Church planting, indeed disciple-making, is the ultimate mission impossible. Tom Cruise can run, dive, duck, and climb over any hurdle with outrageous confidence in his ability to survive and succeed. But the global task of the fruitful and effective evangelization of the nations, amid countless obstacles to overcome, takes more than brute strength and endurance to achieve. Only God can transform hearts, homes, and hoods. So why do we go? More pointedly, how do we go?
Revisiting the Great Commission—Our Mission Impossible
Jesus’s last charge to the church is the church’s first concern. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus sent out the disciples with one mission: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). The holy ambitions of global church planting are in obedience to this straightforward calling. Still, establishing missional communities across the globe that carry out this task is hardly possible for men and women, redeemed sinners nonetheless. It’s simple but far from easy.
Over time we’ve allowed our clear marching orders to become complicated. For many today, the Great Commission has become so nuanced and ambiguous that it’s been lost. It’s hardly surprising that 51% of evangelicals don’t understand what the Great Commission is. Sadly, 64% of “Bible-minded” evangelicals have forgotten the meaning, so those passing the torch don’t even realize Christians are responsible for taking the gospel to the world.
Not only can less than 10% of evangelicals under 40 pick out the Great Commission from a multiple-choice list of five passages, the lion’s share of millennials believe it’s insensitive and flat-out wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with people of different or no faith. Could it be that the mission is impossible, not because we need God to accomplish it, but because, by and large, we’ve graduated a whole generation from youth group with no missional mindset? It seems we’ve gotten better at launching services than planting churches.
The Great Commission is not mysterious. The Lord gave us a clear and concise duty that needs to be revisited and recovered. In a series of articles, I will attempt to zero in on the commands of the Great Commission, as found in Mark 16:15–18 and Matthew 28:19–20.
In the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to:
- Preach the gospel to all peoples.
- Yield to the Spirit’s work in and through us in Jesus’s name to testify to the gospel.
- Baptize new believers.
- Disciple those who receive Christ.
- Send them out to repeat the task until the job is complete.
Commandment #1 – Preach the Gospel to All Peoples
In Isaiah 49:8, the Lord says, “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped.” Through Paul, the Holy Spirit declares, “Now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Sure, God has revealed to us the climax of human history; at the close of humanity’s struggle, God will fill his eternal kingdom with “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7:9). God is preparing a glorious inheritance for his Son—a multiethnic, multicultural, and measureless multitude of perfectly forgiven, wholly devoted worshipers. Click To Tweet
God is preparing a glorious inheritance for his Son—a multiethnic, multicultural, and measureless multitude of perfectly forgiven, wholly devoted worshipers. How does he do this? Through preaching the gospel throughout generations until the close of the age.
The Gospel Is for Everybody
A great hindrance to the gospel’s progress in the world is due in part to the unwillingness of Christians to preach to all people. If we’re going to win the world for Jesus, we must open our mouths and proclaim the good news of the kingdom, crossing the sea and the street. We’re not universalists, but we believe God’s love is universal. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?’ As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Rom. 10:13-15). Praise God for sending his church to the ends of the earth. We are the sent ones, mobilized to every corner of the world with his mission and our mandate to preach the gospel to all people. If we’re going to win the world for Jesus, we must open our mouths and proclaim the good news of the kingdom, crossing the sea and the street. Click To Tweet
We cannot simply wait for this to happen. God speaking through Paul asks for us to work with him to bring this prophecy to pass (2 Cor. 6:1). Jesus commands: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), and has given his authority and his abiding presence through the Spirit to do so (Matt. 28:18–20). What’s impossible for man and inappropriate to millennials is possible with God and non-negotiable for Christians.
In my next post, we’ll return to Commandment #2, revisiting what it means to yield to the Spirit’s work in and through us in Jesus’s name to testify to the gospel.