What Does the Great Commission Teach Us About the Mission of the Church?

by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, contributed by our Friends at Crossway
| Time: 3 Minutes

From the Editor: In Jesus’ last words to his disciples, he commissions them. He leaves them with a task, a mission to carry out for the rest of their lives. Part of the mission includes welcoming others to participate in the mission, so that the church (or God’s people) all around the world might be unified in purpose. So what is the mission of God’s people, as described in the Great Commission? Author Kevin DeYoung, in his book What Is the Mission of the Church, helps us answer this question:

We can summarize this mission by answering seven questions:

  1. Who? Jesus gave this mission verbally to the first disciples, but it did not end with their deaths. As Lord of the church, he expects his followers to carry out this mission “to the end of the age.” Their mission is our mission.
  2. Why? The authority for our mission comes from Christ. It is rooted in the Word of God and based on the Father’s sending of the Son. We are sent because Christ was sent, and we go in his name, under his authority.
  3. What? The mission consists of preaching and teaching, announcing, and testifying, making disciples and bearing witness. The mission focuses on the initial and continuing verbal declaration of the gospel, the announcement of Christ’s death and resurrection and the life found in him when we repent and believe.
  4. Where? We are sent into the world. Our strategy is no longer “come and see” but “go and tell.” The message of salvation is for every people group—near, far, and everywhere in between.
  5. How? We go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and in submission to the Son just as he was obedient to and dependent upon the Father.
  6. When? The mission began at Pentecost when the disciples were clothed with power from on high with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The mission will last as long as the promise of Christ’s presence lasts; that is, to the end of the age.
  7. To whom? The church should make disciples of the nations. We must go to every people group, proclaiming the good news to the ends of the earth.


The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.

We believe this is the mission Jesus gave the disciples prior to his ascension, the mission we see in the New Testament, and the mission of the church today.

This mission is a specific set of things Jesus has sent his church into the world to accomplish and is significantly narrower than “everything God commands.”

Making disciples—that’s our task.

That’s not to say that our broader obligations aren’t important. They are! Jesus and the apostles command us to parent our children well, to be loving husbands and wives, to do good to all people, and many other things. Jesus even tells us in the Great Commission itself (as Matthew records it) to teach people “to observe all that I have commanded you.”

But that doesn’t mean that everything we do in obedience to Christ should be understood as part of the church’s mission. The mission Jesus gave the church is more specific than that. And that, in turn, doesn’t mean that other commands Jesus gives us are unimportant. It means that the church has been given a specific mission by its Lord, and teaching people to obey Christ’s commands is a nonnegotiable part of that mission.

We go, we proclaim, we baptize, and we teach—all to the end of making lifelong, die-hard disciples of Jesus Christ who obey everything he commanded.

So here it is again: the mission of the church—as seen in the Great Commission, the early church in Acts, and the life of the apostle Paul—is to win people to Christ and build them up in Christ.

Making disciples—that’s our task.

Content adapted from What is the Mission of the Church? (p. 58-59, 62-63) by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway.
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