Therefore Go and Make Disciples
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 24:18-20 NASB
The final words of our Savior recorded in Scripture are also our final instructions – to evangelize and disciple. These are the foundation and driving purpose of the Church! Christ issued this command both to the disciples with Him that day, and to the disciples throughout all time, until His return. Shortly after His ascension, we read the account of the gifting of the Holy Spirit to further empower the Church to fulfill the mission of evangelizing and discipling all nations.
As we pray for the Church through the month of October, we must pray for a Holy Spirit-fueled focus on evangelism and discipleship.
The mission of the Church is clear, but in our 21st century Church culture, it is easy to slip into the mindset that sharing the Gospel and building up believers is for the ‘professional’ Christians, such as full-time missionaries, pastors, and church staff members.
At a small church in South Carolina, Pastor Tim Simpson and his wife Shelley are teaching and serving the congregation with a goal to ignite hearts with a passion to ‘live on mission’ as God’s ambassadors in every aspect of life.
After serving on the mission field for 20 years, first in college campus ministry and then as international missionaries, Tim and Shelley Simpson were called to South Carolina for Tim to fill an open pastorate position. Their experiences as missionaries profoundly shape their prayers and vision for the local church.
“Serving as missionaries prepared us to understand the context of where we were serving, and to understand the culture,” Tim said.
Their perspective coming into their new town was the same perspective they brought to missions – they arrived as students of their new environment, prepared to learn where people congregate, the common beliefs about God and the Bible, and how most people viewed church. All the extra efforts of noticing and noting the culture of the area allowed them to have their eyes wide open and anticipate where God might open the door for a Gospel conversation at any moment of the day. This is the kind of godly mindset they seek to impart to the church body.
“Collegiate ministry and international missions prepared me to think that the Gospel is always urgent,” Shelley said. “Whereas in America sometimes, there is a tendency to think ‘well, there are lots of churches, we have lots of time.’”
There is also a tendency to believe the lie of the enemy that the average believer is ill-equipped to share the Gospel. This is not true! If someone has enough knowledge to confess sin and believe the Gospel, then the Holy Spirit is present, and a Gospel conversation can begin. It is not the job of Christians to bring not-yet-Christians to church to fill a seat – the goal is to bring them to Christ, where they may make the decision to reject Him or believe in Him. God places each person in their neighborhood, job, and other activities to encounter all kinds of people for His glory. A single pastor in a town can’t reach everyone, but through equipping the local church body to evangelize by engaging in conversations about God and the Gospel… the Lord can bring revival!
When someone believes the Gospel, their moment of salvation is the beginning of discipleship. To disciple is to come alongside someone for the purpose of encouraging one another to grow in Christ – to pray, to read scripture and be open to having the Lord continually molding our heart, soul, and mind to be like Christ.
“It is heartbreaking to me when people say they have grown up in church, but they never seemed to do anything with it – they’ve never been discipled, they have never discipled anyone, or they have never even read their Bible,” Shelley said.
How We Can Pray
“Shelley and I pray for co-laborers,” Tim said. “People who are hungering after righteousness, who are ready to join the harvest and to replicate themselves in the form of more disciples.”
In the monthly church prayer meetings, Tim always brings four key things to pray for: the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the missionaries the church supports, and the Gospel conversations and discipleship relationships that the church members are engaging in.
“If it gets quiet when it is time to share about Gospel conversations and discipleship relationships, that is a call to pause and examine our priorities,” Tim said.
As our NDP Task Force president Kathy Branzell says, “every moment has mission.” We must pray for the individual believers that make up the Church to live lives that revolve around evangelism and discipleship.
We pray for men and women in the church to be unafraid of evangelism – to lean into the awkwardness of talking about personal beliefs and the messiness of real life when people share candidly.
We pray for men and women in the church to be unafraid of discipleship – to lean into the messiness of life in submission to Christ, and to hold one another accountable to the commands of Christ we study in scripture.
By following through on evangelism with discipleship, people become disciples who are in turn disciple-makers, thus fulfilling the command of Christ!
Will you pray with me right now?
Lord Jesus, You are my Savior, Redeemer, and my perfect example that I can look to in every situation. You are Love. You founded the Church, Your bride, to join You and continue the work that You established during Your time on earth. Father, forgive me for the times that I have chosen to be silent rather than strike up a conversation about Your hope and redemption. Give me boldness to overcome the awkwardness of engaging people in talking about You, and the courage to bear Your hope and light even in messy situations. Show me where I can be a disciple-maker in my church and Christian community, to be helped and to help others to walk faithfully in Your footsteps all the days of my life. Lord, I pray for the Church to be on mission – for the believers in churches to comprehend the urgency of the Gospel, and have the clarity of heart to prioritize building Your Kingdom right where we live, work, and play. In Jesus name I pray, amen.