The Great Commission is about working yourself out of a job.
I find that simple statement is a helpful way to describe the crux of our mission. In short, our task is replication; replication of disciples and replication of churches. Look back at the commission, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. Being a disciple means making disciples. After all, we are not obeying all that has been commanded if we are missing the Great Commission!
The reverse can be stated as well. Can someone really call themselves a disciple of Christ if they are not following in his footsteps of making more disciples? We have a thin definition of disciple if it does not include regular evangelism or training of others. Perhaps we should be careful throwing the term disciple around without asking people if they have made a disciple.
People get a little nervous though, when you tell them they should be training others. Call it a gut feeling, but I think most Christians in North American churches feel unqualified to teach others anything substantial about the faith. I hear it a lot: “I wouldn’t know where to start,” or “I still need to learn more before I have anything to teach!” This, of course, reveals a misunderstandings of what discipleship means in the first place.
In a world of specialization, professionalism, and degrees, we have trained ourselves to think certification is necessary for education. People think the qualification to disciple comes from a role in the church (like pastor or deacon) or from academic training (like a seminary degree). In reality, the qualification to disciple comes from the status conferred by the gospel itself. Once a disciple, you are qualified to make disciples. It is as simple as that. In his helpful book, Side by Side, Ed Welch wisely states, “The wisdom of God is condensed in Christ and him crucified. If you know that wisdom, you are eminently qualified to help others” (Side buy Side, 56).
In this way, discipleship is a path. The moment one steps on that path, they are compelled (commanded really) to begin inviting others onto the path. Those further down the path provide guidance to those behind. In this way, even the very newest Christian has a role to play in discipling others. This is what I mean by working yourself out of a job.
I am from Tennessee, and there is a wonderful state park there called Fall Creek Falls. One of my favorite things to do at the park is hike a gorge between the two biggest waterfalls. At the end is a several hundred foot climb up a steep bank. A large cable is suspended next to the bank to provide a hand hold. When a group of people hike the gorge together, they must all climb this trail up the side. It is narrow and winding, so a group must go up in stages. One or two people will climb the first part of the trail and start helping up the people behind them. Level after level, the group moves up in stages, those in the front raising those behind until they can assist the ones below them. At each stage, they replace themselves.
That is a picture of discipleship. We show people how to take our place. In that way, we replicate, we reproduce, we multiply. Pastors should always be identifying men in their congregation who can do what they do. Small group leaders should never lead a group without asking who will take over if they leave. Even those who just got baptized now have a faith to pass on to those in darkness. This is true of men, women, boys, and girls. Everyone is called to increasing maturity and responsibility in the body, and everyone is called to help others get there too. Every member has a function in the church, which means every member has a job to pass down the line.
Whether you just stepped onto the path or you are a seasoned traveler, work yourself out of a job.