Trevin Wax: The missionary imperative of Jesus at the close of Matthew’s Gospel (28:18-20) is a key text for Christians: 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (CSB) But it’s easy for us to take some wrong turns in our understanding of Jesus’s instruction. Here are five ways we sometimes get the Great Commission wrong. 1. When We See ‘Teaching’ as Exclusively or Primarily Informational The first pitfall is seeing the “teaching” component of disciple-making as exclusively or primarily informational rather than holistic. David Sills puts his finger on this weakness, saying, “The heart is often overlooked in discipleship programs and traditional classroom models. Focusing intently
John Piper: Never, never, never forget that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all the peoples on this planet — the whole planet (Matthew 28:19–20). This is the greatest challenge in the world. Let the emphasis fall on “all the peoples” — Greek, panta ta ethne (all ethnic groups in the world). Jesus bought men “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Not some, but every. The point is not that we can draw sharp boundaries between all the peoples (tribes, languages, nations). The point is that the scope of Jesus’s command is wider and amazingly more diverse than we think. Remember the Mission What a wonderful day we live in when we consider the sacrificial, rigorous, extensive research that is being done to help us know the progress of Jesus’s mission! Perhaps the most accessible, clear, and thorough accumulation of these facts is at Joshuaproject.net. I think Jesus would be very pleased if
Lesslie Newbigin on the role of the Church in the world: “The very essence of the Church’s life is that she is pressing forward to the fulfillment of God’s purpose and the final revelation of His glory, pressing forward both to the ends of the earth and to the end of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. The treasure entrusted to her is not for herself, but for the doing of the Lord’s will, not for hoarding but for trading. Her life is to be forever spent, to be cast into the ground like a corn of wheat, in the ever-new faith and hope of the resurrection harvest. Her life is precisely life under the sign of the Cross, which means that she desires to possess no life, no security, no righteousness of her own, but to live solely by His grace. When she becomes settled, when she becomes so much at home in this
Tim Challies: It does us good to read missionary biographies. This is especially true when those missionaries served during the great age of missions in the 1700’s and 1800’s. This was a period when missionaries traveled overseas into uncharted and unfamiliar lands. As they left familiar shores they knew they might never return to their homelands, that they would inevitably suffer in terrible ways, that they would very likely give up their lives in service to the Lord. And still they went. Adoniram Judson is the subject of an excellent new biography from Vance Christie, who has previously written works on Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd, and John and Betty Stam. Judson was the very first foreign missionary commissioned in the United States; he proved to be one of the greatest. In 1812 he set sail from America and arrived the next year in Burma (modern day Myanmar). He would serve in Burma for almost four decades and in all that time
John Piper: Just think of it. The God of the universe focused his special revelation and redeeming work on one small ethnic people, Israel, for 2,000 years — from the calling of Abram in Genesis 12 to the coming of Christ. For all that time “he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). Then at the entry of his Son into the world, all this changed. As Jesus was leaving to return to heaven he said, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [my] name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This was a pivotal change in the history of the world. God’s Careful Planning But the command to disciple all the nations was not an afterthought. It was the plan from the moment God chose Israel. God said to Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Then Paul
“If God desires every knee to bow to Jesus and every tongue to confess Him, so should we. We should be ‘jealous’ for the honour of His name—troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it. The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ. Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for His Imperial Majesty Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his empire or kingdom. Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die.” — John Stott The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1994), 53
John Piper: We should be dumbfounded at how doable the remaining task of world missions is. Before I show this, let’s clarify some definitions. Missions is not the same as evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the gospel with any unbelievers, and that work will never be done till Jesus comes. Missions, on the other hand, relates to people groups, not just people, and the number is finite and relatively stable — like the “every people, tongue, tribe, and nation” of Revelation 5:9. So missions is crossing a culture, learning a language, and planting the church through preaching the gospel among people groups that have no churches strong enough to evangelize their group. According to the Joshua Project (as of February 16) there are 16,598 people groups in the world. 7,165 of these are “unreached” (fewer than 2% evangelical). Defining things somewhat differently, the research arm of the Southern Baptist International Missions Board estimates 11,310 people groups, of which 6,405 are unreached and 3,100 are “unengaged”
Matt Smethurst in conversation with Zane Pratt, dean of Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism: What do you perceive to be the most common misconception among evangelicals about the place and purpose of missions in Scripture? The most common misconception about the place of missions in Scripture is the idea that mission is somehow optional, or simply one among many items on the church’s agenda. But mission is actually one of the glues holding together the grand narrative of Scripture, and it’s central to the agenda of the church. The most common misconception about the purpose of missions in Scripture is the idea that mission is simply anything useful the church does outside its own walls. It’s certainly true Christ’s disciples seek to obey everything he commanded, including loving our neighbour as ourselves and being zealous for good works. However, the point of the spear of the church’s mission is making disciples, which necessarily involves evangelism and church planting among those who’ve never heard
Thabiti Anyabwile: 1. To experience the power of God (Matt. 28:18). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” proclaims the Lord. He invests that authority and might in the work of redemption. Our participation in the Great Commission brings us under that Heavenly Authority. No better place to be. 2. For the glory of God in Christ (Matt. 28:18). The Lord’s words in verse 18 harken back to that wonderful vision of Daniel 7:13-14. The transfer of “authority, glory and sovereign power” that Daniel foresaw is completed in our Lord’s post-Resurrection commission to His Church. The bringing of nations to worship Christ spreads the glory of God in His Son. 3. To express obedience and love (Matt. 28:19). The commands us to “go and make disciples.” We’re not only to “teach them to obey everything I commanded,” but we’re also to express such obedience ourselves. Participating in the Great Commission is in a sense the simultaneous way we
(HT: Erik Raymond)
Probably the most important sermon on missions preached in years. David Platt at Together for the Gospel last week:
David Platt, speaking at Verge12: Two assumptions: 1. The Great Commission can be accomplished and will be completed. 2. Pastors and church leaders are moblizers and equippers for people in the local church. Eight non-negotiables: 1. A God-centered God. We must give the people we lead a glimpse of the God-centered God who exalts himself. 2. A word-saturated ministry. We give them a glimpse of the glory of God by giving them the Word of God. It’s the only thing that will drive them into mission and then sustain them. Biblical theology drives urgent missiology. 3. A life-changing gospel. Maybe one of the reasons so many in the church aren’t making disciples of all the nations is that they aren’t really disciples in the first place. Should it not concern us that the Bible never offers a “sinner’s prayer” and never talks about “accepting Jesus into our heart.” We have modern evangelism built on sinking sand that runs the risk of ruining souls.
I’m grateful to Kevin DeYoung for this: In the past week I’ve started reading The Church of Christ by James Bannerman (1807-68). If you aren’t familiar with the work, you should be. It is a classic treatment of Reformed ecclessiology. With almost a thousand pages in two volumes, there isn’t much Bannerman doesn’t cover. Chapter 7 deals with “the church in its relation to the world.” The chapter sounds remarkably contemporary. I’ll probably say more about the book and this chapter later, but it’s worth highlighting the main points here. It is deeply interesting, then, to inquire into the place and office assigned to the Church of Christ in the world. What is the peculiar and important work given to the Christian Church to do upon earth. . . .What, then, I ask, is the mission of the Church on the earth, and its office in relation to the world? Bannerman then makes and expound three statements. “In the first place,
(HT: Timmy Brister)
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you, for the sake of perishing, immortal souls, for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to
J.D. Grear (author of Gospel), Trevin Wax (author of Counterfeit Gospels, and Greg Gilbert (author of What Is the Gospel? and co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?): From The Gospel Coalition.
“The deceptively simple task of disciple-making is made demanding, frustrating and difficult in our world, not because it is so hard to grasp but because it is so hard to persevere in. “This is why we are such suckers for the latest ministry expert, who has always grown a church of at least 5000 from scratch, and who has a guaranteed method for growing your church to be like his. Every five or ten years, a new wave comes through. It might be the seeker-service model, or the purpose-driven model, or the missional-cultural-engagement model, or whatever the next thing will be. All of these methodologies have good things going for them, but all of them are equally beside the point — because our goal is not to grow churches, but to make disciples.” From The Trellis and the Vine by Marshall & Payne (Matthias Media: 2009), p.151. (HT: Todd Pruitt)
Kevin DeYoung, Greg Gilbert, Ryan Kelly discuss the mission of the local church in light of diverse demands on its attention. From The Gospel Coalition.
Justin Taylor writes: Here is an hour-long panel discussion at The Gospel Coalition with Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Leeman, and Trevin Wax on the the Great Commission and the mission of the local church. Far and away the best thing I have read on these issues is the forthcoming book by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (forthcoming from Crossway in September). Here is a blurb from Matt Chandler about the book: In what appears to be a growing tension over what the mission of the church encompasses, DeYoung and Gilbert bring a remarkably balanced book that can correct, restore, and help—regardless of which way you lean or land on all things “missional.” I found the chapters on “social justice” and our motivation in good works to be especially helpful. Whether you are actively engaging the people around you with the Gospel and serving the
From a message by Michael Horton: Our mission is qualitatively different from God’s mission. God sends us on a mission, but it’s a different mission than the mission he sent his Son on. It’s different from the mission he sent his Spirit on. The Son could redeem the world. We can’t. Again, loose talk—loose talk in the Church today about our redeeming activity in the world. WE should never, ever sully that wonderful word by saddling it to us as the subject of the verb. When it comes to redeeming anything, we are not the subject of the action. Jesus Christ is. Jesus is the unique, only, exclusive Redeemer of the world. “Well, we’re extending his redemption.” No, we’re not. There is no extension. He accomplished it once and for all. “Well, we are extensions of his incarnation.” No, we’re not. We’re members of his body. I wasn’t born of a virgin. I didn’t suffer under Pontius Pilate. I wasn’t crucified. I