The great commission or omission
WE CHRISTIANS are an interesting lot! We can hear the same sermons, read the same Bible, yet can interpret things so very differently. Take the Great Commission for example. Over the years I have heard many missions conferences attendees say things like, “I’m not called to be a missionary” or “missions is not for me.” Aren’t we all called? Jesus’s invitation to spread the Good News globally in Mark 16 and Matthew 28 was not for the hearing of a select few, but for all believers. He wants us all to participate with him in seeing the Great Commission achieved.
To participate in God’s redemptive plan does not mean one needs to relocate to some far-off continent for umpteen years. Today, opportunities to share the Good News cross-culturally can happen in our street, town, city, even our own nation. One outcome of globalisation in the past twenty years or so, where masses of humanity have left their traditional homelands (for varying reasons), is that many are now in our countries and therefore within reach of hearing the message of God’s love – for the first time. Is it possible that God has allowed such people to enter our country in order to hear and receive his Word, whereas back in their own nation they were prohibited by law from converting to another belief?
Paul, prior to his experience on the road to Damascus, was a successful and well-educated man, and quite possibly he would have had his life all figured out! His encounter with the Lord turned his world upside down. The Great Commission became the basis of his lifetime ambition, that is, to tell people about Jesus Christ wherever his feet took him. Everything else was secondary. Like Paul, every one of us is under divine obligation to help facilitate the taking of the Gospel to every (ethnic) nation, tribe, people and language. (Revelation 7:9)
I have heard first-hand from many people who once were of another religion, who have now had a revelation of Jesus Christ, and who have come to know and accept him as their Lord and Saviour, that they were awakened to the fact that they had previously been deceived. Then a passion and boldness from the Lord compels them to tell their family and friends what they have discovered. For some, it has cost them their lives. If you had lived much of your life believing a lie, and were suddenly aware of it, would you too not want to tell as many as possible? Of course you would. It would seem most believers in developed nations keep Jesus to themselves, for all kinds of reasons and therefore become part of the Great Omission.
It would be a major concern if the majority of Christians interpret the Great Commission as only relating to those who leave their homeland for service in another part of the world. Taking the Good News to other regions of the world is a crucial part of the Great Commission. At the same time, opportunities abound on the home front as well, both in partnering with those who go out, as well as participating locally. If you ever hear of the WOI-sponsored Kairos course happening in your area, sign up for it. This course helps everyone who studies it catch God’s heart for the lost, and reveals ways in which every believer can get meaningfully involved in strategic cross-cultural ministry – from their home base!
Remember three important things about the Great Commission: It provides people with the only way to be reconciled to God; it provides the only opportunity for the Church (i.e., you and me) to be perfected; and its fulfilment is very much linked to the return of Christ. When Jesus returns, mission accomplished!
John is the Present Emeritus of World Outreach. He lives with his wife, Mary, in New Zealand.