple making church?

What is the result if any of my answers are “NO”?

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene