The Goal of Doing Missions
Last week, we considered the basis of doing missions from our Lord's Great Commission in Matthew 28. This week, we turn our attention to the goal of missions. After declaring the basis for doing missions ("All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me", v.18), the Lord Jesus commanded his apostles to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (v.19a). The reason Christ sends his church into the world by his authority is to make disciples.
The main verb in this sentence is not "go" but "make disciples." Christ did not commission his church to make mere converts, but rather to make dedicated followers of himself, disciples who are set apart by and devoted to Christ and the Christian faith.
Evangelism is an important component of disciple-making. The church must do evangelism. It needs to proclaim the gospel, the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means for sinners. In order for the lost and unbelieving to enter in to the life of Christian discipleship, they must first hear the gospel, for "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom 10.17). It is our duty, therefore, to announce to the nations God's saving grace through the finished work of Christ.
But the gospel is not limited to unbelievers, and disciple-making is not limited to evangelism. The baptized need to hear the gospel too! Hearing the gospel every week is an essential part of our growth in sanctification. During our pilgrimage through this wilderness age, the gospel nurtures us in the faith, motivates us for good works, and sustains us in hope of the resurrection. It is the wind in our sails that moves us along the waters of this life. And it creates a living community of grace that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.
Disciple-making is slow and lengthy process, like making wine from grapes. A vineyard must be planted and tended. It takes time and diligent care to make good wine. The same is true of making disciples. The necessity of the local church, then, can hardly be overemphasized. The local church is our Lord's chosen means for gathering his redeemed people, feeding them with his Word, receiving their worship, strengthening their faith, and bonding them as a people rooted and grounded in love. The local church is a manifestation of the people of Christ and the place where Christ meets with his people through the means he has ordained. This makes church-planting essential to missions and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
May God strengthen our labors in Milan, Perugia and Turin as we seek to plant vineyards of the gospel, that is, true and faithful local churches, where disciples will be made for generations!