In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commissions his disciples to “go” and to “make disciples.” A question worth exploring is: What kind of disciples? Is Jesus referring to “part-life disciples” who live according to Jesus’ teachings during their weekends when they involve in church or parachurch activities, or to “whole-life disciples” who consider “all of life is all for Jesus” and live according to Jesus’ teachings even during their weekdays at their home, in their workplace, and community?
I believe Jesus refers to whole-life disciples. You may ask, what made me believe this way. Jesus said to all who followed him: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Here, Jesus is not saying take up your cross on the weekend and follow me. Rather, Jesus is saying take up your cross daily and follow me. Moreover, in the gospels, Jesus is not just seen going to the synagogues to preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus went to places of the common man such as homes, the seashore, tax booths, agricultural fields, and vineyards to preach spiritual truths.
What is whole-life discipleship? Whole-life discipleship is more than just being connected to the church and its activities. It is not just giving one’s leisure time to God. The call to whole-life discipleship taught by Jesus is much bigger than all of these.
Whole-life discipleship is a journey, a lifetime decision of faithfully following Christ and living according to his teachings in every sphere of life, which includes home, workplace, and community.
Christ is Lord of every sphere of our life.
A Dutch theologian who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands famously said, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’” God cares about every aspect of life, not just Sunday worship. Whole-life discipleship is not about the private realm of life that is totally removed from the majority of human life. All of life is all for Jesus. There is no Sunday/Monday gap or sacred/secular divide.
In my observation, many Christians live as disciples of Christ only a few hours a week. While most Christians are content with going to church on Sunday, some are content with involvement in both church and parachurch during their leisure time. People compartmentalize faith and other areas of life. I have met many people who think that the work they are doing is not as important or meaningful as that of a missionary who crosses culture and shares the gospel with the unreached people group or that of a pastor who leads the congregation through preaching and teaching the Word of God and through pastoral care. Such people think that people who are in “vocational ministry” (full-time ministry) have a higher calling than other workers and they mourn on Monday and thank God for Friday. They also feel that they are not being useful to God.
All these observations led me to study whole-life discipleship. I interviewed a handful of laypeople who consider all of life is all for Jesus (whole-life disciples). Here is how some of them live out their faith at their home, in their workplace, and community:
“To my children, I show them the face of Christ through the way I interact with them.”
“As God’s image-bearer, when I bake sourdough bread, I’m taking God’s goodness in the world, putting those together, and creating something delicious.”-
“We are an excellent wealth management company that first and foremost ethically provides excellent financial advice.”
“I’m a school counselor. So, the Kingdom is coming, which means there’s not going to be this trauma happening to children. I can be there as a support for children who are going through difficult things.”
“I want to redeem my industry which has such a bad reputation. I don’t want to cut corners or cheat or do things in a way that would be anything less than compliant.”
“By opening our home to our community, we demonstrate God’s open table to others.”
“I had guilt for not going into ministry. I feel so encouraged to know I am doing God’s work through my work. It plays out by being able to run a good company, to treat employees right, be a caring father, a loving husband, and to be a good neighbor.”
Through these real-life examples, it is evident that whole-life discipleship is not some random abstract thought. All Jesus-followers can live as whole-life disciples on all seven days of the week and in every sphere of life, and by doing so, fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission.