“The Great Commission” is the directive Jesus gave to His disciples – and by extension, us – to go throughout the world a make Christian disciples. This has caused a lot of activity, anxiety, and guilt ever since. ♦
About 15 years ago I was approached by a respected friend to consider going on a church-led 5-day “mission trip” to Costa Rica. He literally said that God told him to invite me to go with him and a team of 10 people. Sounded weird to me at the time, but I sensed he was serious and so I told him I would consider it. Even prayerfully.
In my mind however I was telling myself, “No way.” In fact, ever since becoming a Christian believer in my teen years, I had always tuned out whenever pastors or missionary types started talking about overseas trips and visits to foreign lands to “serve” and participate in “the Great Commission.” It always sounded to me like a church sales pitch and I figured it was only for those who like that sort of thing. Not for me though. I “served” by leading the children’s worship band and also taught some Bible study courses. Wasn’t that enough?
I’m grateful that God is patient with our immaturity. It sometimes takes a lifetime to figure this all out.
In Matthew 28, just after His resurrection and in the context of giving final authority and instructions to the disciples, Jesus says the following: “…go and make disciples of all nations….” We Christians hear that and feel we each need to be foreign missionaries or forever disappoint Jesus or others as a less than adequate Christian.
While this was a turn-off to me personally, I did pray and talk to my wife about my going to Costa Rica on that church trip. What occurred to both us separately, strangely enough, was that not only should I go on the “mission” trip, but that I should take our oldest, then 18-year-old son with me. I recall it was both a holy nudge and great opportunity for meting out discipline for a son who needed a dose of time outside his comfort zone.
Needless to say, he was not thrilled at the prospect of spending a week of his final summer before heading off to college with his dad and a bunch of church people in Costa Rica on a mission trip.
Can’t say I blamed him.
But we both ultimately signed up willingly and with a open-mind to the adventure. In the weeks prior to the trip we were trained on the Costa Rican culture and informed that we would help feed the poor and build a retreat center for abused young woman just outside the city of San Jose, Costa Rica.
The Real Commission
In the so-called Great Commission, Jesus actually made 4 key directives to His disciples, and by extension, us:
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me – Jesus is citing His own ultimate authority to issue such a command. This is not about pastors or church leadership. This is head-of-the-universe leadership directing His disciples go forth in full confidence that this comes straight from the top.
- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations – This is not about building schools and houses or even feeding the poor and needy, though these are wonderful acts of charity. In fact, these acts of great love and giving hearts may indeed open hearts to receive the Gospel message. But Jesus is looking beyond mere actions. This is about inclusion of previously forbidden Gentile nations beyond the Jewish nation of the original Old Testament Covenant. There would now be no difference between Jew or Greek in Christ Jesus. This was now a common salvation for all the world’s people and nations, to be weaved into governments and constitutions, kings and heads of state.
- Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – The key directive is to disciple the lost nations in a new kingdom that is being set up in the world, with Christ Himself as the mediator. Go and bring all into the fold through the sacred rite or oath of baptism; that is, the pouring or even sprinkling of water (Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 36:25, Isaiah 52:15) in prayerful allegiance and dedication to the supreme God, aligned in Christ our Lord and King and the Holy Spirit, our teacher, guide and comforter.
- Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you – Disciples are to be taught, instructed in the School of Christ. Baptized believers are enlisted soldiers who are to be trained up for active duty and service in all that Christ taught and commanded. We must tutor and teach the ordinances and moral duties of Jesus. This has been documented in Scripture for the edification of all believers/students. This has been established and not subject to changing human whims or arbitrary adjustments. God has spoken.
He then assured them that they would not be alone. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Harkening the words to Moses in Exodus, the great I AM is with us and will fortify us through this daunting mission.
Our Mission for Life
My son and I did not change the world that week in Costa Rica. We did however have a life-changing experience that opened each of our eyes to the burdens, hurts and pains of a dark world beyond our own nation. He’s now grown and matured into a husband and father with 2 daughters of his own being raised in the ways and teachings of the Lord.
And I’ve realized now that our real mission is to simply follow Jesus as Lord of our life through daily submission in prayer and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If we’re paying attention as disciples ourselves, He directs us and our God-given gifts to operate and serve in strength and impact, at home or abroad, uniquely wired for His good purposes. We need not change the world ourselves or through human power or initiatives, but only through our humble submission, allegiance and obedience to His power, authority, love, and teachings, the kingdom advances.
God really doesn’t need it any other way.
Is your life on a mission?
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20