What is the Great Commission?

In Matthew 28:18-20 we can read the Great Commission. It says, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Today I want to answer a few questions for you. What is the Church? What is the Church’s Message? What is the Church’s Mission? And what should its motive be? When you decided to follow Jesus, what did that include, what did that mean for your life? Let’s look at the big picture of those questions, and then we will look at a few first steps towards answering them. I want to give you practical ways you can step forward to answer the Great Commission individually and as a member of your Church.

Look at Mark 16:15. It is also a Great Commission verse, it says, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”.

Let’s look at Acts 1:8, another Great Commission verse:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 can be used alongside Matthew 28:18-20, to help us understand the “who” and the “where” much better.

When you hear Jerusalem, think of your local neighborhood (their ministry to the Jews), their city, Judea their neighboring cities and Samaria, think of the Gentiles or our neighbors (in America) the Canadians or Mexicans their neighboring countries.  Then we hear the ends of the earth, to them might have been like Rome, to us New York City, Paris, Port-Au-Prince, Calcutta, Ethiopia, San Francisco. No one is off limits in the great commission.

Photo:BibleHistory.com
Photo:BibleHistory.com

Let’s look more into the “Who” Are We Going To…

Missionary and author, Robertson McQuilkin reports that, “There are 400 million evangelicals in the world. Some of these are no doubt lost, but at least that many people believe Jesus is the only way of salvation and that through faith in Him one is forgiven and made a member of God’s family.

Surely some who are not evangelical also have saving faith. So let us double the number to a hypothetical 800 million. Those who remain number more than 6 billion people, or 9 of every 10 on earth. These are the lost – longing for salvation but not finding it or trusting some other way to find meaning and hope.

Not that long ago, one of every two lived in a tribe or culture or language group that had no evangelizing church at all. Today, we can thank God it may be one in every three. But whatever the precise numbers may be, there are billions of people who, unless someone goes to them from outside their culture, have no way of knowing about Jesus.”

So the who includes all nations, all who are without Jesus, in Zanesville, in Columbus, Ohio, in Kentucky, the USA, Canada, Saudia Arabia, China, all who do not know Jesus.

Did you already know what the 10/40 Window was? That’s something I learned about just a few years ago. And I’d like to share a little more info with you about it from the Joshua Project:

“The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The 10/40 Window includes several …countries, such as Indonesia, that have high concentrations of unreached peoples. Approximately 4.75 billion individuals residing in an estimated 8,447 distinct people groups are in the 10/40 Window.  (62.5 %) of these people groups are considered unreached and have a population of 2.91 billion (61.3 %). The 10/40 Window is home to some of the largest unreached people groups in the world such as the Shaikh, Yadava, Turks, Moroccan Arabs, Pashtun, Jat and Burmese.”-Joshua Project

Why do you need to know about the 10/40 Window? Why does your church need to know about it? If you looked closer at the map, you could see that the origins of Christianity can be traced back to that very area. You can see that where Christianity was once spreading is now being banned. You can see that billions of people in that part of the world will one day die and face their Creator. We all know 1 out of 1 dies. Who do you know that are praying for these people, who do you know that are actually going to them sharing Jesus’ name? What can we do about the 10/40 Window?

We can pray, we can go, we can send.

Many closed nations or areas where the government prohibits Christianity and evangelism, mission work, exist in the 10/40 window. Spend some time today researching this area of your world. Understand that this is the area where Buddhism, Islam, Atheism, and Hinduism prevail. Where poverty is rampant and prayer is the greatest need. Pray for this area today. Research ways to make an impact in this area. Sometimes even your shirt you’re wearing today is made inside these countries. I heard about a t-shirt prayer movement where you pray for the country in your shirt tag as you put on each day. Many churches as part of the missions and outreach focus on and even adopt a people group that’s unreached to pray for. Ask your church leadership what they are doing about the unreached in your world.

Often when we hear about this Great Commission we are tempted and reminded of all the “what ifs” and the “I could nots…”, we think we are too old, too young, not educated, not smart enough, or wealthy enough. We think we are too far away.  Let me tell you about too old…

Mother Theresa at age 86 operated nearly 517 different missions in 100 countries. She passed away in 1997 at 87 years of age and life leaving a legacy of selflessness. She did not allow her age, or her circumstances in life to stop her from reaching out to the hopeless.

“On the day of the Nazi imposed boycott in Berlin, of Jewish stores and businesses Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s grandmother Julie, who happened to be 91 years old and under a hundred pounds, marched right passed some Nazi’s who were barricading Jewish storefronts and exclaimed, “I will shop where I want to”. She was not squashed by fear, limited by age. She walked forward in the face of a giant.

Do you think you are too young to make a difference? Hudson Taylor was less than 30 years old when he founded China Inland Mission. He was 17 when he felt God calling him to China. “By the time of Taylor’s death in 1905, the CIM was an international body with 825 missionaries living in all eighteen provinces of China, more than 300 stations of work, more than 500 local Chinese helpers, and 25,000 Christian converts.”

Psalms 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Romans 8:31 says, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

We may think we are too old we may think we are too young, I for one have always felt I was too young. I had too much trouble speaking, too many issues, not enough tact, I always felt not good enough to share the Gospel, to be a missionary, to cross cultures and boundaries and oceans and tell people of the love of Jesus.

Back in 2008 I felt the distinct calling on my heart to go to Haiti with my church. This would mean I’d have to gather up $1800, I’d have to fly in a plane, I’d see the ocean for the first time from up above, and never smell it, I’d go where I did not have a phone, internet, or a way to call home, I’d use a cold shower, and most difficult l would leave my 4 precious babies at home. Gathering money for that trip meant writing letters, we were pay-check to pay-check people and even though I knew people might not give I wrote anyway.

God showed me how people leave change all over the place so I started collecting pennies and wouldn’t you know one time I turned in 40 some dollars and another 70 some dollars, I started seeing pennies everywhere I went, on every bathroom floor and sidewalk. God was making a way for me to get there, like pennies rained from the sky. I was the last person to turn in the money but it got turned in all $1800. Some of the people that gave to me weren’t even Christians. Though God was providing, and doors opening, simultaneously it seemed like a lot of opposition kept coming my way, and I would question and think “what if”, “I can not…” The day I was to fly out, my temperature soared to 103 degrees, I was very sick but nothing would stop me, I was Haiti bound, I was going to answer the call! Too young, not educated enough, too much of a talker, not enough money, simple mom and housewife, I was still going! Because I knew with God all things truly are possible.

Haiti is the poorest nation in our hemisphere. It is a country where the literacy rate is only 53%. That means half its people cannot read at all. Only 12% of the population has electricity. The average yearly income is between $300 and $1200 US dollars. Though no one there would ever readily admit to you, their poorest of the poor regularly make and eat cakes from dirt. When you arrive in Haiti you are immediately met by the smell of Haiti. Things have improved slightly now after the 7.0 Magnitude earthquake that hit the country in Jan. of 2010 however there is still much to be done, in the island that is only 2 hours away by air from one of the richest and most capable countries in the world. Any student that wants an education in Haiti has to pay for it. And with an annual income as low as it is – many are unable to afford the 300-600$ a year tuition. 80% of the population is below poverty lines, with 54% in abject poverty.

On my first trip there I crossed cultural lines, I flew in a plane, I saw the ocean for the first time and I fell in love with a people that not only knew God, they worshiped Him for 3 hours on Sunday in seats made of wood that nearly made me pass out from pain to sit on. There was also a darkness there, it is a place where you will seek God like you’ve never sought Him before, and it’s a place where you still see absolute miracles but also incredible plights of sadness. Haiti is a place we, as followers of Jesus, should not ignore. It is full of the most incredibly brave, wonderful people you’ll ever have the privilege of knowing! Mwen renmen Ayiti!! -I love Haiti!

A boy bringing home water from a well for the day.
A boy bringing home water from a well for the day.

Years after the earthquake there are still many people living in makeshift tents (tarps stretched over sticks with dirt floors), where at night hungry rats invade and women are raped. It’s our neighbor and there are still people there who do not know Jesus, and need to know His love in practical ways.

On my last trip there in a room filled with about 40 kids, mostly boys around 11-12 years of age, with a show of hands only 4 of them regularly attended any kind of church or had Christian families, and the majority answered they did not know how to read.

Haiti was a wakeup call for me.IMG_0837 It made me think about my neighboring countries, my neighboring cities, even my next door neighbors. It made me realize how important it is to share my faith and to shower love even on the loveless person next door.

Have you ever gone next door to love your neighbor, the one your neighbors wish would move away? Have you mowed their grass when their lawn mower is broken? Have you shoveled their snow, brought them a pie? Fixed their car? Given them a car? These things can be done you know, just to share the name of Jesus. The Church needs to be known for its crazy radical love!!! Not crazy behavior. I repeat, the Church needs to be known for its crazy love!!! Before you know it, your other neighbors might get involved and mow the grass before you can even get to it – trust me, I’ve had it happen.

You see, sharing the Gospel is sometimes using whatever you have, going where no one else will go, doing what no one else wants to do. Then look what God does, it gets contagious! We’ve talked a good bit about what it means to go. There’s another part of answering the call. What about sending?

Charles Swindoll told the story of “A famous artist once was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. It was expected that he would paint a small and humble congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a stately edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent windows – and near the door, an offering box, marked “Missions”, with the contribution slot blocked by cobwebs.”

Maybe you physically cannot travel the world to share the Gospel. A friend of ours named Jim was always going back and forth to Haiti but one day his health became such a problem he could no longer go. So he took what he would have spent and gave it to my husband. My husband went to Haiti for the first time because of that donation. He was able to use his welding skills to save a well from destruction for a community near Croix des Bouquet. There is something to be said also about those who send people to answer this calling of going. Amazingly, it was a well that we had given towards the funding of earlier on. It was amazing for him to be a part of the project!

Missions are like a buffet, like a giant feast, step out and try something, you can’t possibly eat everything at a buffet, well maybe you could but you shouldn’t. Try one thing. Of course the easiest thing may be to start with is prayer. Prayer is like the water, you cannot eat at a buffet without something to drink. Try praying about missions.

It has been my privilege to work with international students for the last 4 years. 800,000 of them come into the US annually and 85% of them never enter an American home. They come from closed off to the Gospel nations like China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Have you thought about becoming a host family to a student? They live on campus but eat dinner with you once or twice a month, attend family activities and learn about your culture, country, traditions and faith all while you practice showing them hospitality.

As I have my experience with the poorest people in my hemisphere I’ve also had experience with the richest. Some of the students you meet in this international student mission field are at the top of the socioeconomic chart, they live in the lap of luxury but can I tell you they are just as poor as my Haitian friends, as my drug addicted friends, as the kid who lives on the street. They are poor because they do not know they have a soul. They do not know they are created with a purpose and loved by God. They do not know the word grace, the meaning of it and that it’s free for the taking if they accept Jesus Christ. No one has told them, no one has shown them. The majority of the students I work with come from the 10/40 window. They will never know the name of Jesus, unless someone tells them. Look for an opportunity in your area to get involved with internationals.

So to Recap:

  • The Church is Jesus’ Messenger
  • The Church’s Message is the Gospel
  • The Church’s Mission includes the Whole World
  • And the Church’s Motive is always to love God, and love others.

Follower of Jesus, you are a messenger of Jesus, called to be a witness for Him to the whole world with the motive of love!

Take a moment to remember how Jesus came into the world, do not forget how He left all He had and came here in obedience to the Father for our redemption. How He came and gave up His life for you and me. Do not be afraid to step forward to serve Him, He is at the right hand of God right now making intercessions for us. He loves you, He will not allow you to be separated from that love, He calls you conquerors! He said be bold and courageous, He said be my witnesses. He said go and make disciples in My name, teach them, baptize them. Jesus said, love God your Father with all your heart with all you have, and love others!! Jesus said, the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

What are we waiting on? There’s a whole world outside your door that needs to know the love of their Savior, that needs to know the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came and bled and died as the sacrifice for their sins and was raised to life and they too can know Him and know that their sins are nailed to the cross. They are nailed to the cross. They can have a new life in Him.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When is the last time you saw someone commit their life to Christ or asked someone how they are doing with their walk of faith?
  • Are you currently or would you be willing to pray for a neighbor, classmate, cousin, old friend, your city or a country to know the love of Jesus and accept Him as their Savior and then follow Him with their life?
  • Are you willing to go if He calls? Are you willing to send? Are you willing to pray?
  • Remember Jesus gave His life willingly for you and for the whole world. They nailed Him to the tree, How can I not respond as being His witness when my Savior was nailed to a tree for me?

Have you ever seen Schindler’s List, the movie? Oskar Schindler who saved over a thousand Jews during the Holocaust realizes he could’ve done more, a reminder for us of what we are willing to give up to answer the call. When I saw this video clip in this context it pierced my heart. There’s nothing in this life more important than Jesus Christ. If you haven’t seen it go watch it. When you watch, think about holding on to everything so tight and think about letting go, going, sending, praying. Think about your neighbor, think about that 10/40 Window and billions of people, think about the poor both in food and things – but in spirit also. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to respond.

Amen.