By Michael C. Mack
As I edited this month’s articles about international missions and ministry, I noticed a trend. Most of our writers either quoted or referred to the Great Commission, namely Matthew 28:18-20, some in the first sentence or two. That makes sense. When we think about taking the gospel into all the world, we naturally think of this primary passage.
I hope this doesn’t sound sacrilegious, but we deleted that Scripture from some of the articles. Why? For one thing, we didn’t want the articles to become redundant, but also, we figure you know this verse well. I’m guessing you can quote it right now.
We can’t overvalue the Great Commission. It is, after all, what we’re about as Christ’s church. It’s why our various congregations exist; it’s the fuel that keeps the Restoration Movement moving. But I’m concerned that by hearing and talking about it so often, we become impervious to its power, immune to its vitality, deaf to its call. Has the Commission become so common that it doesn’t excite and motivate us to the same degree as the early church?
In Mark’s summary of the events of Jesus’ commissioning and ascension, we see the believers’ response: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them” (16:20).
My background in small group ministry leads me to ask questions: What would happen if every Christ follower took the Commission as seriously as these first disciples did? In what ways would the church look different if every person acted as a part of the body of Christ, as a priest, an ambassador, a minister of reconciliation? What would it take to restore that?
Years ago, when I was associate editor of The Lookout, a reader sent a scathing letter to the editor arguing that Jesus gave the Commission only to his apostles, not to Christians today. The thought is absurd. Jesus would not give such important instructions exclusively to 11 unschooled, ordinary men who could not possibly fulfill them. Even the best-educated, most remarkable people could not disciple all nations during their own lifetimes. The genius of Jesus’ strategy is that his Commission would be passed on from disciple to disciple to disciple, through all generations, until the entire world could be discipled.
The Great Commission was given to me . . . and to you. I hope it challenges you as much as it does me; and I hope that you, too, are inspired by this month’s articles that tell stories of individuals and ministries carrying out that Commission. The stories you’ll read this month show something quite extraordinary: God is still using ordinary people with different gifts, abilities, passions, resources, and ideas from every race and gender and nation and religious background, to together fulfill Christ’s Commission.
I hope these stories excite you and motivate you. I pray they provide ideas for how you can engage in Christ’s Commission as you go. You do not go alone. The One who has “all authority” is “with you always, to the very end of the age.”