Rev. Rebecca Mihm
The Great Commission
Most people are familiar with the Great Commission of Jesus: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Most people understand it is our duty to fulfill the Great Commission. However, people often forget, or fail to see, how making disciples creates the blessing of community and life together as believers.
A Believer’s Lifecycle
When we seek to fulfill the Great Commission, we do not just share the Good News with people and then that’s that. We come alongside people and raise them up to maturity in the faith. In other words, we disciple people. We care about the whole life cycle of a believer, from birth to maturity. Think of discipleship as having children, but in the faith. We wouldn’t just leave a physical newborn baby unattended to fend for herself or himself, nor would we leave a toddler or grade-schooler unattended to fend for herself or himself. We don’t expect children to be wise and responsible. Children need to be taken care of, provided for, supported, and nurtured until they grow to maturity and can provide for themselves. Even then, we don’t ignore our adult children. We continue to enjoy each other’s lives and company. We enjoy the community that family provides.When a child is a mature adult, we rejoice as we witness our children raising their children. Let’s not forget the role of older brothers and sisters in raising younger siblings. So, it is in the faith. People become followers of Christ and grow in their walk of faith. They grow in understanding. They grow in responsibility. They learn to navigate faithfulness in difficult circumstances. Eventually, a believer becomes mature in the faith and helps others to grow in faith as well.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to ascertain where someone is in their growth cycle as a believer because our maturity does not necessarily correlate with our age, or how many years we have called ourselves a “believer.” Often, as we enter into community with people, we learn about their lives and ascertain where someone is in the faith by what they say, how they understand God and Scripture, what they do in their lives, and what their priorities are.
The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” was made popular in the US by Hillary Clinton and holds true for the Church. We grow in faith together in community. We, as the church, are a family. We are the Body of Christ. We have all been given different gifts for the building up of the Body. So, we come together and utilize the gifts that the Spirit of God has given to us, and we use them to grow together. One person may be gifted in teaching. Another person may be gifted in encouraging. Another may be gifted in preaching. All of us have gifts to be used. To not use our gifts is like having an arm or pinky finger we don’t use. If we use the metaphor of being the Body of Christ and consider not utilizing our gifts as parts of the body, we must consider the effects of inactivity. When we don’t use a part of our physical body, wide-ranging effects can take place. Our muscles and organs can atrophy. Our endurance can decline. There can be a reduction in blood flow. Bones can weaken. We need each other. We need the faith community coming together and working together for health and growth. We were not meant to be disciples in name only, but to be connected and working together within a community. How are we connecting with others in life togetherness?
Seeking God’s Will Together
When we come together, we seek and do God’s will together. Even in our church government, we seek to do God’s will together. Because we have a form of church government where majority often rules, we can lose sight of why we gather in meetings and committees. We should always come together to seek God’s will. It should be standard practice to, instead of saying, “all in favor, say ‘aye,’” we say, “all who believe this is God’s will, say ‘aye.’” We seek, not our own wills, nor our own preferences, but God’s will in all things. How should we worship? How should we grow together? How should we use our money? There are endless questions and situations in which we seek to do God’s will together. We don’t just do God’s will because God is our Master and we must obey God in everything, but because God loves us and knows what’s best for us.
By seeking God’s will, we also realize that no one person is better or more important than another. We are all on God’s team. God is our coach, and we are all teammates with different positions on the team. We all work towards the same goal of glorifying God and enjoying God together. We don’t work against each other because we want things our way, or for our own comforts, conveniences, or preferences, but we seek the same goal of serving God and bringing about God’s kingdom as fellow teammates.
Other Reasons for Being Faithful
We also seek God’s will and strive to be faithful in all things in order to bring justice to those who lack it. We seek to be faithful so we can know and grow in the love and knowledge of God. We seek to be faithful in order to attract others to the heavenly hope we have. We are blessed; now we get to bless others by inviting them into our community with God. When we do these things, we show the world who God is. We become cities on a hill. We become witnesses to the world of who God is.
When David fought the giant Goliath, he did it to show who God is. I Samuel 17:46-47 says, “This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head, and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear, for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” Jesus said in John 14:31, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Jesus said in John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” When we are faithful, we show the world who God is.
First Mandate Parallels the Great Commission
The first mandate in Scripture talks about being fruitful and multiplying. It talks about physically populating the earth with people. The mandate is found in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed [Adam and Eve], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” That mandate is then repeated to Noah after the Flood. Genesis 9:1 says, “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God said something similar to Jacob. In Genesis 35:9-12, it says, “God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So, he was called Israel. God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” God said to Israel by the prophet Jeremiah, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply” (23:3). These Scriptures talk about physically populating the earth with people.
The Great Commission is a spiritual populating of the earth. We are to 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 that he has commanded us. Just as a union of marriage yields children, so our union with God yields disciples.
Let us come alongside each other and help the Body of Christ to grow in faith. Let us enter into each other’s lives, share our struggles with each other, and let each other see who and what God means to us. This is not a duty to be done, or an item to cross off a list. It’s investing in people’s lives. It’s celebrating life together. It’s celebrating God together. It’s being a spiritual family.