The Great Commission: Jesus Calls Us to Plant Churches

EMQ » January–March 2021 » Volume 57 Issue 1


  1. Mr. Oke’s thesis is sound – to an extent. However he still doesn’t satisfy the claim made in the title of his article. He is unable to do so because whatever Jesus means by “make disciples” and whatever the early church understood by it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus never told us to plant churches. He told us to “make disciples” and that he would “build” his church. As Breen and Cochram say in their excellent book, Building a Discipling Culture, “If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” I agree with the author that discipleship was never intended to take place outside of a missional community. But too often we move too quickly to all of the trappings around group formation and our own culturally assumed ideas about what “church” is and pay little attention to corporate and individual spiritual formation.

    Another problem I have with the article is that I suspect that “church”, as Mr. Oke would define it, means local churches only and doesn’t take into account its “beyond the local” sense nor that churches were intended to be part of a movement that impacts whole cities and geographical areas.

    I like the definition that the church is “the presence of Jesus among his people called out to be a spiritual family to fulfill his mission on this planet.” Discipleship that includes real relationships with others meeting regularly to help each other live authentic spiritual lives in groups of two or three is the DNA that can comprise healthy local churches. But the disciple piece is the first thing.

    1. To suggest that we’re simply called to make disciples and that we should leave Jesus to build his church seems to be at odds with Paul’s assertion in 1 Cor. 3:10 in which he compares his apostolic ministry to that of a master builder.

      Also, if this assertion were true, Paul would have been interfering in a project better left to Jesus when he instructed Titus to do bring more structure to the churches he had established in Crete (Titus 1:5).