If someone who was a stranger to Christian belief asked you to explain what is meant by the “Great Commission,” what would your short answer be? If I were a gambling man, I would bet that the answer of most American Christians would focus on the necessity of evangelism: Christians have a mandate from their Lord to make converts.
Of Course, Jesus said no such thing. He said to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to obey everything he ever taught. Obviously the first step to making disciples is to encourage conversion, but the Church has not honored the Great Commissions if it has failed to nurture obedient and baptized disciples.
I have actually discussed this from time to time with friends. Where is the injunction to just evangelize? Probably the closest we can get is the example of the disciple’s lives, but even then we are faced with their strenuous efforts to reorient new converts. I see the early disciples has having a two-pronged approach to conversion-What makes me a Christian, and what does being a Christian make me?
For one reason or another, we have been lulled into thinking numbers of converts are all that count. Success is measured by the number of cards filled out or the number of people in the pews. I think it is clear that if the Church fails to make disciples, then it has failed to accomplish the Great Commission. And of course, it is much harder, if not impossible to “count” discipleship.
Here is another quote that I think needs to be shouted from the rooftops of denominational headquarters:
Many pastors see themselves as service providers of techniques of attitude adjustment, seeking the eager enthusiasm of fans and the safe contentment of satisfied consumers, instead of being shepherds committed to the deep and often painful reorientation of souls.
It is my contention that if you surveyed people on the streets about the job descriptions of psychologists and clergy, the results would be almost indistinguishable. I am afraid that not only do most people view pastors as “spiritual counselors,” but that most pastors do as well. There is certainly nothing wrong with pastoral counseling, don’t read into my comments here. But there is something wrong when pastors have lost the high calling of shepherding souls and replaced it with the latest pop-psychology technique. Quite frankly, as a pastor I am neither trained nor suited to do the things counselors do. As a pastor I must find my role in the calling of the shepherd.
The recent glut of “church growth” techniques has reduced pastors to mere administrators and cheerleaders. When pastoring a church is about “eager enthusiasm” and “satisfied consumers,” the role of biblical shepherd has been lost.