Making disciples as commanded in the Great Commission is about more than leading people to salvation in the Lord. We are to be helping them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They will then be “safe people” to be around and will be conscious of keeping others safe because of God’s love within them that “always protects” (1 Cor. 13:7).
The Great Commission suggests that we:
- Help people identify with the Lord.
Baptism symbolizes identifying with Christ in His death and resurrection. The new life we are raised to is known by His love (Jn. 13:34-35; Eph. 5:1-2) — “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:35). This is the love that always protects (1 Cor. 13:7).
- Train people in the ways of the Lord.
“Teaching them to obey everything” Jesus commanded can be capsulized in the two commands Jesus identified as the greatest commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) — to love God and love people. When we seek to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are concerned that the glory of His name is protected in all we do. When we love people, we will be patient and kind, along with all the other qualities of 1 Corinthians 13, which leave no room for abusing or neglecting people but rather protecting them.
- Acknowledge the Lord’s authority and presence.
The Great Commission begins with an assertion of Jesus’ authority and ends with the promise of His presence. We are ultimately accountable to Him for how we fulfill His commands, the greatest of which is to love. This suggests that we keep people safe and disciple people who become “safe people” not merely to keep insurance premiums down or fulfill legal responsibilities or because everybody else is doing it, but because we must answer to Him for how we have loved Him and people.
Emphasizing the Great Commission to the full sense of Jesus’ intent, therefore becomes a safeguard for the Church as it leads to the development of “safe people.” Keep in mind, however, that while you are helping people become fully devoted followers of Jesus who are “safe” to be around, you will have people within your church in various stages of that process. Some who have not yet learned to walk in the Spirit may give in to the desires of the flesh. And, you may even have some “sheep in wolves clothing.” Only God knows what is truly in somebody’s heart. Hence … the need for disciplemaking churches to take safety measures seriously. If you struggle with the idea of mixing ministry and church safety policies, read the following: