The Great Commission of Christ is to share the gospel and make disciples.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20
Sometimes I paraphrase it, “go, win, baptize, teach.”
Yet, as clear as this commission—this mission statement of the local church—is, it is easy to become distracted.
Sometimes if we honestly ask, “Are we really making disciples, or just superficial converts?” the answer may be uncomfortable.
In a day of comfortable Christianity, testimonies like the Apostle Paul who was stoned and left for dead and then the very next day went on to preach in the next city (Acts 14:20–22) are unheard of. We need renewed tenacity in reaching and building people from the Word of God.
Jesus spent approximately half of His three years of public ministry purposefully investing in training twelve leaders—making disciples.
A disciple-making church, then, will be a Christ-centered church.
What are the characteristics of a disciple-making church?
1. A Christ-Centered Philosophy
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.—Luke 19:10
Jesus came to seek the lost. A Christ-centered church will actively, passionately, and purposefully seek to reach people with the gospel.
This will not be a side goal; it will be a consuming mission from the pulpit to the pews.
But it doesn’t stop there. A Christ-centered church will put a priority on training disciples (2 Timothy 2:2) and teaching people to share their faith. The goal of the Great Commission has never been that the pastor and a few especially-committed Christians share the gospel. It is that every Christian would share the church’s God-given mission to reach the world with the gospel.
2. A Christ-Centered Motivation
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:—2 Corinthians 5:14
If our motivations as spiritual leaders are fleshly, new disciples will not bear spiritual fruit.
Motives make a difference, and ours must remain the grace of God (2 Timothy 2:1), the love of God (2 Corinthians 5:14), and the Word of God (Acts 20:32).
3. A Christ-Centered Approach
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:—1 Corinthians 15:1, 3–4
Making disciples doesn’t end with making converts, but it does begin there. To lead people to Christ—not just to ourselves or to repeating a prayer—we must be committed to consistent and thorough gospel presentations.
When someone then makes a profession of faith, we must nurture their faith in the Lord and help them become grounded in biblical doctrine. This is why at Lancaster Baptist Church, we make consistent follow up after salvation a strong priority.
From the time a person is saved until they are a faithful, growing member of our church, the soulwinner and adult Bible class leader work together to encourage steps of obedience and growth including baptism, enrollment in an adult Bible class, attending a new members class, and enrollment in our discipleship program. The goal of all of this is to help them become grounded in their personal relationship with the Lord.
A Christ-centered, disciple-making church is the New Testament pattern. But it doesn’t happen accidentally. It takes leaders and members who are individually Christ-centered and committed to His Great Commission, motivated by His love, and consistent in their biblical approach to leading people to Christ.
In part 2, we will look at three more characteristics of the Christ-centered church that relate to the church’s culture and environment for growth.