In the beginning, west of Eden, humanity began to fulfill the command of God: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God’s creation is continually fruitful in a continually changing environment. To adapt and be fruitful is natural to all creation.
In the beginning, north of Calvary, the disciples began to fulfill the command of Jesus Christ to be fruitful and multiply: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In the following twenty centuries the pace of change has accelerated as the population of the world has increased. Each new generation of Christians has flourished relative to their obedience to everything that Jesus commanded. As Donald McGavran said, “It is God’s will that his Church grow, that his lost children are found.”2 The foundational principle of church growth is “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). The Great Commission is more than a principle; it is a pattern for the Church of Jesus Christ to obediently practice in order to fulfill God’s will to be fruitful and multiply.
As a pattern, however, the prophetic words of G. K. Chesterton from a book entitled What’s Wrong With The World(1910) seem very accurate with regard to the church’s command to be fruitful and multiply:
The great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
I would likewise say that the Great Commission has not been tried and found wanting or ineffective, but that it has been found difficult and left untried. Or, as Jesus put it so clearly in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” To dedicate your efforts to following Jesus and obeying him means to pass through the gate of the Great Commission and seek to live it out, along with everything else Christ commanded.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way… (Isaiah 53:6a). We have turned away from the Great Commission pattern to chase after something shiny and shallow. How is it possible that anyone could seek to be like Jesus but ignore the task of making disciples?
SOURCES: (Right Click, select “Open In New Tab” to view links.)
McGavran quote: Win Arn, “The Donald McGavran I Knew,” Ministry Advantage 7, no. 4:6.
Chesterton quote: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton
Disciplewalk.com: Project Introduction at http://www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html