Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Sometimes, we are so focused on what God is going to do in the future that we miss what God is already doing right here and now. We often think, “Someday, God will call me to be a missionary,” or “after I retire, then God will use me for the Great Commission.” But the truth is, God has already called us. Jesus has already commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. So what are we waiting for?
Last week I challenged us to take Jesus seriously, accepting his words as truth even when we don’t want to, and endeavoring to do what he says. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). He challenges us to leave behind the things of this world and follow him without looking back. He calls us to step out in faith and live a life that is countercultural.
But too many Christians, including myself, remain deeply entangled in the things of this world. It is so easy to buy into the American dream that is constantly being sold to us by advertisements. Like the rich young ruler who walked away from Christ, we spend most of our time and effort storing up treasures here one earth, even though Jesus specifically commanded us not to store up treasures on earth. We constantly pursue money so we can buy more possessions for ourselves, instead of abandoning possessions for the sake of Christ, and using our resources to help those in need, as Christ calls us to do. And when it comes to the Great Commission, we rarely go into our own communities to share the gospel, let alone go into all the world.
But we can’t afford not to go – not when there are so many people in the world who do not know Christ, and not when there are so many people in need even in our own communities. So I’m proposing three challenging ideas to help us to go and carry out the Great Commission. These are ideas I have failed to do. But I am challenging us, including myself, to take them seriously.
Three Challenging Ideas
1. Make one disciple.
There is a great need to reach as many people as possible with the good news of Jesus Christ in the limited time we have left. For this reason, there is certainly an important place for street preaching and witnessing to strangers, as well as using new media such as film and video to reach as many people as possible with the gospel message. However, just as important as the quantity of people we reach is the quality of our witness. Jesus calls us not only to preach, but also to “make disciples.” In our own communities and around the world, there are people who hunger and thirst for the things of God – people who desire to understand the Bible and know Christ, but they have no one to show them the way. Instead of merely telling someone about Jesus, be Jesus to that person. Let the love of Christ shine through your life into theirs, so they see Jesus in you. The real power of our witness is not in the information we communicate, but in the relationships we build.
For this reason, I encourage each of us to build a relationship with someone we know who is searching for the truth, but does not yet know Christ. Instead of simply handing them a gospel tract and walking away, commit to sharing the Word with them long-term, to helping them in whatever struggles they are facing in life, and to being the Christ in their life. Start by praying that God will send someone into your life who is hungry for the gospel message. When God answers your prayer, don’t allow the distractions of this world to prevent you from reaching out to them. Befriend them, show them the love of Christ, and mentor them through the conversion process until they become a committed disciple of Christ. If each member of the church made just one disciple, the church would suddenly double in size. If everyone in the doubled church made one disciple, the church would already be quadruple its original size! The only reason the church isn’t doubling is because we have each failed to make one disciple.
2. Go to another location for the purpose of the Great Commission.
The Body of Christ is far larger than your home church or fellowship, but we often fail to see what Christ is doing in other churches and ministries around the world, because we stay in our own little isolated groups all the time. If we really want to make disciples of all nations, we need to be willing step out in faith into another location. I encourage us to travel to another location for the sake of Christ, especially if it means getting involved with other Christian groups outside of our home churches. Being exposed to the work that Jesus is doing in other churches or ministries around the world is invigorating and often gives us a fresh perspective on the gospel. When I studied at Messiah College and Temple University, I gained a deep appreciation for how large and diverse the Body of Christ is. Many of my classmates went on short-term missions to countries around the world, and brought back stories of miraculous things that Jesus is doing in his global body.
When I lived in Philadelphia, I partnered with the Mennonite church as they took a public stand for Sermon on the Mount nonviolence in the midst of a culture of violence. I met a Chinese Christian sent by her church as a missionary to America. I saw the Chinese Gospel Church in Philadelphia reach out to the Chinese community and lead many college students to faith in Jesus Christ. All of these things strengthened my faith in Christ, expanded my knowledge of Christ, and deepened my appreciation for the Body of Christ. I encourage us to consider partnering with a Christian ministry or nonprofit organization and going on a short-term (or long-term!) mission to another country or even another city. It’s a powerful way to carry out the Great Commission and share the gospel with people in another location. Not only will you be a blessing to others, but the experience will bless you as well.
3. Decide that enough is enough.
Preaching the gospel and helping people in need go hand in hand. You cannot successfully have one without the other. In order to lead people to Christ, we need to show the love of Christ to those who need it most – the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the widow. We live in a world of need, where thousands of people die every day from malnutrition and curable diseases. According to Matthew 25, Jesus will one day judge us on whether we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, looked after the sick, or visited those in prison. The way we treat these people is the way we treat Jesus. In a world of need, why are we storing up treasures for ourselves here on earth, when Jesus specifically told us “do not store up treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19)?
There is nothing wrong with working to make money – in fact, Ephesians 4:28 says we should work hard to earn money, but it also says that the purpose of making money is so that we “may have something to share with anyone in need.” For this reason, I encourage us to set a cap on our income. Pray and decide what amount of money is “enough” for you to live a healthy life (to put things in perspective, 50% of people live on less than $2 a day). Then give away everything you make above that amount to those in need. This is a radical idea, and one I have not yet put into practice in my own life, but I feel convicted that Christians in wealthy countries must take a stand against materialism. Perhaps this is not very radical after all. Jesus called the rich young ruler in Mark 10 to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Surely we, after deciding how much is “enough,” can at least afford to give away the excess!
We all have some “treasures on earth” stored up that we could abandon for the sake of Christ. Perhaps you have some clothes you could give away or some books you could give to someone who will actually read them. Perhaps you have some stuff you could sell on eBay so you could use the money to sponsor a child in the Congo. Maybe you have a Netflix or cable TV subscription you could cancel to free up that money for a more important purpose. Think counter culturally.