GUEST EDITORIAL: Focus on discipleship
If Southern Baptists want to see a “Great Commission Resurgence,” they need to focus on the relationship between disciples and the living Lord Jesus, not launch a new emphasis on evangelism. I have felt for a long time that Southern Baptists have focused on evangelism and missed discipleship. The most important part of the Great Commission is ‘teach them to practice everything I have commanded you.’ That’s discipleship, and that’s the heart of the Great Commission. If we want to have a resurgence in the Great Commission, there’s got to be a refocusing on the priorities of Christ for discipleship.
Declining baptism and membership statistics in the Southern Baptist Convention reflect not so much a lack of passion for Christ’s command to make disciples as a lack of relationship with Jesus Christ.
When you hear the Southern Baptist leadership being concerned about baptisms and all that, those are a byproduct of discipleship. When you lead a person into a relationship where Christ is Lord, everything else follows. You don’t have to convince them they need to spend time in God’s Word or prayer or in the fellowship or on mission. That’s a spontaneous response to a relationship to the living Lord.
Issuing a call for a resurgence of commitment to the Great Commission triggers the wrong response in Christians who are focused on religious activity, rather than a relationship with Christ.
Southern Baptists are program-oriented. We are missing the relationship. When you make a statement like (that), the first thing most pastors look for is, ‘What program’s going to come down the pike to help me do that?’ You don’t need a program to help you do that. You just need the relationship to the living Lord. The reason we are not effective is because we have moved from the relationship to a program activity.
Substituting activities for relationship also is why many churches are in decline or on a plateau.
We are not leading people into that immediate relationship with the living Lord. If you listen to most sermons, that intimate personal relationship is missing. If you talk to many church members, they feel they are in the right relationship to God when they attend all the worship services, they tithe, they go on a mission trip. And many a pastor would evaluate a member, not from the intimate relationship with the Lord, but for how faithful he is in all the activities of the church. And does he tithe?
I would say the greatest single need is to return to the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ and all of the implications that come from that.