Having a plan to grow deep disciples

In the Great Commission, Jesus commands his disciples to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (Mt 28:16). Included in the "everything" must be the Great Commission itself. However, I wonder how well our churches do at fulfilling the whole Great Commission.

Many churches find themselves being good at one part or another of the Great Commission. They become specialists at evangelism ("make disciples") but cannot grow people deep in the faith. Or they become sacramental ("baptizing them") but not so good at bringing in new disciples. Or they specialize in equipping or discipling people ("teach them to obey"), but they drop the sacraments or have a hard time focusing on non-Christians.

How difficult is it to obey the whole Great Commission? If you ask Dallas Willard, it must be mighty difficult. In 1988 he lamented that almost no churches had a plan for teaching believers to obey everything Christ commanded (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 16). I wonder how much better we are doing today. With the influence of Willard, Foster, and others like them, we have to be getting somewhere.

And yet I am not convinced that very many churches have a plan for growing people deep in the faith. I think most evangelical churches in particular still labor under the misunderstanding Willard excoriates -- that we will become spiritually mature simply by saying the sinner's prayer and then hanging around church events. We are expected to grow by attending things. Events we have in spades. But well thought out plans for spiritual maturity are rare.

Spiritual formation depends not so much on what events we attend but on what habits we attend to.

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