‘Go, Therefore, and Make Pickles’…Whaaa?

I posted a tweet yesterday.
It apparently stirred up quite a few intense reactions with many of my followers.

I didn’t cuss in the tweet, didn’t tweet about whores, sex, drug use, or anything like that.

I tweeted about evangelism.

here it is…in all it’s splendor…!

Interesting that such a status could cause such an uproar with a few of my followers.
I had to sit and ask why?

I instantly went to the thought that maybe it is a mix-up of terms.
So – here I go…describing the terms in this tweet.

Public Evangelism: The act of actively going out and knocking on doors / doing mission trips / standing on the corner with a bullhorn / passing out fliers.
True Worship: Worship that is a response or overflow to Christ as Christ reveals Himself to us. One of the best ways to respond to what Christ is doing in our lives, is to share it with those around us. Namely, with people you disciple, or are being discipled by.

So lets break this down:
By no means am I saying that evangelism does not need to happen in today’s world, or that it is not important. It is. And it does work. But I don’t think it was always God’s plan to have us go door-to-door or go on mission trips to spread the gospel, then come back to church and pat ourselves on the back for the good work we’ve done…and forget about imaging Him daily.
Did you catch that? We are to image Christ daily in all we do – as we learn more about him…respond to him in spirit and truth. Constantly passing on the image of Christ. Not just doing door-to-door or mission trips, then checking that off our list for the year/month/life.

One of the most debated verse that I ran into right after posting this Tweet was this [Matthew 28:18-20 NASB]:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I command you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.‘”

Can I just break down these verses for you? Contextually and logically? To show you that even Christ had imaging Him and discipleship in mind above actually going door-to-door?

Christ commands his disciples to go and make other disciples. A valid claim. But I looked up the word ‘go’ that is used there? And a more accurate Greek translation of it is this: as you go. Interesting. As you go, or as you do life, make disciples…hmm. Curious.
Going on we see the verse all too familiar to those of us in any circle of Christianity that baptizes folks. “…baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” – Right?
What if I told you that the word for ‘baptize’ used there is a transliteration – not a translation (meaning, they used a word that sounded like the original word, rather than using the literal definition of it)? Would you be angry? Probably…I don’t care. Cause it is.

The word that Matthew used for baptize is literally βαπτίζω – or to sink like a ship. To submerge something so much that it no longer has the same texture or context, or even use. In fact – there was a physician named Nicander that used the same word in a pickle recipe that called for the pickle to be first dipped, or baptô, into salt water then βαπτίζω into vinegar. Interesting.
So that means this literally should read ‘…as you go, make disciples of those around you, immersing them so much in my spirit/word that they are changed from the inside out…like a pickle…’
Not saying that baptism is not called for after repentance, but that was not the word used here in this verse…and that makes sense with what comes next in the great commission.

Jesus commands that after we change those folks and they have been molded into something completely different, then we are to ‘…teach them to observe all that I have commanded you…’. Wait…what? We are supposed to teach people that we witness to, to observe all that Christ has commanded us? How am I supposed to do that on a mission trip, or with door-to-door evangelism? Yikes. That is impossible.

But the whole great commission makes a whole lot more sense if we read it literally and contextually. Doesn’t it? It suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to do if we actually pay attention to what Christ literally said. Lets review, and read it as it should be read. And understood (in my paraphrased, simple to read, edition.):

And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. As you do life, you will naturally make disciples of all nations (if you’re imaging me yourself), changing them in such a way that they are no longer what they were when you found them…like pickles. Bring them up in understanding of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – as you do that, teach them all that I have commanded you. Don’t worry! Just do life with them, for I will be with you, guiding you to all truth, even until the end of the age.”

Doesn’t that make more sense? It has always been about making disciples. Not about knocking on doors, or going on mission trips. While those things are good, and we are called to serve the widows and orphans of the world…that was not the original intent of Christ coming to earth. We are to do life with those around us, and change them into pickles…just like we are pickles.


  • I enjoyed this post a lot! I always appreciate when people pick up on the fact that it’s “as you go.” I think there’s also great insight when we see the Great Commission is a restatement of the Creation and cultural mandates. Definitely reframed what making disciples entails.

  • Did you get this quote/tweet from “Let the Nations be Glad?” It, honestly, sounds exactly like the book, except the book uses the word missions instead of public evangelism (and, I believe, can be used interchangeably). Just wondering…

    • sounds similar. i’ve never read the book. but that quote you mentioned on facebook does sound similar! honored to be writing similar stuff to Piper!

  • So I really enjoyed your article. And for me I agreed with almost everything that you said. I can appreciate why people might disagree with you, however.

    I do disagree with you in one regard, although I suspect that I may be in a minority regarding the nature of my disagreement…

    For my money, I would say that what passes for evangelism is actively detracting from our imaging Christ. In my opinion it’s not, as you have said, a good thing. I see it as part of the problem.

    Many Christians think that by giving up 2 hours a week door knocking or leafleting, that they have fulfilled their ‘witnessing’ obligations. It is by taking part in these activities that they can continue to convince themselves that they are living a good Christian life, rather than questioning other aspects of their lives.

    The idea that church attendance, handing out leaflets or knocking on doors to get people to come to church, is in any way what the scriptures intend for us is utterly bogus. If we allowed our faith to transform out lives; if we started to live genuine lives of sacrificial service for others; if we were able to demonstrate with our time and our very lives, the love of the cross to the marginalised in our society, then Christianity would spread like wildfire. Just like it did in the first 3 centuries.

    Our efforts at ‘witnessing’ allow us to continue in our comfortable lives, as we fool ourselves into believing that we are really good little Christians.

    So it’s contraversal, but I cannot help but think its the truth…

    So I essentially agree with you, but I would take it much further.

    Love the blog, and the Tweeting! Keep it up.

  • When I saw your tweet, I did react (+) and did research to the Pope’s challenge to ‘new evangelization” (http://www.christlife.org/evangelization/articles/C_newevan.html).You have mentioned quite a few in your post that were congruent to the characteristics mentioned by Dave Nodar (based on PJP II’s Redemptoris Missio).

    However, the emphasis is always on Christ and having a relationship with Him. It need not be as you said going door-to-door but ‘reflecting Christ’ to every people we meet.

    I realized this right after I came back from the missions. My heart did burn for zeal to make Christ known. But He gave me a greater challenge when He placed me in a Muslim country. As I said, proselytism is a no-no and ‘preaching’ was done by ‘witnessing’. And the people there always said ‘the Christians are like light’. People will know because of our love for one another ~ sans judgment, sans converting others into the faith we believe in…

    Thank you for sharing your reflections :)

  • True worship is evangelism!

    Great thoughts, John – love the post!

    Jesus said that the world will know us by our love (John 13:34-35) and see the things we do and praise the Father (Matthew 5:16) – that is my barometer.

    This kind of living requires community.

    You also touched on the importance of discipleship – I’m still learning what that looks like, but I’m leaning toward thinking that it looks like learning… and living.

    I’m having opportunities to have great discussions with other guys and mentoring college students. I often feel inadequate – which makes me realize that I’m supposed to be. Imaging Christ glorifies Him – and He gets the credit.

    I’d be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on how you approach discipleship.

  • hahahaha!

    Bro. I love you! For real, though!

    This post is right on!

    I love your careful study and your paraphrase. I’ll definitely be sharing.

    And for what it’s worth… That tweet was straight up truth!

  • I really enjoyed this. I’ve been trying to explain this to people this way, but you pretty much rocked it.

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