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.
Today’s Bible verses are known as the Great Commission. After the Resurrection, Jesus commissioned His Disciples to spread the Gospel to the entire world. In fact, there are four verbs in these verses instructing His disciples exactly what to do—go, make (disciples), baptize, and teach. A disciple is a follower, a student. An apostle is a recruiter, one who spreads news. One must be a disciple before being an apostle. In essence, in these verses, Jesus commissioned His students to go out and be His teachers, and His recruiters. This was not a great suggestion. It was a great commission, an order.
All followers of Jesus are disciples. We are all disciples. Being a disciple is not enough. Why? Because what we believe is good news that we should want to bring to someone else. And second, if we do not spread this news and do not bring others into the fold, then the faith and the Church dies with us. Thus, we are all called to be apostles.
At every baptism service, the above Scripture verses are read over the person who has just been baptized. Through baptism, they are not only welcomed into the church, but they are commissioned just like the first disciples, with the expectation that we will bring others to Christ and to the church. I once heard a podcast where the speaker talked about the purpose of a shoe factory being to make shoes. He said, “if you have a beautiful factory, pricey machinery and great workers but the factory doesn’t produce shoes, then it is a failure.” Similarly, the purpose of the church is to make disciples. If we have beautiful churches, ornate furnishings, and nice people, but the church is empty, if there are no disciples being made, then the church has failed as well.
God has given each of us a way to bring others to Him. To some, like me, we are called to do it as priests. Some will do it as parents, bringing their own children to know the Lord. Each of us will have many opportunities in life to talk to someone in need, most likely a family member or close friend. There will be an opportunity to pray with that person. Will we do it? There will be an opportunity to shine Christ’s light on someone, either intentionally or even unintentionally. Are we going to do that? Each of us has at least one talent that we can use to serve others, and to make a living for ourselves. And each of us has a way to spread the Gospel. At our judgment before Christ, He is going to ask us how we used the talents He gave us, and He’s also going to ask us what did we do to bring His message to others. Our judgment of being worthy of His kingdom will be based in part on this.
So, on a practical level, how can we bring others into the faith? The easiest way is by example. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—are very rare in the world today. They are also very attractive. People crave peace, they want kindness, they wish they had patience. When we are these things, when we model these things, we become attractive to people (almost everyone) who wants these things. When we model them, and people want to emulate them, they will inevitably ask, how are you patient, or kind or joyful? And then there is the opportunity to tell them how Christ helps us be these things.
Another example is going about your Christian faith—go to church on Sundays, so that your children see that it is important and your friends realize it is important to you. Read the Bible at home. Contribute generously to charitable causes. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells us “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” When people see our good works, when they are done in a way that shines a light upon God, they will want to glorify our Father in heaven.
Inviting someone to church is somewhat risky. What will someone think if you put yourself out there like that? What if they say no? What if they say yes? What will they find if they come and see your church—will it be in a language they understand? Will people be welcoming and friendly?
The thing we can say for certain about bringing people to Christ is that in order to do this, you first must have come to Him yourself. We can’t convince people to join something that we are not convinced of. The other thing we can say for certain is that we cannot control outcomes, only efforts. We can’t make people come to Christ, we can only invite them. And even more certain, we can bring Christ to people, but we can’t convert them. The Holy Spirit is the one who converts hearts of people to come to Christ. So, how can we bring others to the faith—believe, practice, model and invite, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
Lord, thank You for the gift of my baptism. Thank You for calling me to You, and accepting me as one of Your disciples. Help me to be a good student of faith. Help me to comprehend the message of the Gospel. Allow my heart to meditate on You. Kindle in me a joy for You, so that not only I want to be with You but I want to invite others also. Give me the courage to lead by example. Give me the boldness to invite others. Send Your Holy Spirit into those around me. Use me to lead them to You. Amen.
We have all been commissioned to spread the Gospel from the time of our baptisms. It is not enough just be a disciple. We must first be a disciple and eventually an apostle. This isn’t a suggestion. It is a commission.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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