In the first centuries of the Christianity, the Church was growing up quickly, and the quality of the faith and of living with God was much more superior to the one of nowadays. At that time the believers didn’t have the resources or the methods, or the technologies that are at our disposal our days, and, nevertheless, they had a greater success in preaching the Gospel when it is spoken about the result. The secret of their success was their obedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ and the fact that they did all that the Savior had commanded to them. In this article I want to analyse from the biblical point of view of the success of the growth of the Church from the first centuries and especially of the way how they were using the events and the process of discipleship, how these two parts of the Christian ministry were combined.
The definition of the Great Commission
From the beginning it is important to see what the Great Commission let by Jesus Christ to the apostles and to the disciples of all times is. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew and it says so:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (the Gospel of Matthew 28:18–20)(NASB)
I want to draw the attention of the readers to the fact that Jesus Christ has sent us to the people not only to tell them about Him, but also to make disciples. And disciple is the person who learns and who is dedicated to the process of learning. We are expected to teach the disciples “to observe all that He has commanded” and to teach how to apply, that is to act according to that teaching. Our obedience to Jesus Christ and the eficiency of the Christian ministry is measured according to the quality and the number of the disciples, that are those whom we taught “to observe all that the Savior has commanded”. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. He wants us to go in this authority of His and to make disciples of all the nations. We have to dedicate our lives for this purpose until the end of our days.
We cannot make disciples through one time events
This is a great deceit of the Christians and of the churches from nowadays, because the majority of the efforts are made for organizing the great Christian events, that are called in many ways: crusades, evangelism, festivals, etc. The praparation of these events needs so much effort, financial reasources, time, people and all these are done to bring people once, to a single event, to listen to the Word of God. No matter how qualitative and relevant the message preached at that event will be, it can not replace the process of making disciples and we can not say about that crowd of people that comes at the event, that they become disciples that observe all that Jesus has commanded. They have to be taught what has Jesus Christ commanded so that they may observe it, but this is a longer and hard process, that needs dedication of the teacher and of the disciple.
The events impress
Why then are there so many Christian workers that concern themeselves with organising the big events with a great number of people? Because the events impress. They impress other Christian workers, they impress the audience and they impress those who donate money on accomplishing these events. After these big events, the organizers report big numbers of the people “who have dedicated their lives to God”, “have repented”, “have received the gift of eternal life”, etc. to the donors. But the reality is not this, because very few of those who took any decisions at the events become disciples. And this is so because for many times the organizers of the events are not concerned of the further discipleship of those who have come back to God. When the Christian Church began, it was absolutely different.
The Church began with a great event
Here is how the Book of Acts relates about the beginning of the Christian Church.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:1–6)(NASB)
The Day of Pentecost was a Jewish feast, celebrated according to the Old Testament and so, in this case, the organizers of the evenst were Jews. God used this event to share the Gospel through the Christians that in that day received the Holy Spirit. I want to draw your attention that the event was neither thought out, nor planned, nor prepared by Christians, but by their obedience to the Holy Spirit, God used this event in a wonderful way to recrute many new disciples. The Apostle Peter has preached boldly about the Lord Jesus Christ to the crowd gathered there and those were the results:
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)(NASB)
If the disciples had had the modern philosophy of the Christian ministry, they would have thought how to organize again such kind of events after such a great success, so that they would have gathered thousand people and to evangelize them. No way of such kind of thinking. Immediately after that, the discipleship of those who had turned to God became the first and the greatest priority.
Teaching Christians is the greatest priority in sharing the Gospel
The apostles were devoted to the Great Commission received by Jesus Christ who said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. They passed to the process of teaching people immediately. The Scripture writes in continuation about those three thousand souls that had received Peter’s preaching.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)(NASB)
The disciples dedicated to making disciples and they did this every day, not only on Sunday or twice a week, how it is used today in Christianity. All disciples kept feeling a sense of awe to study the Scriptures daily and the apostles were those who were encouraging, teaching and maintain that discipline, because they were dedicated to the process of discipleship because they came to teach the disciples daily “to observe all that Jesus has commanded.”
God creates the events to recrute new disciples
No one of the disciples came with the idea of organizing a great Evangelism in Jerusalem, since it was such a great commencement of people. All were concerned of teaching those who had been Christianised. The qualitative discipleship is the most efficient evangelism, because the changed lives of the believers and their full of love relation made them be pleasant before all people and God was adding those saved to their number daily. People were coming to hear about the power that had changed their neighbors, employers, chiefs, collegs, relatives and when they were listening to the Gospel, they were dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ. The high quality of the teaching given by the church increased the quality of the Christians’ characters and relations between them at the highest level. And if talking about the organizing of the new events, God did this through those who were totally obedient to Him. Here is such a case:
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people…(Acts 3:1–12)(NASB)
In continuation, Peter and John preached to the people gathered there and they explained to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4 :1–4)(NASB)
I will put down my personal conclusions that I have made in regards to the relation between events and the process of discipleship in fulfilling the Great Commission let by Jesus to the church, according to the biblical texts related in this article:
The Great Commission let by the Lord Jesus to the disciples of all times is to go to all nations and to make other disciples.
Disciples are made only through the systematic study of the Holy Scriptures that contain “all that Jesus has commanded”.
The Lord Jesus Christ hasn’t sent us to do great events, for a single time, with a great number of people to make disciples.
The workers of the Gospel have to do their utmost to make disciples, that is to teach people the Word of God.
The permanent concern of organizing the Christian events steal the time, the energy and the resources of the Christians and this is in their detriment.
The index of the efficiency of every Christians worker’s ministry is the quality and the number of teh disciples.
Disciples are people who dedicated themselves to the process of systematic studying of the Holy Scriptures and that observe this teaching, preaching it to others.
May God help us to fulfill the Great Commission, making disciples of all nations and teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded to us. Io, He is with us always, even to the end of the age to fulfill this purpose.
Translated by Djugostran Felicia