The Great Commission as it is found in Matthew 28:19-20 is this: "Therefore go and m
ake 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mt. 28:19-20). But what does this mean?
If we are not careful, we will read into this verse modern ideas. For example, we might make "make disciples, baptizing, and teaching to obey" all distinct activities, where as they should be seen as all being intimately connected.
The command to go, or "as you are going," you might say is the missional impulse behind this verse, connecting all of the elements. Making disciples, baptizing, and teaching to obey all happen "on the road" as you are going.
Furthermore, when we think of teaching, we think of the classroom. Yet Jesus says, "teach them to obey." He is talking about teaching people a way of life, not head knowledge. And the content of this teaching and the emphasis should not be taken from our common church experience, but instead from all of the teaching sections and Jesus' life as it is found the gospel of Matthew. This would lead us back to Jesus' original call to the disciples: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt. 4:19). We are teaching people to become evangelists like Jesus.
Alan Hirsch writes this in The Forgotten Ways Handbook:
"What did Jesus have in mind when he commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations? A missional understanding of this commission requires us to see Jesus' tactic as to mobilize a whole lot of little versions of himself infiltrating every nook and cranny of society."
So we should not use this verse to divide things up into external (baptizing) and internal (teaching). The teaching is but training to lead initial converts back out into the world to share their faith.
What is your understanding of the Great Commission? Do you agree or disagree with the above thoughts?