When it comes to the great commission, we must be careful not to confuse going with talking about going. Tony Merida, one of our preaching professors at Southeastern, frequently uses a simple illustration to make this point.
Imagine a kitchen table full of children at breakfast time. As family breakfast is winding down, father says to the children that he has errands to run for the day but expects them to clean their rooms while he is away. He will be back that afternoon, and charges them with this task in his absence. The children agree and the father leaves.
As afternoon rolls around, father returns to his children sitting around that same table. Pieces of paper and crayons are spread out, and the children are huddled around their drawings. The father asks the children as he enters if they had finished their assignment. The children excitedly look up to their father and tell him he would be very proud of their efforts. “Father,” they say, “we have been hard at work all day. We sat down here and planned out the best way to clean our room. We have had meetings about the best strategies, and trained each other in proper cleaning technique. See, look at our plans!”
“But did you clean your room?” asks the father.
The illustration is simple but gets at the heart of a real issue that creeps into all our planning, talking, writing, and meeting about the great commission. Often, it is easier to talk about going than to simply go.
At Southeastern, we are finishing our Global Missions Week for 2015. It is a week-long barrage of meetings, workshops, and exhibits. Students have missionaries and church planters speak in their classes, they are given the opportunity to dialogue with missions agencies and consider options, and they get to rub shoulders with some of the best in the field. That being said, it is all talk. Talk is a good thing, if it leads to action.
In line with this, today we are taking some of these same students out into the community to do more than talk. We want them to go and engage their neighbors with the gospel. As part of our Peoples Next Door project, students will participate in a regular event called Reach Raleigh. Over the course of the day, students will spread out across the city into local shops, restaurants, and businesses all ran by various international peoples. The nations are living in our cities, and Reach Raleigh is an open door for out students to develop key relationship with these people group pockets for the sake of church planting.
My plea to our students, and anyone else who happens to be reading this, is plain. Do not let your planning and preparation for the great commission get in the way of fulfilling the great commission.
Keelan leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. He is working on a PhD in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.