There is more to being a missionary than just deciding to go on an adventure! Missionaries need to know certain practical things. Missionaries must learn to practice the nuts and bolts of getting along, communicating, and remaining healthy in another culture.
Something else, however, comes first. Missionaries are not worth much to God’s cause if they don’t know Whom they are working for and why.
If those two issues are clearly in mind, all the practical training takes on meaning.
God, the Missionary God
The first reason for Christ’s command to go is that reaching out and blessing all nations has been God’s concern all along. God cares.
Remember, every person on earth belongs to the family of God—they are His children, and He loves each of them just as much as He loves those of us who know Him well.
When God called Abraham many years ago (Genesis 12:1-3), He said that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God chose Abraham (and later Israel) for one specific purpose—to reach all His lost and hurting children everywhere.
For reasons of His own, God has chosen to use us. He could use angels or dreams or other supernatural means, but He has chosen to send us to share with the lost members of the family (Romans 10:11-15). Jesus wants to use us to fulfill His original loving purpose to the world.
This is not an option. It is essential. It’s a part of being a member of God’s big family. In addition, God has linked the Second Coming to the sharing of the Good News with the other members of the “family” around the world (Matthew 24:14).
The Great Commission
The text that many Christians have quoted to support their mission is Matthew 28:18-20. We call it the Great Commission.
This passage answers seven basic questions about 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.
A careful look at this text tells us the essential things we need to know about Christian mission. This is Christ’s last command to His disciples. As you study the seven basic answers, follow the text in your Bible.
1. Who sends us? The risen Christ is the One who sends—not primarily the church, the General Conference, our occupation, or anyone or anything else. This is what forms our self-identity. Our evaluation of ourselves and our work should depend on recognition of Who we are sent by.
2. On what basis are we sent? The authority and command of the risen, worshiped Christ is the basis of our mission. Jesus has been given all authority and power, and He commands, commands, not suggests, we go. Along with Matthew 28:18-20, see the passages in Mark 16:14-16, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8. 3.
3. Who is sent? The command is given to all the disciples who heard Jesus. The whole body of believers or the church is sent. The call is to the corporate group, rather than to an individual. Individuals need not wait for a special call, but as members of the body of Christ they are already sent. Rather than waiting for a special call to go, believers should ask if there is a strong, valid reason not to go.
4. Who are we sent to? We are sent to all nations. The term “nations” does not only refer to countries, but to “peoples” and ethnic groups. The world is seen as people rather than territory or geography. Christianity is a people-to-people movement. Earlier, the disciples had been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but now they are sent beyond the safe bounds of Judaism.
5. What is to be done? The task seems to be outlined in four steps:
- Go. Depart from where you are and cross boundaries.
- Make disciples. A disciple is a student or learner. A student in Bible times lived with the master and learned from him, and followed and served him in all ways. We are to “make” these kinds of disciples for Jesus.
- Baptize. Baptism is the vital initiation ceremony and is in the name of the Trinity.
- Teach to observe all Jesus’ commands. Teaching continues after baptism. One of Jesus’ key commands is to go share with others. Disciples in turn are to become disciple-makers.
6. What is the source of power for mission? Jesus promises to be with us always; this is the all-powerful, authoritative, risen Jesus Christ. His presence means that we are never alone. It also
means He takes continuing responsibility for the success and progress of the mission.
7. How long does this mission last? The mission lasts until the end of the age. The mission is not temporary but lasts until the end of this present age. Only Jesus’ Second Coming and the kingdom of glory bring this phase of mission to its close.
So there we have it—the who, what, why, and how long of our special mission. It’s a very powerful text!
Did you ever stop to think about the significance of the fact that this is Jesus’ last command to His followers? Parting words are almost always significant—things of special importance and urgency—and these were Jesus’ parting words to His disciples. And we know He told them this more than once (compare Acts 1:8 with Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-49, and John 20:21).
As you know, this passage of Scripture is usually referred to as The Great Commission— a command. Sometimes Christians have wished that it was “The Great Suggestion” or “The Great Option,” but Jesus’ intent was clear: being involved in His mission to the world is part and parcel of being a Christian.
Now what do we do? What do we have to offer to the peoples in our own countries and around the world? And what does this commission mean for us as Adventists?
So, What about you?
How do you understand the Great Commission applies to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.