This post is provided by Scott Hildreth, the Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies. You can check out his blog here: The Sent Life.
It is possible to obey the mandate given in the Matthew 28:19 by living intentionally where we are already going. However, fulfilling this vision requires leaving our places of comfort and going where the message of Christ is not known. Look at the simple phrase “of all nations” in verse 19. The Great Commission is not a command to make disciples “in” all nations, meaning that there are Christians inside national boundaries. Jesus was not referring to national borders which are the results of wars, treaties, or international ‘agreements.’ The impulse of this mandate is people not property, on the different ethnic or people groups living around the world. There are about 190 countries in the world, but according to the latest statistics available there are about 11,240 different people/ethnic groups in the world. Over 6500 do not have sufficient access or knowledge of the message of Christ. These are the “nations” that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of; the concern is with people not boundaries.
These “nations” might occupy the same geography, but are distinctly different (language, culture, affinity, history) and often require a new and intentional effort to communicate the message of Christ in a relevant and understandable fashion. Think about your city. Can you identify different pockets of people who might be uniquely different and require someone abandoning comfort to reach them with the message of Christ?
Over the years, I have sought for different ways to communicate this idea to churches and have discovered that a simple food illustration works well.
(SPOILER ALERT: you may never eat breakfast the same again!)
The World is Not a Pancake!
Now on the surface this is a stupid sentence. Of course it isn’t. But hang on for a minute! This is actually going somewhere.
When you eat pancakes, where do you put butter and syrup? When that piping hot stack sits on your plate, you drop butter in the middle and dump syrup in the center. It flows all over doesn’t it? You pour, lift, and repeat. Before long the whole stack is sufficiently soggy and ready to eat.
Waffles are different. We have to pay attention to every square. You have to spread butter and syrup in each square, and if you don’t do it intentionally, some squares will remain untouched.
The World is a Waffle!
1. One method and one location is not sufficient to fulfill the commission –Different people require different methods of communication and ministry. This requires courage and creativity. For each “square” to be touched, some must go.
2. We cannot expect saturation in one area to spill out to every square – It is not enough for Churches to be successful here and expect that a bright light at home will shine into the dark places. We must also remember that the presence of a church or Christians in one country does not mean that a country is reached. Intentionally consider the squares.
3. Without the sweetness of the gospel, places remain dry and incomplete – Global missions is not a competition where the side who dies with the most adherents wins. Rather it is an invitation for the nations to come back home to honor and worship the creator. Jesus said that this is an invitation to the full, abundant life.
4. Someone has to go to the edges because the Lord’s instructions include “all nations” – It is true that we have plenty of work to do ‘at home.’ All of us can point to social and spiritual needs. However, these needs do not eliminate the requirement for some to go to the edges. It is time for lostness, not needs, to be our compelling motivation.
The Great Commission Studies (CGCS) is the hub of Southeastern’s Great Commission efforts, helping develop students and faculty members who are Great Commission servants of their local churches. The CGCS serves the Southeastern community in four major areas: academics, research, mobilization, and convention relationships.