The Local Church and the Great Commission: The Sending Out of Disciple-Makers

Check out the first part of this blog – The Local Church and the Great Commission: One Mission, Two Contexts

One of the most effective ways for the local church to fulfill the Great Commission is to be actively involved in sending people out to make disciples in all nations.  One may respond to that statement by arguing for the need to reach the lost people in our own neighborhoods and local communities.  I believe it is a both/and and not an either/or when it comes to disciple making.  A healthy church is concerned with proclaiming the gospel in the local community and around the world. With that said, a Pashtun man in Southern Afghanistan is not going to accidentally make his way to the Southeastern part of the United States, find a church, and hear the gospel.  We have the only message that can bring salvation to him, and the urgency of eternity ought to propel us to be intentional about going and sending people to share Christ with people like the Pashtuns.

One way to determine how passionate a church is about the Great Commission is to observe how many and how often they are sending people out. When a church of 400 people, sends out 15 people a year on one or two mission trips, that church, whether they realize or not, may be neglecting the command of Christ to make disciples in all nations. A good indicator of a Great Commission church is not only how many people they are bringing in, but also how many people they are sending out.

In Acts 13, we see the church not as merely the place of ministry, but as the base of ministry as they send out Paul and Barnabas. Now, one must be careful and not imply from that text that everyone is called to career missions. At the same time, churches are most effective at making disciples in all nations when they are regularly sending people out.  This picture in Acts reminds us that the church is not intended to be a social club, but a missions sending strategy center.

For simplicity in thinking through ways the church can be involved in sending people out, we will use the categories of Short, Mid, and Long-term. I think every person in a local church who is physically able ought to prayerfully consider going on short-term (1-2 weeks) mission trip. Short-term trips assist in broadening our global perspective, allows us to encourage our brothers and sisters around the world, and exposes us to the realities of the lost world around us. I would urge every church to encourage the doctors, businessmen, homemakers, and high school students in their congregation to consider giving up one week a year to minister in a cross-cultural context.

Another avenue that is gaining interest is the idea of mid-term missions (2 months to 2 years). Often, after being on 2-3 short-term trips people are eager to spend more time ministering cross-culturally. Mid-term allows a college student, a schoolteacher, or a retired couple to take a summer, a semester, a year, or two and devote their lives to global disciple-making.  Some have described mid-term as the “mormonization of the evangelical church.” Many think mid-term is only for young people, but I would argue that mid-term is also ideal for retired folks in their late 50’s and 60’s who want to use their wisdom and resources to serve Christ around the world.

Lastly, we need to continue to pray, call out, and send long-term disciple-makers. In many unreached places, it takes many years to be able to adapt to the culture, grasp the language, and to be able to communicate the gospel effectively.  Global disciple-making is not an overnight, one week, or two year activity.  It takes decades, centuries, and in some cases thousands of years to see the gospel firmly rooted among a people, disciples formed, and churches planted.  This is a long and enduring work and the need for people to commit their lives long-term is great. It is my prayer that more churches will carefully think through how they can most effectively send people out for the sake of Christ among the nations.