The Great Commission was the last instructions Jesus gave to Christians (the church). It is based on the scripture verse in Mathew 28: 18.
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
How the Great Commission is interpreted today is extremely important. This is because it will determine what the church will do on the earth with regard to its mission. Many see the purpose of the church as solely sharing the Gospel and winning people over to Christianity. Other leaders see it as a more holistic approach. This includes not only sharing the Gospel but also discipling the converts and their cultures as a part of a holistic redemption process.
According to data gathered by social researcher George Barna, discipleship is generally not occurring within most American churches. This likely accounts for the lack of behavioral change with people once they become Christians. Yet, Jesus specifically instructed his church leaders that we are to "teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you." In other words, Jesus instructs us to not only teach people what to believe but how to obey and apply biblical principles in their lives.
The Great Commission is also deals with a global perspective in which we help to extend the reach of the Kingdom of God. The intention of Jesus is that we disciple whole nations and people groups. This encompasses both individuals and their cultures. Instead of following this pattern, the American version of Christianity focuses solely on sharing the message and moving on to the next person in a superficial form of mass evangelism. In reality, this is what I call the half-way gospel. It doesn't conform to the holistic approach laid out within the Great Commission. Jesus said to disciple the nation - not just make converts. Ken Gentry states the case quite well in the introduction to his book, The Greatness of the Great Commission. He states,
"Save Souls, Not Cultures! This has been the motto of twentieth-century evangelism. Having encountered heavy resistance to the prophet's message of comprehensive revival and restoration in history, modern evangelical Christianity has abandoned the prophets. Unlike Jonah, who grew weary of life in the belly of a whale, modern evangelicalism has not only grown accustomed to the Church's cultural irrelevance today, it has actually proclaimed this pathetic condition as God's plan for the "Church Age." But is it? Not according to Jesus' instructions to His Church: the discipline (putting under God's discipline) of all nations. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20)."
He adds, "Paul makes it clear here that the progressive expansion of Jesus' kingdom in history will continue until all things are under His dominion, on earth, before He returns physically to judge the world. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (I Corinthians 15-25-26).
This was David's message as well: The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies (Psalm 110:1-2)."
In The Greatness of the Great Commission, Gentry presents a biblical case for God's comprehensive salvation and restoration in history.
"Sin is comprehensive; God's healing grace is no less comprehensive. Whenever sin reigns today, there God speaks to sinful man and offers a way of escape. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). To argue that the Great Commission does not include every aspect of today's cultures - all of Satan's kingdom - is to argue that there is no way of escape in many areas of life."
Gentry adds, "The war between God's kingdom (civilization) on earth and Satan's kingdom (civilization) on earth is total, encompassing every aspect of life. The Great Commission calls the Church (in this Church Age) to make a full-scale attack on modern humanist civilization, but always in terms of a positive message and practical program: a better way of life in every area of life. This is the greatness of the Great Commission. It must not be narrowed to exclude culture from God's special grace."
The Great Commission states that all nations are to be discipled. "Go therefore and disciple all nations." Sadly, today most church leaders have reduced this last command by Jesus to mean that only that individuals and families are to be discipled. In his book Dr. Gentry takes a careful look at the biblical context and background of the Great Commission. He concludes that the biblical methods for world conquest by the gospel do not involve political takeovers but rather evangelism, discipleship and service so that whole cultures are impacted by the faith and transformed.
This book carefully studies Jesus' Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). It shows that the Christian enterprise in a fallen world is to win men and nations, individuals and whole cultures to the Christian faith. It shows the optimism for success inherent in Jesus' commission, as well as demonstrating the universal applicability of the Christian worldview.