You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.
If you stop to think about the way you live the Christian life (how you were discipled) practically, day-to-day, I would guess you have learned what you do by imitating other Christians. The positive and negative habits, both good and bad traits, have been developed by imitation.
Wired for imitation
We are wired for imitation. How we live the Christian life is more caught than taught.
Faster and more powerful
Imitation is more powerful than education. Duplication is more powerful than doctrine. We are shaped more by mimicking others than we are memorizing theology. We copy the way others live faster than following what they teach.
A way of life
Jesus’ final mandate in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission) was to make disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not to learn) everything he commanded. A disciple is an apprentice, a follower, an imitator of a way of life.
Not about belief
There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. The mandate is to make people imitate a way of life. Jesus didn’t say teach them to KNOW everything I commanded. He said OBSERVE—live it!
Living what we believe
Don’t hear me say that what we believe is not important. What I am saying is the more important point is living what we believe.
Discipleship is about imitating a certain way of life. If every church imitated your church, what would the state of the church in your community be?
Not style but character
I know we value diversity and different styles and we wouldn’t want every church to be a copy of just one church, but I’m not talking about style, I’m talking about character.
If every church…
So if every church imitated the generosity of your church, how much resources would flow out of the church and touch the lives of the people in your community?
If every church imitated the outreach and evangelism of your church, how many people would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the message of who Jesus is and what he has done?
If every church imitated the service and assistance of your church, how much good would be done around your community? Would service organization be overrun with volunteers? Would schools be glutted with tutors? Would park districts and municipalities be laying off employees because there would be so many people cleaning up and working in the community?
What about you?
Those were broad generalizations about the church as a whole. Let me really meddle for a moment and ask you to apply the same question to yourself. What about you is worth imitating?
If every Christian…
If every Christian in your church imitated you, what would the church look like? You don’t have to think about your entire community, just think about what your church would be like if everyone was like you.
If everyone has the same level of faith you have, what atmosphere of confidence in who God is and certainty that he will do what he has promised to do, would there be in your church? If everyone treated their family like you do, how strong would the homes be of people from your church? If everyone prayed with the same consistency and intensity as you, what would the prayer life of your church be?
A life worth imitating
Your goal should be a life shaped by Jesus, worth imitating. Until you do, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled. Making disciples is more than convincing them what to believe. Making disciples is about convincing people your life is worth imitating.