16 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
In this passage, Jesus speaks to those who doubt and those who are convinced. And He offers them the same call and commission He gave in the beginning of His ministry – that those who follow Him, He will make fishers of men. It is God who does the making. It is we who do the following. And we “go” because He is “going.”
In this passage, Jesus is specific about the “what” we are to do. We are to “Go.” We are to “make disciples.” We are to exclude NO nations (the word here can be translated “ethnicities”). And because baptism is the public display of an inward condition of repentance, we are to “baptize.”
Finally, we’re to “teach” others to observe (and implicitly to obey). The passage reminds us we are never alone and are empowered. He is with us always.
There are explicit and implicit commissionings at the end of each Gospel and at the beginning of Acts. Jesus begins His ministry by saying, “Follow Me,” and then He goes. His disciples either go with Him or they get left behind.
Those who follow in Acts are first accused of being like Jesus when they intentionally reach out to their world. The spiritual discipline of evangelism is not about a quick foray into follow-ship. Instead, it happens in the context of follow-ship.
We evangelize because we follow, not instead of following. It is a sign of our commitment as believers that we go where He goes.
Many people overthink the discipline of evangelism. They hope to have a specific tool that is guaranteed to work with all people, everywhere. In my experience this is rarely the case. Here are a couple of ways to practice this discipline:
First, become “holy curious.” I don’t mean here that we become curious about the holy, but rather that we become curious about others because the Holy Spirit is genuinely interested in them. This means listening to what they say and asking the next question.
A tip here is not to ask leading questions (i.e. questions that give someone the feeling they’re being led down a pre-determined argument), but open, genuine questions. As one friend put it, “Questions are the currency of conversations and credibility.”
Second, identify those whom God may be asking you to invest in. The commissioning in Matthew is to “make disciples.” This is different than “making students” or “imparting knowledge” or “getting someone to say a prayer.” Making a disciple means you’re willing to a) be imitated (people read what you do even more than what you say), and b) share what you know.
There’s an old truth that says, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” The most effective way to share your faith is to share how you see life differently. And that’s something all of us can do because it is Jesus who makes the difference.
Using Matthew 28, practice evangelism, utilizing some of the following suggestions:
- Read this passage relatively quickly to get an overview, and then write down how your life has changed as a result of giving over complete control of your life to follow Jesus Christ.
- Ask yourself: am I genuinely curious about people around me? For many, the answer is, “I’d like to be, but I’m not.” So pray to the Lord that He would awaken a genuine curiosity about those who don’t know Jesus.
- Feet follow faith. Jesus didn’t tell us to “Stay, therefore….” He said, “Go, therefore….” So write down the names of the people in your relationship network who don’t know Jesus, but who Jesus may be calling you to bless.
- Be genuine to meet the person where THEY are and not where YOU are. Many people evangelize out of part-guilt, part-zeal, part-excitement and part-fear. When you do that out of those motives, then the chances are high that you’ll view people as projects rather than as people. Instead, let your motive be love. Love meets people where they are and takes seriously their perspectives. Love isn’t pedantic or condescending. Love is selfless, gentle, kind and truthful.