distressed-11My son loves cars. He knows the basics about all types, from the price tag to how fast they can go. He is also learning how to work on them by doing minor repairs and upgrades on his own vehicle. For some people, the purpose of a car is to get them from point A to point B. For others, how the car looks is most important. From the paint job, to the rims and tires, to any added features, it is what is on the outside that really counts. However, none of that really matters if the engine doesn’t work properly. Without the engine, you won’t be able to get to your destination or turn any heads with fancy rims and neon undercar trim.

This same principle applies to churches. We have somewhere to go – we are busy fulfilling Jesus’ mission to make disciples (the Great Commission). We have great programs, printed materials, and impressive buildings. We work hard to look good so that we can attract more people. However, if the engine that fuels our mission isn’t working properly, then it is all for naught. 

What, then, is the engine that drives the mission of the church? It is wrapped up in one word – discipleship. If we focus on anything else, then we are going to accomplish a lot of other things and miss the central goal of our calling. Mike Breen, guest writer for the Verge Network, makes this statement: “If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.”

A great question for any local body of believers to ask is, “How are we doing in fulfilling the Great Commission and who is involved in the mission?” The answers reveal whether our “engine” is running properly. I have been in ministry a long time and have realized that it is a lot easier to talk about mission than to actually “do” mission. We can gather every week in a building, sing great songs, listen to eloquent preaching with heart-moving stories, and feel like we have done our duty. We can even walk away talking about the great service and never pursue what God has called all of us to do.

Jesus told His disciples that is was their responsibility to tell others about His death, burial and resurrection. He told them to baptize those who turn from their sin and trust His finished work on the cross. He concluded by telling them to teach others to do the same. Jesus wasn’t talking to religious professionals when He said this. He was talking to ordinary, unschooled men who had been walking alongside and learning from Him for three years. Yet today we often relegate the responsibility of doing Gospel ministry and evangelism to the professionals—commonly called pastors—inside the church walls. Ray Comfort once said, “Doing evangelism inside the church is like fishing in a bathtub, granted you don’t catch anything, it’s just real convenient.”

The Great Commission is not only for those we deem professional and certainly wasn’t designed to happen just inside the church building. It is for everyone who names the name of Christ. Making disciples is not easy; it’s time consuming and many people are unclear about what it really means. Hence it is much easier to focus on attracting people to a building once a week and hope they like what they see. There is less accountability on everyone’s part in making disciples just as long as we have a few more this week than we did last week or last year. Yet, discipleship is for everyone involved in local churches who call themselves Christians.

We are called to spend our lives engaging with others so that they can see what Christ followers do and say. If we do this, we will see: more people come to faith in Christ, new servant leaders developed, new missional communities birthed, and the Kingdom of God grow. This is the kind of discipleship that will drive our mission.

Coming soon: Part 2 of this series “Discipleship – What It Is and What It Is Not.”