I’ve intended to get to For the Sake of His Name for quite some time. The fact that I’m preaching on Matthew 28:18-20 this weekend has finally given me the push I need. For the sake of time, I skipped the first two chapters on the history of the Student Volunteer Movement. I wanted to jump ahead to chapter 4, where Dr. Dave Doran addresses the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20.
My response? You need to read this. It is available here, and it is exceptional. Chapter 4 doesn’t address “missions” as much as it addresses the church’s “mission,” regardless of time or place. In other words, if you’re a pastor in Iowa with no thought of heading for Africa, you still need to read this book, or at least this chapter. It’s contribution to your philosophy of ministry will be significant.
After providing a brief and helpful exposition of the passage, Dr. Doran spends the second half of the chapter giving the implications of “making disciples” for our understanding of the gospel, evangelism, and ministry in general. That’s where I’ll focus the remainder of this post. It was riveting for me as I considered my ministry in light of what Dr. Doran demonstrates to be the biblical ideal.
Dr. Doran deftly addresses several key issues related to the Great Commission:
- Though we often say that the Great Commission is evangelism, that’s not quite accurate. The problem with limiting the Great Commission to evangelism is not simply that the Commission also requires baptism and the teaching of all things Christ commanded (though that is indeed a problem); it’s also that the Commission requires “making disciples.” That’s a much different command and goal than merely “preaching.”
“Any meaningful attempt to obey this commission must come to grips with what it means to make disciples. The task before us is not simply announcing the good news of Jesus Christ; it is making disciples for Jesus Christ.” (p. 76)
- He goes after easy-believism and decisionism mercilessly: “The Great Commission produces disciples, not decisions,” p. 77). He leaves those who disagree no wiggle room on this point.
- He argues that perseverance is the mark of a disciple, not merely a profession of faith (p. 78). Lest his concern be dismissed, he explains its importance thus:
“What is at stake in this debate is the power of the gospel—does it produce a new creation in Christ who follows Him?” (p. 79)
- He insists that we must preach Christ, not merely forgiveness:
“[T]he gospel is not primarily about salvation; it is about a Saviour!” (p. 80, see also Piper’s God Is the Gospel)
- He insists that one must receive Christ with His entire being—mind, will, and emotions—not just consent to facts about Christ. (p. 82)
- He insists that salvation necessitates repentance, not merely faith. This point is so crucial (and, shockingly, controversial) that I’ll quote Dr. Doran on repentance in a separate post.
- He again returns to the doctrine of perseverance, insisting that “where there is no new life, the biblical conclusion is that there has been no new birth.” (p. 87) He bemoans “our preoccupation with professions of faith” and argues that we’re out of step with Paul’s teaching and with Christ’s Great Commission. (p. 88)
I mentioned in the post about the National Church Planting Conference that Larry Rogier commented to me that one won’t find better preaching than Dr. Doran’s 3-part series there at any conference, from any speaker. Well, I suggest that you won’t find a better treatment of the Great Commission and its implications for gospel ministry than what Dr. Doran provides in chapter 3 of this book—not from Piper, Packer, MacArthur, whoever. It’s that good.
Here’s one more statement to wet appetite and motivate you to acquire and read this book:
“In contrast to the sometimes shallow approaches to evangelism and discipleship popular in our day, the New Testament presents us with a powerful gospel that focuses on Jesus Christ Himself, not just what He offers to sinners. And, rather than simply providing an eternal address change, the saving grace of God makes believers into new creatures, created to reflect God’s image in righteousness and holiness. It is toward this purpose that we proclaim Christ.” (p. 91)
(Note: The comments of this thread contain much of the review, as the post was written before I completed reading the book. They would be worth reading—which is not always the case.)