Monday, March 8, 2010

Obeying the Great Commission

J. Guy Muse is an internet friend of mine and fellow missionary serving in Ecuador. He astutely observes key issues that impede Ecuadorian churches from fully obeying the great commission in his latest blog post. I think his observations apply very well to traditional American Christianity as well.
Matthew 28:18-20 Because of its familiarity, most of us assume what we and our church currently do is fulfilling the Great Commission. But are we?
Here is how most believers in our Ecuadorian evangelical context interpret Jesus' words...

JESUS SAID: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
OUR INTERPRETATION? All authority has been given to to our pastor/denomination/church. They are our spiritual guides. What they have to say weighs more in what we do (or not do), than what Jesus commanded. Permission to engage in the Great Commission must first come from our leaders. Jesus is not sufficiently authoritative by himself.

JESUS SAID: Therefore, GO...
OUR INTERPRETATION? We understand "go" to mean come. Come to our church, youth group, event, concert, etc. Come is a lot more convenient for us than actually trying to find the time to go and engage relationally those who are lost and need the Good News. We go on mission trips, go to camp, go to conferences and concerts with high-profile Christian mega-stars, etc. The lost are expected to somehow find their way to us. They are supposed to come to our meetings and events planned for them. For the occasional permission granted to actually GO, those going are expected to bring home with them any who might respond. We can't have believers out there "doing their own thing" and starting "splinter churches." Real church is "mama church."

JESUS SAID: MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations...
OUR INTERPRETATION? Since we really do not know how to make disciples, we believe that what this means is that they need to hear the Gospel. Therefore, we focus on evangelistic events and invite people to pray and receive Christ. Church sports activities, Fall Festivals, youth car washes, Christmas pageants, and musical concerts are understood to be the appropriate means to reach people. Those handful who might raise their hand at one of our events are given an envelope of church literature. But "make disciples" is understood to be that they will now start coming to our church. There they will meet other believers, and hopefully learn more about God's Word and somewhere along the path turn into disciples (whatever that is).
 
JESUS SAID: BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
OUR INTERPRETATION? This certainly does not mean I should be the one to baptize the new believer. If someone makes a profession of faith, it is my responsibility to make an appointment and introduce them to the pastor of the church. There they will be, 1) warmly received, 2) invited to participate in a new believer's class to prepare them for baptism, 3) when there are enough ready to be baptized and there are no circumstances which would prevent them from being baptized, 4) schedule a date on the church calendar, and 5) watch as the pastor baptizes them as part of one of our regular scheduled church services.

JESUS SAID: TEACHING THEM TO OBEY everything I have commanded you...
OUR INTERPRETATION? The newly baptized believer is then expected to begin attending church on a regular basis. There they observe how other Christians look, talk, and act. "Church Culture" is quickly assimilated about what is acceptable, and not acceptable. Basically it is understood that the new believer will learn God's Word through the listening of the weekly preaching of the pastor, and maybe a Sunday School class.
His full blog post and comments are available on the M blog
What do you think?

2 comments:

GuyMuse said...

Thanks for reposting. It continues to amaze me how many of us think we are fulfilling the Great Commission with all our church activities, when in reality we have reinterpreted the GC to fit our lifestyle and convenience.

GuyMuse said...

Thanks for reposting. It continues to amaze me how many of us think we are fulfilling the Great Commission with all our church activities, when in reality we have reinterpreted the GC to fit our lifestyle and convenience.

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