And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
- Matthew 28:18-20
Anyone recognize that button?
If you you were born after 1960's, I doubt it. I was a senior in high school, and it was the lynchpin of a national plan to get Christians to "witness." We wore these buttons to school, put bumper stickers on our cars, and had a pocket full of tracts to help us talk people through the Good News.
So, according to the training (yes, there was training), conversations were to go like this:
"I found it!"
"What did you find?"
"New life in Jesus Christ."
Now, let me stop and say that I'm sure there are a lot of people who began their road to faith in Jesus with just such a conversation. Or by reading a "Chick Track" left on a restaurant table. And I personally know people who came to faith because of someone bold enough to share the Four Spiritual Laws with a stranger.
But as I read the passage and look at the level of commitment among those who profess the name of Christ, I wonder where we lost our way. Do we really believe that we can just follow a formula - like praying a specific prayer - and treat it as a guaranteed ticket to heaven? That it doesn't matter what we do after that?
A Gospel built around a formula and getting someone to walk through an exercise. What kinds of fruit has it produced?
- We don't need to go to church and worship collectively with other believers. Faith is a personal thing, just between me and God. I don't need you, I prayed the prayer. I'm good, thanks.
- For that same reason, I don't want to force my beliefs on you.
- I can live however I want - after all, I prayed the prayer and punched my ticket years ago. I can live out my life full of envy, greed, sexual immorality, and all sorts of selfishness.
- My salvation is about my eternal destination - not about the glory of God here on earth. As long as I asked Jesus into my heart, that's all that matters. Check with you at the end, God.
But alas, that is not what Jesus commanded. He didn't tell us to go and convert people to a shallow religion that makes no difference in our lives. In fact, he condemned religious leaders who did so:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."
- Matthew 23:15
No, he commanded something much deeper. He came to announce God's kingdom, and the disciples were to be part of his mission to spread the glory of God throughout the earth. He said to make disciples - people who devote their lives. And for us to teach them to obey everything he commanded.
So, Christian, go. Go, not to accumulate notches on your belt for the number of people you got to walk through a conversion ritual. But go, live out the Gospel. Share your life with everyone around you. Tell them about Jesus, who through his death made it possible for us to come into God's presence. And teach them what it means to have true faith and repentance - and how a changed heart will enable them to love Jesus and obey what he taught.
And when that happens, we'll be a step closer to the goal.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
- Psalm 72:19