But Jesus says, “Go and make disciples.” The blessed King James translation says, “Go and teach all nations.” That word doesn’t mean you cause people to wear a t-shirt, or get a plastic fish on their cars, or hand them a card to fill out, or to write a date down in the front cover of their Bible. It means you cause them to sit under the teaching. In the days of Christ, it meant that you gave up something in order to follow your teacher around – or at least to be available when he is in town to teach.
When you go and make disciples, what are you doing? That is: what ought you to do? Listen: without question, you are telling them the definition of the authority of Christ: Christ died for our sins, in accordance to the Scriptures. He was buried, and he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures. Christ has the authority over all life and even over death. In that, because of Christ’s authority, they must repent: they must go – depart from the life of this world into the life of Christ’s kingdom. But to say that and gain the first act of obedience is a one-time event. Evangelism is not merely a call to a one-time event.
This would be like saying buying a house is a one-time event: I signed the papers, but I don’t have to move in. I am the owner of the property, but you can’t expect me to live there, can you? Cut the grass? Know my neighbors? Pay the utilities and keep up the building? That sounds like you’re asking a lot of me – I just want to buy the house so I could claim the fancy address.
But that is exactly the paradigm we have to avoid in evangelism: merely getting people to volunteer or somehow agree. We have to get them to move into the household of God – because that’s where the Kingdom is. That’s where the Holy Spirit is. That’s where Salvation is. We are not looking for them to agree that we have won an argument with them: we are ambassadors for Christ, with God making his appeal through us. And we implore them on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Jesus to be sin even though he knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And in that, we are not asking them simply to say they need help: we are making them disciples. We are teaching them what Christ has taught us. In fact, Christ says that explicitly, doesn’t he? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
If we see evangelism as something more than this, or less than this, we have utterly missed the point.