In what is often referred to as “The Great Commission,” Jesus gave the apostles their marching orders before He returned to heaven. Matthew records it for us: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you..’” (Mt. 28: 18-20). It literally translates, “going (having gone or wherever you go), make disciples..” The command—the “Mandate of the Master”— is to “make disciples.”
Just moments before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gathered His disciples together and “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised… (the coming of the Holy Spirit…Acts 1:4 cf Jn. 14:15-26; 15:26,27; 16:13-15)…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnessed both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). They did wait in Jerusalem and ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and all who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation ever since are also indwelled by the Holy Spirit, equipping and empowering us to fulfill Jesus’ mandate of “making disciples of all the nations.” The fact that there are believers today in every corner of the globe is evidence that God’s plan worked and will continue to until the beginning of the eternal state.
Each one of us who knows Christ as Savior has that same mandate given to us to “make disciples.” As I was thinking about our responsibility to pass on to others—starting with our family—what God is doing in our lives, I thought of an example from the world of sports. We have been fans and followers of Duke men’s basketball team under head coach Mike Krzyzewski for many years. Mike was born 2-13-1947, so just turned 74 and continues to have a passion for the game of basketball. “Coach K” played basketball for Army from 1966-1969. He became assistant coach at Indiana from 1974-1975 and then head coach for the Army from 1975-1980. He became head coach at Duke in 1981 and has continued there through the present, compiling a career overall record of 1,167-358. His tenure at Duke has included 12 NCAA Final Fours and 5 national championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010 and 2015). His teams have also finished first in The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) 12 times, and have won 15 ACC tournaments. “Coach K” has won more basketball games than any other coach in history—and he’s not done yet! Three times he has been named “Naismith College Coach of the Year.” He has been either assistant or head coach of our national team, helping them win 5 gold medals in the Olympics.
Over his amazing career at Duke, “Coach K” has been offered a head coaching position in the NBA by the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trailblazers, New Jersey Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers offered him a five-year contract and part ownership in the team. The Nets offered him a $15 million per year contract. He turned them all down, indicating he loves where he is and the program at Duke and it isn’t about more money.
One of the impressive things about “Coach K’s” career is the number of his players that have gone on to successful professional careers. Currently there are 37 “Dukey’s” playing professionally (Kentucky is the only other school with that many). Maybe the most impressive aspect, however, of “Coach K’s” time at Duke is the number of his young assistant coaches that he has mentored who are now head coaches of major college programs: Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Mike Brey at Notre Dame, Jeff Capel at Pittsburgh, Chris Collins at Northwestern, Johnny Dawkins at Central Florida, Bobby Hurley at Arizona State University, Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette. In addition, Quin Snyder is coach for the Utah Jazz. That is quite a list of “disciples” I’d say!
I see a similar list when I look in the New Testament at the life of Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Paul, in his three missionary journeys, compiled quite an entourage of helpers that he mentored and then left in charge at the churches that were established in Asia Minor and in Europe. Not only did they have the privilege of working side by side, learning from Paul, but he wrote them letters of encouragement and exhortation. His final three letters of I Timothy, Titus, and II Timothy were written to encourage two of his understudies whom he left to pastor in Ephesus and Crete. Paul’s “mission statement” is given in his letter to the believers at Corinth in Greece. He writes: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…”(I Cor 15:3). He passed on what God had taught Him. Note Paul’s challenge to young Timothy as he faced the challenging task of pastoring at Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey today): “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witness, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2). In other words, “Go and make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples….” That is Christ’s mandate to each of us. What God is doing in us and teaching us through His Word is not to end with us, but is to be passed on through our working with, teaching and mentoring others, helping equip them to do the same. (For a list of some of those who worked with Paul besides Timothy and Titus, see Ro. 16: 1-16 where he lists others such as Phoebe, Prisca and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Adronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, et al.)
We are stewards of the spiritual treasure God has given us. It is our responsibility to guard the deposit and then invest it in the lives of others. They in turn, are to share the Word with the next generation of believers. Discipleship, like coaching, is a lot of work, but it is how the Lord builds His church. It is His “Spiritual Mandate.” We need to put more of our time and resources into equipping the saints, rather than entertaining them. A generation of believers who cannot articulate what they believe and why they believe it will greatly compromise the effectiveness of the church in carrying out our mandate. So, how are you doing? Who are you mentoring? Don’t keep it to yourself!