in the majority of evangelical churches, there is a lot of talk about “the great commission.” this is the command that Jesus gave His followers to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations. truly, the original language (greek) doesn’t refer to “nations” as we understand them. it is the word “ethnos” (ἔθνος), which is where we get our word, “ethnicity.” so what He was saying was to make disciples of all people groups, of every color, and culture in the world. this is where our missionary efforts come from…sending out missionaries to carry out this commission. this is typically a very difficult but very rewarding lifestyle and many of our missionaries have given their lives in response to this call…spreading the Gospel message all the while and sowing seeds of the Gospel all across the world…in the attempt to make disciples. we also do this (or should be doing this) at home, in our communities, counties, states, and nation…
there was a group of people during Jesus day called the “pharisees”…their name referring to their being “set apart.” in their day, we could best describe them as the fundamentalists. they were very rules oriented and were very conscious always about the Law (of Moses) and how well they were following it. they had rules for their rules. for example, the Law stated that one could not work on the sabbath. so they added some further stipulations to it to ensure that it could not be transgressed. they said that you were guilty of breaking the Law if you even picked up an implement of work on the sabbath. if you had a sewing needle in your robe (like having a tool in your pocket) and you left it there until the sabbath, then you couldn’t even pick up the robe on the sabbath…because that would be to pick up the implement of work. the extremes they went to in order to ensure that the rules would not be broken on resulted in many, many more rules…and they loved the rules…
Jesus said to them:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
(Matthew 23:15 ESV)
…strong words…very strong words…and my question is…why? why did Jesus use such strong language with these men? why did He say that their disciples (proselytes) would become sons, or children, of hell? what is the big deal here? isn’t the fact that they were doing something better than nothing? isn’t He being kind of harsh here? i mean, maybe they’re quite a bit stricter than we would agree with, and maybe they get bent out of shape over some pretty goofy things…but aren’t they doing SOME good? He didn’t seem to think that they were helping the world at all, and in fact, indicated that they were actually hurting the world…hell being a bad thing and all…so back to my question…”why?”
well…we have to first consider that these men were not concerned with people. they were concerned with being right, and winning the debate…unlike anything in our culture…(wink, wink)…their concern was not for the well being of others and what could be done to help produce growth in people’s lives…it was for making sure that their people weren’t breaking the rules and were checking off every box. for sure, they didn’t want people to challenge things they held to be true and to do so could mean death…like even on a roman cross. the really sad thing is that they were reproducing their way of thinking in others…propagating the problem and in truth making it worse as time went on…adding more and more rules… and they would’ve thought of that as discipleship.
sadly, i think that we within evangelicalism think of this the same way. we see discipleship as reproducing people who accept what we accept, think as we think, and essentially look like we look…but i wonder if that is not discipleship, but brainwashing…and if the pharisees (or ourselves) are producing brainwashed reproductions…who are concerned with eternally unimportant matters such as they/we are…doesn’t the problem get bigger and bigger…ultimately producing generations of children of hell…thinking that they have it all figured out and that God fits into their tight little description of Him…all the while being at least somewhat off-base?
discipleship is not the same thing as brainwashing…it is more of a guiding relationship as opposed to a pushing of ideologies. a disciple should reflect his or her individuality while worshiping and loving the same God. but this means that they will by nature be a little different than the generation preceding…at least in methodology, while holding to the same core truth…and we have to be okay with that…lest we produce sons of hell ourselves…and i wonder…am i producing people that are simply regurgitating principles and rules that i’ve fed them…or am i producing people that are seeking after a relationship with Christ in a very personal way…asking questions…challenging concepts…thinking through the “why’s” behind all that we do? are we as churches producing people that have a passionate desire for a Spirit-led life, or are we producing people who simply think certain things are bad (alcohol, tattoos, etc.) because we have told them they are bad?
so i ask you…what is the evangelical movement producing? what do you think…