When Jesus offers those famous final words to his disciples on that mountaintop in Galilee, he has the end goal in mind—transformation, that is, mature disciples. Jesus’s command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The goal of the Great Commission is faithful Jesus followers. Where the gospels end with the story of Jesus, the book of Acts begins. Acts is the story of how Jesus’s commission is to be carried out among all nations through the local church. Churches not only plant churches in Acts to fulfill His mission, but churches are also concerned with maturing as a church by “teaching [disciples] to observe [do] all that Jesus commanded” (Matt 28:20).
Discipleship must be intentional, or it will not occur. Followers of Jesus need to be taught scripture reading, doctrine, prayer, evangelism, church membership, fasting, missions, parenting, biblical view of work, ethics and so much more. In other words, each church must have a robust and intentional method of discipling their own people from the youngest to the oldest – from the cradle to the grave with the Word of God.
Churches must ensure that disciples are being formed within their congregation. Paul reminds the church at Colossae that the goal of every church is to proclaim Jesus by “admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (mature) in Christ” (Col 1:28). The Great Commission is not simply about forming converts but forming mature disciples. How can we know if a person is becoming a mature disciple?
The International Mission Board (IMB) is helpful by speaking of 6 marks of a disciple (Foundations, IMB). In other words, every church’s goal is to see every Jesus follower mature by the transformation of the word in these areas of their life:
- transformed heart- being born again with a new heart
- transformed mind- being renewed in our minds
- transformed affections- being led with godly desires/affections
- transformed will- being obedient in what we do
- transformed relationships- being reconciled with others because of Jesus
- transformed purpose- being engaged in God’s mission
In essence, then, the Great Commission involves the holistic transformation of each disciple in every aspect of their life—heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose in the context of the local church.
Further, disciples transformed by the gospel will contribute to overall healthy church formation. When disciples of Jesus in the context of the local church are becoming more mature in Christ, that local church becomes healthier. But what does a healthy church look like? Again, helpful in this conversation is the IMB’s 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church (Foundations, IMB).
- Biblical evangelism
- Biblical discipleship
- Biblical membership
- Biblical leadership
- Biblical preaching and teaching
- Biblical ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper
- Biblical worship
- Biblical fellowship
- Biblical prayer
- Biblical accountability and discipline
Is your church intentionally working toward these 12 characteristics which will both mature the disciples and the church? What plans does your church have in place to ensure that all believers are taught not simply to know the Bible, but to live [observe] the Bible? After all, those famous last words on the mountain with Jesus are meant for our transformation and not simply our information.