Driscoll’s Great Commission Magic Act

30 04 2009

I’ve recently written how many current Christian leaders I highly respect seem to be replacing the Great Commission mandate to make disciples with church planting.  But why replace the mission when you can just simply slip it right in?  This sleight of hand was performed by Mark Driscoll (ht – Colin) in his latest blog post where he wrote –

“Thankfully, the mission of the church is not that complicated. The mission of the church comes directly from the command of Jesus, who, following his resurrection and just prior to his ascension, said, “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” (Matt. 28:19-20; see also Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:20-31; Acts 1:5-8). Jesus speaks of going, evangelizing, making disciples, and planting churches that plant churches to continue the process.”

There is no command in the New Testament to plant churches unless we read it into the text.  Make disciples and churches will form organically but planting churches does not necessarily lead to the making of disciples.  We need to all get on Jesus’ mission not a replacement mission promoted by well meaning men.



14 responses

30 04 2009


There is a possibility you and Mark are saying the same thing. To phrase my point better: you could, in good conscience, write the exact thing Mark just did. For in following Jesus’ commands, we are, in turn, planting churches. A church, as I understand it, is simply a body of believers, from two to any blessed exponential growth from that.

I do, however, agree with your warning. Mark goes on in his post to state that “A missional church must strategize how to carry out the mission to today’s increasingly non-Christian culture.” While this statement, on its own, is fine, it definitely leaves room for the undiscipled person to rest in the strategy and not in the commission. Thankfully, many of the leaders who are rapidly planting churches still preach the Great Commission and that it is the “mission” Mark is referring to.

To call Mark’s statement prestidigitation, or sleight [not slide ;)] of hand, would be judging his motives further than is beneficial.

1 05 2009
Bob Kuhn

Hey Grant. Hope you don’t mind me butting in, but the thing I personally struggle with is the language. If we are commanded to “make disciples” and then let Christ “build the church” – we will focus on discipleship and the church will grow naturally (or supernaturally to be more accurate). However, if we go out to intentionally “build the church” we tend to create institutions that then try to create disciples as a by-product of their existence. This seems to lead to the problem of the institution’s own survival taking priority over kingdom growth.

I have never equated “institutional church” growth with kingdom growth. Therefore, regardless of the intentions, I don’t like the language used.



1 05 2009

***sleight, nice correction, update made***

Grant, I with Bob on this. There is a substantive difference between what I’m saying and what Mark is saying. Mark believes focusing on church planting is what accomplishes the Great Commission (thus Acts 29), whereas I believe focusing on training disciples will result in both. We desire the same result but we see very different ways of getting there. I spent many years focused on church planting as a result of Mark’s teaching and have had to repent for my utter neglect of training disciples in the process. It was a massive change for me.

1 05 2009

“There is no command in the New Testament to plant churches unless we read it into the text. ”

Fair enough…

Could we also then agree that there is no “school of Tyrannus”, unless we read it into the text?

(He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.)

In the text, we see “had discussions daily in the lecture hall”, so how does that become the “School of Tyrannus”? Yes, the gospel was preached and discussed in a specific location for two years, resulting in the word of the Lord being heard in the region, but then Paul moved on. There was no “school of Tyrannus” that was established and then carried on after he left. There was a church in Ephesus, but never again in scripture is this hall of Tyrannus mentioned, and certainly nothing about a “school”…

So what’s the difference between “planting a church” and “establishing a discipleship training center”? It would seem that what has happened here is a complete revamping of all the terminology, but in the end, it is essentially an attempt at doing same thing, only with the conviction that there are better and more effective “methods” being implemented….

po-tay-toe / po-tah-toe…

A “church-plant” is only one, in the correct sense, if it consists of people who are actually part of the Church, the Bride, the Kingdom, or people who actually are disciples… (Because the Church is the people of God….)

So while we may recognize that all too often “church-planting” (i.e. simply starting a group that meets regularly) has nothing to do with making new disciples of Christ, it seems like just as much a “slight-of-hand” trick to then try and say that what the Bible tells us to do is find the most effective “training course” in order start cranking them out… “Church-plants” certainly don’t magically create disciples, but neither does any other kind of pet strategy…

What is unique about verses like the one in Acts 19? Does it really spell out “Paul’s disciple-making strategy”? I don’t see Paul doing this in every city he went to… He didn’t stay two years in each place, there is absolutely nothing that would resemble a “training course” that is laid out anywhere, and there is no pattern of meeting in public venues like the hall of Tyrannus. It changes everywhere he went…

But what was the same? A reliance on the power of God, and the power of the gospel:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.“…

So where does this talk of “method” come from? Following Jesus is not about a “method”, teaching the Truth does not hinge on a “method”, the effectiveness of our preaching does not depend on our “method”…

It depends on the power of God, and the Spirit working within the heart of the hearer:

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 05 2009
Bob Kuhn

Hey Daniel,

Here I go butting in again.

I really don’t have a problem with “church-planting” if it simply means starting discipling groups that meet regularly. I do see a problem with starting institutions that become an end in themselves.

This may just be a language thing, but when I say “discipleship” I envision small discipling communities that develop into organic churches. However, “church planting” usually brings to mind a person, or group of people who are focused on finding a place to meet for a Sunday morning worship services, establishing a hierarchical leadership structure (senior pastor, associate pastors, elders, deacons, etc.), developing programs to attract others, and creating ways to raise money in order to support the much needed staff members, programs, and meeting place for “the church” that is being planted.

1 05 2009

I’m with you Bob, my remarks were really in response to the original post, not to your comment, (though I did sort of borrow the topic of semantic/language differences from you I guess…)

I also totally hear on all the typical junk that goes into establishing institutions… I have spent much time and energy into simply speaking against them, but now am feeling led to instead put more energy into exploring what life as the Body-minus-the-institution really looks like…

Sounds like we have a lot in common there…

1 05 2009

I feel I should make it known that I basically agree with everything said on this page. I still don’t feel there is a disagreement. My main reason for my first response is that I don’t believe Mark’s post, on its own, can really be disagreed with by any of us. Had we no previous knowledge of his mission, we would all reply, “Yes, of course we make disciples and that process of making disciples undeniably plants churches by its very nature!”

Instead, however, we see the fruits of his mission as a rockstar leading a mammoth series of weekly church services. We see unnecessary organization and a potential for those in attendance to feel that those weekly gatherings are the end of the gospel.

Of course, nothing has to end there. I can say, as an original part of an Acts 29 church, that the “church plant” was no more that 20-30 believers meeting in a room and being intentionally discipled. There was a pastor, but aside from that, there was no unnecessary order or thrust to produce a wonderful church service. Unfortunately, I can say that model has changed over the last 5 years, but its essence is not lost. In addition to the weekly gatherings of around 30-40 people, we still have home groups of 15-20 that meet with the intentionality of discipling one another.

Similarly, Mars Hill has home groups that meet weekly with the same agenda. I should admit that my leanings are to agree with you, Jeremy. I am someone who prefers the smaller group model. I feel it’s the most intimate and vulnerable, thus, is the most beneficial for true discipleship. A 30 student classroom undeniably has a much better dynamic than one of 200 attendees.

However, that being said, it would be difficult for me to look at the home groups of Mars Hill and say true discipleship is not taking place with that model. Do I prefer the grandiose church services? No. But I’m not sure where we can draw the line and say Mark does not function in a model that encourages discipleship of the church.

2 05 2009
Craig Bertrand

An institution cannot disciple people (people disciple people) but of course discipleship can happen in an institutional church. If it couldn’t then how did the church survive all these centuries. The question is:

Where does discipleship most naturally happen?
What is our example in scripture?


Two men set out to grow tomatoes.

The one man chose a green house to grow his with all the latest pesticides herbicides and automatic watering systems.

The other man decided to grow organically. It would require more work, but he was willing.

The first man bought small plants that had been genetically modified and then hired men to mass produce his tomatoes.

The second man started his from seeds and spent many hours killing bugs by hand and pulling weeds.

The time for harvest came and the first man came away with 100 tomatoes.
And the second man came away with 100 tomatoes (and many blisters on his hands)

The first mans tomatoes look better and shine redder.
The second mans has a few bug bites and scratches.

Now the question is whose tomatoes would you actually eat?
The point here is that “God gives the increase” and I don’t want pesticide on my fruit of the spirit 🙂

You can tell a tree by its fruit. But we must look deeper than just the outward appearance of the fruit.

What we need is a good crop of non-GMO disciples.

2 05 2009


I think at this point, it might be beneficial for us to talk on the phone. Would you agree? It would be cool to just hear your voice and maybe have a conversation. Whereas, you can hear where we’re coming from (maybe get some context on language useage, etc.) & for us to hear your heart on this stuff, not only through written word.


3 05 2009
Michael Clary


Thanks for the Facebook connection. You said that we should “make disciples and churches will form organically but planting churches does not necessarily lead to the making of disciples.”

I have a question: how would you define “organic” from your post? That would help me to have a better picture of what you’re advocating.

5 05 2009

Craig – Ha, GMO disciples. You speakin’ my language (I’m getting into organic gardening). I think a clear open door via a synthetic program can sometimes be useful as a way to simply meet people looking for a deeper walk with God and start the conversation but then, if a life on life discipleship relationship(s) do not develop, then, to your point, discipleship won’t happen.

Heather – Right on. I really want to hang out with you and Daniel. I should be back in your neighborhood in a month or so. Let’s make a special point to get together.

Michael – By organic I mean that it is a byproduct of good training not the goal of it. The goal of training should be to produce better disciples but, if a part of that training includes how disciples need the church (to live interdependently as a body with other disciples) then they must initiate or join a body as a response to this training. Thus, where disciples are well trained churches erupt as opposed to the planting the church being the main goal of the activity.

17 06 2009
Jonathan Dodson

A historic reading of the GC has been to see the church in “baptizing them in the name” of the Trinity…into the church. Baptism of a disciple is baptism into Christ as Lord of the Church. So, it kind of fits…

18 01 2010
rob steinbach

I agree with most of what you’ve written. At first glance I really liked the statement.

“Make disciples and churches will form organically but planting churches does not necessarily lead to the making of disciples.”

I agree with the second part, that it is possible to plant churches and not make disciples. HOwever, I don’t agree with the first part. I don’t think it is true that just b/c you make disciples that a church will form organically. I can imagine a guy makine disciples on his job, in his small group, or parachurch ministry… and churches don’t always naturally form. You still need a called, qualified, and equipped man of God to lead.

my thoughts.

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