Basic Training, Evangelism

Basic Training: The Great Commission

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from 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.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Christmas, Evangelism, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Christmas Gone Viral

One third of the world celebrates Christmas. That makes this the perfect time of year to carry out the Great Commission. What could be a more natural transition from chit chat to the gospel than talking about Christmas – the birth of Christ? Watch as Ray Comfort and ordinary folks from all over the world share the good news of Jesus with those they encounter.

If you’re looking for other easy ways to share the gospel in the coming weeks, check out my article, 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays. You can also order some awesome Christmas-themed tracts to tuck inside your Christmas cards or share as you’re shopping at Living Waters or Bezeugen.

Sanctification

Discipleship Requires Relationship

discipleship-relationship

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.
Matthew 28:19-20

You probably know the verses above as the “Great Commission.” Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after His resurrection and before ascending back into Heaven, and they are still our marching orders as Christians today. It’s an action-packed passage, wouldn’t you say? Go. Make. Baptize. Teach. We are to be about the Lord’s business, not sitting around doing nothing or busying ourselves with other things to the exclusion or neglect of the task to which Christ has called us: sharing the gospel with the lost and training the saved to follow Christ.

But how do we put shoes on the Great Commission? What does it look like to “Go ye therefore” and carry out this action plan of making and teaching disciples of Christ in our day to day lives? Like so many other aspects of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, there is no one size fits all checklist of specific, “do it this way” tasks to choose from. Why? Because God created you as a unique individual with a particular background and placed you in a certain life venue. Yours doesn’t look like mine, and mine doesn’t look like yours. And that’s a good thing. God has woven all of those elements together in our lives to place us in the exact spot He wants us in to glorify Him, grow in our own faith, and make the disciples He has specifically assigned us to reach in the way He wants us to reach them.

But while you may be counseling a fellow church member about her marriage and I might be teaching my children the book of Colossians and another sister might be praying with a hospitalized co-worker, there’s one thing that’s foundational to all these divergent discipling situations: relationship. You can’t disciple someone unless you have a relationship with her.

Now let me stop and clarify something here. I’m not saying you have to have a relationship with someone before you can evangelize her. We should absolutely be sharing the gospel with lost friends, family, and others we already have relationships with, but we can (and should) share the gospel with complete strangers we’ll never see again as well. When Jesus first called His disciples and said, “Come follow Me,” He didn’t, humanly speaking, know any of them, as far as we know.

But Jesus didn’t stop with the call, just like we’re not to stop with the conversion. He gathered those twelve guys to Himself and they literally did life together for the next three years. They lived together, ate together, traveled together, went to the temple together. Everything. Together. For three years. That’s what turned them into disciples- true followers: time spent together with Christ, learning from Him.

There were three main ways Christ discipled the Twelve: formal teaching (as with the Sermon on the Mount), situational teaching and correction (as when James and John wanted to sit on His right and left in the Kingdom), and setting an example (as when the disciples watched Jesus minister to Zacchaeus), and all of those methods required Jesus to spend time with and bond with the disciples. These weren’t mere acquaintances of His, they were brothers.

Is that what God is calling us to do today? Should we quit our jobs, gather up a dozen ladies, move in together, and disciple them? (Goodness, it almost sounds like a reality TV show, doesn’t it?) Probably not (Especially if you’re married and have children. In that case, your family members are your live in disciples.). But we do need to make sure we’re clearing time in our busy schedules to bond with women or children who need a “big sister” in Christ. Time to disciple them in the same ways Jesus did: formal teaching, situational teaching and correction, and setting an example. Work through a book of the Bible together, be a shoulder to cry on, pray with her when she’s had a bad day, go to the movies together, let her watch while you share the gospel with someone, have a cup of coffee. Develop that close, trusting relationship that creates a safe haven for confession of sin, sharing fears and inadequacies, instruction, rebuke, encouragement, grief, and rejoicing.

And it’s important that we do this, not only at the individual level, but at the church level as well. My church is somewhat large, with a few hundred or so in attendance each week. A few months ago, I hosted a fellowship for the ladies of my class, just so we could have some fun and get to know each other better. During the evening, I asked if anyone would be interested in a weekly women’s Bible study. Most indicated that it wouldn’t work out with their schedules, and we went on with the evening, sharing various things that were going on in our lives, and even stopping to pray for a few of the ladies who were struggling. Later, one of the ladies pulled me aside, told me how much she had enjoyed the evening, and said something so wise I’ll never forget it: “A weekly Bible study would be nice, but this evening is the kind of thing we need. We get good teaching in church and in Sunday School, but we never get to just sit around and talk and share our joys and struggles- our lives.” And she was right.

Yes, sometimes churches can go overboard on fellowship, but we’ve got to be careful not to swing too far the other direction to the point that we’re a group of isolated individuals who happen to be in the same place at the same time each week to receive good teaching and all go our separate ways when it’s over. Good, biblical, corporate teaching and worship are only one aspect of discipleship- the “theory” aspect of discipleship, if you will.

But what about the “applied” aspect of discipleship, where the rubber of the sermon meets the road of life’s circumstances? That’s where relationship comes in. There are women and children in your church who are fairly starving for someone to reach out to them, listen to them, help bear their burdens, explain how the Scriptures apply to what they’re going through today, give them a hug and an encouraging word. Is your church creating space for this to happen between individuals and in small groups? Are you encouraged to get involved in one another’s lives and walk through joys and sorrows together on a personal level?

Making disciples. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes relationship. Jesus was willing to invest those precious resources into the lives of His disciples. Are we?

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Guest Posts

Guest Post: The Ministry of Encouragement

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

michael coughlin encouragement

The Ministry of Encouragement
by Michael Coughlin

How well do you have to know someone before you can speak truth into their life? I had a phone call today with a testimony I wanted to share with you that helps answer that question.

But first, some background information is required. In 2015, I traveled to Indianapolis to assist Sports Fan Outreach International in preaching the gospel to the Final Four fans. I was speaking with another evangelist when he introduced me to his friend, Pam. Pam open air preached, he said. I don’t recall exactly how the conversation went, but I was asked what I thought of that.

Here is where conventional (or dare I say ‘worldly’?) wisdom dictates that I ought to have offered Pam a cup of Starbucks and gotten to know her situation better. Maybe she’d had a childhood with an abusive father, or had been saved from hearing a woman preacher, right? Surely that insight, as well as building her trust in me was paramount to simply telling her what the Scripture teaches, right?

Well, as you can guess, I disagree. Not that making friends with folks and ‘being relational’ is bad, but I just didn’t have time for that. I was on the streets intending to reach the lost with the gospel and found myself in the conversation. So I gently but firmly explained that I do not believe a woman should preach and shared a couple reasons from Scripture.

She received my explanation and told me that she generally didn’t disagree. Her issue was that, although she thought women ought not preach, the lack of male preachers getting out and doing the work dictated that someone had to. So, in what seemed like an earnest attempt to please the Lord and do His work, she started preaching.

Again, without having more than a 6 minute relationship with her at this point, I explained to her that she was doing exactly what Sarah did when she gave Hagar to Abraham in order to produce the promised child. Sarah, having been given a promise by God, did not see how God would fulfill the promise, so she took the matter into her own hands. Sarah (and Pam), genuinely believed this is how God’s promise would be fulfilled. I don’t pray for a job and then not send out resumes. Simply “relying on God” isn’t an excuse for inaction. But in this case, Sarah (and Pam), had gone outside of the lines God has drawn for us to accomplish things. Sarah committed sin by giving her husband another woman, and Pam was sinning by violating God’s command to women not to preach. In each case, they were not acting wisely. Truly trusting in God is knowing He will fulfill His purposes, and that it will not be by asking His followers to sin. (Note: but He will USE His followers’ sin to accomplish His good will, Rom. 8:28).

Our time together ended amicably. The phone call I had today revealed that God used that conversation in Pam’s heart and she has given up preaching. She continues to evangelize and hand out tracts. In other words, God used the proclaiming of His truth in Pam’s life, by the power of the Holy Spirit –despite the lack of nuance I could afford in my speech and relationship we had time to build. Pam was able to receive my words because Pam was humble and my words were true. It really had nothing to do with my kindness or my desire or ability empathize with Pam, although God may have used those things as well.

As you can imagine, I was greatly encouraged by this in the Lord. (Philemon 20)

There are three primary takeaways I want you, the reader, to think about in regards to this story.

First, I did not need to build a relationship with Pam to speak truth into her life. My reliance on the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture was the only requirement. Now, that is never an excuse to act ungodly. We also trust that as God gives us opportunities to interact with people, He will use the sanctification we’ve received to that point as part of the relationship. So it is possible I actually was kind and compassionate, etc., my point is that those things aren’t the same as the power of God’s Word to pierce hearts (Acts 4:12).

Secondly, you never know how God is working in someone’s life when you are not there. We are very “seeing” oriented. Sometimes God does a good work when you are not looking. So don’t lose hope. I didn’t need to be in Pam’s life daily or weekly or actually ever for God to use His Word to effect a wonderful change in her.

Finally, I cannot explain how greatly encouraged I was by this anecdote. I spend my life preaching and teaching, discipling and being discipled, and I can tell you the “apparent” success is often bleak. Even joyful moments are often overshadowed by an “I can never do enough” attitude. I hear of a person responding to something positively and I can recall dozens of situations that never appeared to improve. I need this kind of encouragement. So did Paul. So do you. And so does someone in your life. Someone you know needs to know how their work for Jesus Christ has had a good result. Someone needs to know you are thinking of them and praying for them.

While writing this post, I got an email from someone I don’t know too well that said, “Brother, Just thinking about you and praying for fruits of your labors. God bless you brother.” I can only imagine there is someone in your life that needs a similar message. It may prevent you from having to deal with a situation such as I have linked to here.


Michael Coughlin is a street evangelist from Ohio. He and his wife, Erin have 5 children. You can find him on Twitter, at his blog, or on Sermon Audio.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Missions

Missions Monday ~ 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

I’m taking some time off this week.
I hope you’ll enjoy this selected article.

Originally published at
Satisfaction Through Christ
missions

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.” Matthew 28:18-20

This passage in Matthew is called The Great Commission. It is Christ’s mandate to all Christians to preach the gospel, clearly and verbally, as often as we can, everywhere. Some of the most important ways we can do this are sharing the gospel with our friends and loved ones, praying for our missionaries, and giving missions offerings at church. But while you’re doing these things, did you know that there are a lot of other little ways you can get involved in missions and evangelism? Here are some I’ve tried and loved:

Free GivingGospel for Asia has a number of ways you can give to missions for FREE. From air miles to eBay, you can support the spread of the gospel in Asia. My favorite is the grocery store scan card.

Good Newsfeed– Get the good news to all five thousand of your closest friends simultaneously by posting a short gospel presentation video to your Facebook page. The two I like best are here and here.

The Main At-tract-ionLiving Waters has some awesome, attention grabbing tracts that make it easy and fun to start a gospel conversation. I like to use “Celebrity Millions.” As a Christian author, I sometimes have the opportunity to do book signings at secular venues. I lay a bunch of those “Celebrity Millions” out on the table, and it draws people like flies. (Sometimes, people are more interested in the tracts than my book, which is ok with me–they’re getting the gospel!) It’s fun to try to guess who some of the less identifiable celebrities are, and if you can’t get a foot in the door with a verbal gospel presentation, all you have to do is say, “There’s a great message on the back. Be sure to read it!”

great commission

Missions on the Amazon– Are you familiar with Amazon Smile? It allows you to designate a portion of your Amazon.com purchase for donation to the charity of your choice. I like to donate to the “International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention” (copy and paste that into the Smile search bar if you’d like to donate to the IMB).

Left Behind– If you’re new to sharing the gospel with strangers, an easy way to do it is to leave a tract or a New Testament (preferably one with a page that explains the plan of salvation, or tuck a tract inside) behind when you go somewhere. Some good places to leave one: waiting areas of doctors’ offices, hospitals, airports, the DMV, and salons, in restrooms, on a park bench (in a plastic bag in case of rain), or at a restaurant (with a GENEROUS tip). Use wisdom with regard to any rules the business may have about litter or soliciting, especially if your (or another) church’s contact information is printed on the tract or Bible. When I leave a Bible, I like to write a note on the inside (“I’m not lost, I was left as a gift for you. Please take me home and read me.”) so the person who finds it knows she’s free to keep it.

Be a Twit– Tweet gospel centered Bible verses, and, if appropriate and safe, let people know they can contact you (maybe via a designated, anonymous e-mail account?) if they want to know more about the gospel. You can purchase Bibles inexpensively at the dollar store, or ask your pastor about ordering them in bulk.

Throw Me Somethin’, Mister!– Down here in Louisiana, we have tons of parades, and in good Mardi Gras tradition, we throw things to the spectators. Instead of worthless plastic beads and trinkets, how about throwing New Testaments, or little bags of candy with tracts inside? If parades aren’t the thing in your neck of the woods, you can also give tracts and Bibles away from your booth at the fair, festival, or flea market, at your garage sale, at your kids’ lemonade stand, etc. And if your church does fundraisers like bake sales, car washes, or other events that are open to the public, be sure there are church members available to share the gospel and pray with people who are open to it.

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Memorial BiblesGideons International has a wonderful program that allows you to donate Bibles in memory of a lost loved one. If you think it would be meaningful to the family of the deceased, consider donating Bibles instead of sending flowers. “…flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Be a Designated Donor– If you own your own business, have garage sales, sell craft items, etc., commit to setting aside a percentage of each sale for missions. The more specific the focus, the better. For example, adopt a particular unreached people group or give to an organization that focuses on getting the gospel to a certain focus group (such as victims of human trafficking or ESL students). Learn about the people the money will help and briefly tell your customers about them with each transaction. This may also open a door for sharing the gospel with your customers! Here’s how I’ve done it with the royalties from the sale of my book.

Group Project– Looking for a great evangelism activity for your youth group or small group? Join up with The Biggest Project. It’s an operation that aims to get an awesome DVD gospel presentation called “The Biggest Question” into as many hands as possible by handing them out on college campuses, at sporting events, or anywhere else there’s a lot of foot traffic. Like the idea but your group isn’t quite ready? You can sponsor DVDs for groups who want to distribute them but can’t afford the cost to order.

There are probably more different ways and opportunities for sharing the gospel and furthering mission work now than ever before. Get creative, get out there, and let’s get the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

What are some creative ways YOU like to share the gospel with others or contribute to missions work?