What is the Great Commission, and what can we gain from Ligonier's teaching series on this subject?
PARSONS: In our study of Romans at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, I took some time to look at the mission of God in Scripture. The mission of God is something I could spend the rest of my life studying because I can’t read a page of Scripture without seeing it.
There is so much there when you look at the Great Commission and how it ties together so much of what we see from Genesis, from God’s promise to Abraham, and so on. Of course, I deal with some of that in the series on the Great Commission. I dealt with a lot more at Saint Andrew’s Chapel during that series on the mission of God.
BINGHAM: We got the extended edition at Saint Andrew’s Chapel.
PARSONS: Right. Those series are so difficult because you’re preaching without notes and trying to pull so much from memory. Then there are cameras and lights, and it’s very uncomfortable and very nerve-racking.
But the Great Commission is something that I think is neglected because we often do not know or understand the fullness of the Great Commission. Typically when people think of the Great Commission, they immediately think of evangelism and evangelism only.
Now, it is absolutely appropriate that we think of evangelism when we think of the Great Commission. Evangelism needs to be a part of our lives, a part of the warp and woof of how we live. It’s a daily part of our lives as we are reminding ourselves of the gospel, as we are preaching the gospel to our children, to our friends, to those we work with, and as we are repenting of our sins. We carry that forth wherever we go and remind ourselves and others of the gospel. As we go out and talk to people in the world and talk to them about our sins and their sins, we can’t help but talk about Christ. So, we need evangelism, and the Great Commission in one sense contains that.
At the very heart of the Great Commission are baptism and discipleship. But a lot of times when we think of discipleship, we think only of teaching. Sometimes we think of mentoring, and that’s a good thing, or sometimes we think of small group discipleship. But I think too often, too many Christians think simply of teaching.
Now, teaching is right. Teaching is one of the foundational imperatives of the Great Commission. But what Jesus says is, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).
Often, as we hear the Great Commission quoted from memory, we hear people say, “Teaching them all that I have commanded you.” That’s not what Jesus says. He says, “Teach them to observe all that I commanded you.” That entails knowing what He’s commanded. That means we are training people. We are not just teaching them, but also training them and helping them, which means it needs to be life-on-life and face-to-face—it needs to be real.
We can’t do online church. We can’t be discipled or grow as disciples simply by following people on Twitter. We can’t grow as disciples simply by listening to a podcast. We have to grow as disciples by hearing the Word of God and by striving to imitate those who are striving to obey the Word of God and observe all that Christ has taught.
So, we need to be in communities. We need to be in the church. We need to have friends. We need to have men and women who are older than we are helping us and teaching us, men and women we are looking to, humbling ourselves under, and listening to.
There’s so much more to the Great Commission, but that’s one of the key elements that is missing from the church, particularly the megachurch, the online church, and even the campus church model. We’re missing that one-on-one life discipleship.
Of course, pastors can’t do all of that. We can disciple individuals as we’re able, but really it’s the work of the church to do that ministry as they are gifted and equipped, as you’ve discipled many over the years, at our church and elsewhere.
We disciple those we can as they are humble, as they learn, and as they are trained so that they might in turn disciple others in their lives.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Burk Parsons and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.