The Great Commission as given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19 is “disciple the nations.” This is the mission Jesus gave to the Church, which includes EVERY congregation, until He returns. ALL Christ followers are called to be a disciple and make disciples, and church leadership is responsible to equip believers to be able to make disciples. [see the article What Exactly Is the Great Commission?]
While it’s not difficult to come to a consensus on what the Great Commission is, I sometimes wonder if we prioritize it appropriately in our church activities and focus. Other things seem to often receive much more of our attention and appear to take on status as “the mission” of the church.
Three Things that the Great Commission is NOT
1. “Bringing down” the glory of God — Although it is certainly our desire to have services and meetings where the life-changing presence of God is real and even tangible, bringing “heaven to earth” is not the Great Commission. Yes, we want powerful and anointed conferences, but I have seen the emergence of many believers who never seem to be satisfied unless they can experience the latest “big move” of the Holy Spirit. Our purpose is to glorify God primarily in our day-to-day life. I wonder when we are crying for God’s presence to “come, come, come” if He is saying to us “go, go, go!”
2. Winning the culture war — This is a tough one! The church is certainly called to influence our culture toward righteousness. Some Christians are very much called to work in this arena, and we need them to! However, Jesus is not waiting for the church to take dominion of the earth culture so that He can return. He’s waiting for the gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in every nation (Matt. 24:14). We must remember that Jesus made no effort at all, none, to overthrow the Roman occupation of Israel as He declared, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:33-37). We are called to be witnesses of Jesus and speakers of the truth. How does the church make an impact on society and culture? One disciple at a time! If we go and make disciples we’ll see a change in the culture.
3. Revival — Revival is a word that seems to dominate the dialogue in the church. We yearn for it, we pray for it, and we dedicate our lives to see it happen. But what does revival really look like? Or rather, when does a move of God get classified as revival? And can we as the church truly impact when a revival comes? I am not being negative or facetious, but the bottom line is that seeking revival is NOT the mission of the church. Our mission is to disciple the nations, and the spiritual climate in a society or culture has no impact on our call to that mission. In fact, true revival tends to happen in times of persecution. And what has been the lasting impact of past revivals? The fruit of a move of God must be the church making disciples and preparing leaders who can carry on the mission (Great Commission) for future generations. While we are praying for revival, Jesus told us to pray for workers because the harvest is great (Mt 9:37-38)! God’s focus is always on the harvest. Ours should be as well.
Still Miss the Mission
The reality is that the church can be “achieving” all three of the above conditions, and still NOT be fulfilling the mission of the church. We can be having powerfully anointed meetings, have a born again president in the White House, and even see many people coming to Christ, but still miss the mission of making disciples and discipling the nations. Congregating more and more people in our buildings does not necessarily mean we are making disciples. As the old saying goes, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. This may mean shifting priorities and resources in our churches to become “great commission churches.”
Scott E. Dalton is the International Director of Missio Global, an equipping ministry that partners with churches worldwide by providing resources for equipping believers, training leaders, and planting churches. There are church-based Missio Global Schools of Ministry in eight nations. Scott and his family resided and served for over 14 years in a major developing nation. www.missioglobal.com