Discipleship: The Essence of the Great Commission

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As a new believer on the ship where I worked, I was alone in my walk with Christ. I did not have a church to attend or a pastor to guide me in the faith; not even a theological frame of reference to cling to. But, what I did have—the Bible and the Holy Spirit—is still with me today. However, without proper orientation I could have been led into the error of any theological frame of reference.

The turning point happened on a cool, December morning at the Port of West Palm. I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from a young lady who is now my wife. She wanted a tour of the ship where I worked at the time. While showing her around, she got a glimpse of the cabin where I lived for seven years of my adult life. On my desk was some “Christian” literature which included a booklet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She browsed through the literature and commented on the Jehovah’s Witnesses booklet by saying, “This is not good literature; the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaching is considered to be false.” As a result of this discovery, I was blessed with some wholesome Christian discipleship material that she gave me. (Sensible objections to truth must always be replaced by sound orthodox truth.) The material was instructional, transformational, and inspiring. Consequently, I grew spiritually and became grounded in the truth. Providentially, I was discipled from the Wesleyan Arminian traditions!

As I reflect on that providential visit, I am indebted to the kind and honest clarification of my wife and to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I believe that discipleship is the crux of the Great Commission. It is what produces genuine and faithful followers of Jesus. Evangelistic campaigns produce the crowd and a decision to follow Christ, but discipleship produces character and the decency of Christ.  They both go together, but the latter is what makes the former to continually look good. George Barna stated, “There are many decisions to follow Christ, but few conversions to Christ.” The reality is simple and straightforward: Discipleship is all about spiritual formation, a lifelong pursuit and growth into the character of Christ. Every church and Christian organization should be intentional and systematic about the crux of the Great Commission—discipleship.

Robert Coleman delineates in His book “The Master Plan of Evangelism” eight strategic steps that Jesus used to fully disciple his followers: “Selection—men were His method; Association—He remained with them; Consecration—He expected obedience from them; Communication—He gave Himself to [and for] them; Demonstration—He taught them how to live; Delegation—He assigned work; Supervision—He constantly guarded [His disciples]; Reproduction—He expected the reproduction of His character.

The Great Commission includes six systematic statements that we should follow to ensure that what Jesus began would have lasting and positive results: the means, the mandate, the mission, the message, the model, and the motivation for biblical discipleship. We will feature them in future articles. Would you consider prayerfully supporting us as we continue the commission of Christ around the world? God bless you for your consistent partnership!

~ Sidney Grant, President FEA Ministries, Inc.