Our first week into our GO month series—“Understanding the Great Commission”—laid the necessary groundwork for the next three weeks, but still there are remaining questions. Here are three that came in during the service via our text line. [Click to listen or watch the message and join us for this month-long emphasis on mission(s).]
Q: So why did the disciples not go, even years later?
I’m not sure I understand the question, because from everything I read in Acts, they did go! In fact, “going” is assumed by Jesus in Matthew 28:19 (it’s a participle), and their first stop was Jerusalem. They went back just as they were commanded and were “going” locally (Acts 2-7), then many were “going out” because of persecution (Acts 8-9), Peter was “going” to Samaria (Acts 10), and Paul and Barnabas (and others later) knew they were to “go” to the ends of the world (Acts 13-28).
If I said something in the message that seemed to indicate they weren’t going, or if I have misunderstood the question, my apologies.
Q: What if the nations reject the gospel? Do we as Christians want to be seen as shoving the gospel down the throats of others?
Remember, rejection doesn’t automatically mean the problem is with the presenter. Nor does it always mean we’re “shoving it down their throats.” I admit that sometimes Christ’s followers may not be the best witnesses possible; but often many are. And very often rejection is simply the response of the self-willed heart against God. Granted, they may take it out against us, even saying untrue things about us and misinterpreting our intentions. But that is no reason to stop doing the right thing, (i.e., being a witness) in the right way.
Which leads me to say, politeness and honesty are always in order. But so is courage. It takes a mix of all of these over time to break down walls and establish trust. Usually these traits show our true desires, and they enable us to be well received and understood. So even if someone rejects our message, they know we’re not force-feeding them.
So yes, some people will reject the gospel. But that doesn’t mean we’re too pushy or cramming something in them against their wishes. After all, they rejected Jesus, who was the Word made flesh, even killing him ultimately. And he was love, grace, and truth perfectly personified. Don’t be surprised if you get treated in a similar fashion even when you witness well.
My advice? Develop a big smile (love) and a strong spine (truth). That’s what long-term, fruitful disciplemaking requires.
Q: Is public baptism in any ethnicity the primary sign a disciple has been made?
I’d rather say it is the initial sign, not the primary sign. Why? Because the Great Commission talks about “baptizing” and “teaching to obey.” Identification and continuation are both signs of a genuine disciple.
Personally, I see baptism as the first step in Christian discipleship, not as the final step in church membership. It is the initial step we take in showing others how we are following Christ, and many more obedient steps follow soon after (Acts 2:42-44).
Interestingly, I received word a few weeks ago that a certain mission agency representative has recently labeled baptism a “western rite” and is asking for missionaries to soften the call for baptism among new converts. This is more than unfortunate; it is unbiblical. The Great Commission calls for baptism as the initial indication of conversion among all ethnicities, not just western ones. So regardless of location, culture, or language, baptism is the first public indication one is unashamedly a follower of Jesus (Acts 2:41).