And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What does worship have to do with the Great Commission? If we are not careful, we can gloss right over verse 17 on the way to Matthew 28:18-20. As the disciples went up to see Jesus, note their reaction: “when they saw Him, they worshiped Him.” No one told the disciples, “Hey guys, here’s a tip, when you go up the mountain to see Jesus you should fall down and worship… it’s what respectable disciples do.” The disciples knew Jesus and their heart-response to Him was unprompted worship.
We know that the high calling of the Great Commission is for all Christians. Likewise, the context of disciple making is in authentic relationships. We see the love and intimacy that Christ has with all that followed Him. “He loved them to the end” (John 13). The same is true for His beloved disciples today. In our current, harried world, we must be careful to never reduce discipleship to a task, a goal, a formula, or a thing we “do at church.” Many have wisely noted that disciples are “handmade” and not mass produced. Discipleship is not transactional but relational. Ultimately, gospel-centered discipleship propels us to worship.
The disciples reveal to us the means and the ends of discipleship. This includes those followers who doubted, struggled, and dropped the ball. There is no perfect disciple and no flawless way to made disciples. But the long and merciful road of authentic discipleship is bursting forth in worship and awe. The goal is not power, comfort, success, or big cathedrals but God-glorifying worship. Remember John Piper’s profound insight on this goal? He said, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is! Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Just let that quote sink in.
Worship is our response to our glorious Lord and Redeemer revealing Himself to us. We are totally dependent on God to worship God. Take a fresh look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXI. Luther says, “To Know God is to Worship God”. Discipleship should be wary of the growing disciples who know about God but don’t know and worship God. Those who encounter God are never the same. Remember the prophet Isaiah’s traumatic experience recorded in Isaiah 6? Look at the prophet’s response to the Lord’s revelation, “Here I am! Send me.”
The Great Commission is grounded, sustained, fueled, and ultimately ends in worship. There are many faithful disciples in the Church who urge us to understand this.
“God wants worshipers before workers; indeed, the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. . .. The very stones would praise him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do his will.
—A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
“I believe that if we are to be and to do for others what God means us to be and to do, we must not let adoration and worship slip into second place, for it is the central service asked by God of human souls; and its neglect is responsible for much lack of spiritual depth and power. Perhaps we may find here the reason why we so often run dry. We do not give time enough to what makes for depth, and so we are shallow; a wind, quite a little wind, can ruffle our surface; a little hot sun, and all the moisture in us evaporates. It should not be so.”
—Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)
“Worship is meant to so enthrall you with God’s grace that you want to be an instrument of that grace in the lives of others”
In these challenging days let us encourage one another to abide with Jesus first. Let our hearts rest in and receive from Christ. Let us respond to God in worship and awe daily. Then go and teaching others to do the same. As you disciple others remember the promise from Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”