9 Ministries That Satisfy the Great Commission

By Mike Pettengill, Oct 25, 2016

Matthew 28:18-20, more commonly known as the Great Commission, is centered on the imperative that the Christian Church “make disciples.” This non-negotiable mandate is frequently misconstrued as evangelism. This perspective does not correspond with the intent of the original text or the rest of Scripture. The making of converts through evangelism is clearly valuable and mandated in Scripture, but the Great Commission is about taking those converts are coming alongside them for a lifetime of learning God’s ways. Discipling is the act of Christian believers who are being instructed by other Christian believers.

A conversion is a valuable beginning to a long journey. Disciple making is the lengthy, hard, and messy process of transforming someone into a follower who finds their identity and worth in Jesus. Here are 9 ways we can participate in the Great Commission and make disciples:

1. Bible translation
The Bible is the perfect missionary. It never takes a furlough or gets sick. Scripture must be translated into new languages so God’s people can learn what God teaches. God provided us His perfect Word for a very important reason. God wants His disciples to be dedicated to learning and living His ways, as found in His inerrant Scriptures.

2. Preaching
Dissecting Scripture and explaining it from the pulpit is a rare gift. Being able to explain God’s inspired Word to a group of believers is a blessing to them and will benefit them, their families, and their community. Speaking God’s truth is the purpose, not entertaining man.

3. Small group studies
Providing intimate and regular opportunities to instruct believers is valuable. Frequent Bible studies for youth, kids, women, or men allow people to ask questions and learn in ways larger settings don’t offer. Frequency and consistency breed intimacy and depth. Many people feel more free to ask hard questions in smaller settings.

4. Individual discipleship
Sitting down with a new believer, one on one, is the most effective way to make a disciple. Whenever possible, this is the preferred way to make disciples. Intimate questions, tears, and Bible instruction is what Jesus intended. This is a hard process that bears much fruit.

5. Seminary instruction
Being able to train pastors and church leaders in an ongoing setting carries great valuable. Providing disciples with in-depth instruction enables them to teach and train in their own church and pays dividends for years. This is one of the most effective ways to combat the poor theology that is sweeping the developing world.

6. Theological resources
Few Christians in the West understand the depth at which theological famine has gripped the rest of the Christian world. Bibles, theology books, radio programs, sermon audios, articles, e-books, and conferences are rare and coveted in the rest of the world. God has made the Western Church the richest in the history of the world. Providing theological resources for developing Christian cultures may be one of the reasons.

7. Church planting
Identifying, training, and preparing local pastors and church leaders to start new churches is valuable. All things being equal, a pastor from a given culture knows better how to reach people from his culture better than any missionary ever will. Giving a local church the start and resources it needs to impact a community is a valuable blessing to God’s kingdom. Scripture instructs us to worship together and tells us the local church is where disciples grow and learn.

8. Theological conferences
Although less intimate, the quality and depth of theological conferences is undeniable. Few Christians outside the Western world have ever had the privilege to sit in one place for several days and receive quality theological instruction brought to them. Two to five days of drinking from the biblical fire hose inspires and motivates Christians to seek further biblical knowledge and provides leaders with theological substance to share with their own churches.

9. Reproduction
The Great Commission is truly about making disciples who make disciples. Disciple making must include training Christians who are burdened to evangelize, plant churches, and send out their own missionaries. No culture or church is exempt from participating in the Great Commission. Disciples of Christ must be instructed of the imperative to multiply. Every church exists for the purpose of reaching the lost.

Showing a film, handing out a tract, constructing a house, hosting a medical clinic, and feeding the poor are all biblical and Christ honoring ministries. There is nothing wrong with these or other biblical ministries on the mission field. However, to be considered “fulfilling the Great Commission,” every missional effort must support and guide people to an existing and ongoing disciple making ministry. Nothing written here should be considered denigrating any missionary, nor should this list be considered exhaustive. Any Christian who sacrifices comfort and safety to glorify God deserves our appreciation and prayer.

Jesus tells us a disciple is someone who abides in His Word (John. 8:31). Therefore, the Great Commission is realized by the training of people who abide in the Word of Christ. Making disciples is not simply evangelism or mercy, but the long-term investment in individuals to transform them into devoted disciples who dedicate their lives to teaching, learning and living the ways of Jesus Christ.

Mike Pettengill has served with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. He is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

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