I am a pastor. That means God has entrusted me to lead a church and oversee the care of its members. It is crucial that I know what a church is and what it is designed to do. If I have no clarity on this, then very little else matters with regards to my job.
The rigors of pastoring coupled with the many distractions that come with it often causes us to invest our time and resources in things that don’t ultimately matter. Pastors today are busy but not necessarily productive. The truth is, there are a million things we can do, yet there is really only one thing we ought to do—we must commit to the singular task for which we have been called.
Fortunately, I do not need to invent the church’s identify and mission because Jesus already laid it out for us. Shortly before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus gave this charge,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT)
When you think about it, Jesus could have left us with any number of instructions. He could have commanded us to build lavish cathedrals, publish numerous bestsellers, erect plush retreat houses, save the whales, purchase prime property, or run for political office. Instead he leaves us with one directive—make disciples of all nations. Make no mistake about it, making disciples is central to everything we do as a church, without which we probably shouldn’t even call ourselves a church at all.
This charge of discipling all nations for Christ—known as the Great Commission—is a truly daunting mission. It’s not a small world after all when your job involves making disciples the world’s seven billion people. Our job is a feat of truly biblical proportions. I suspect that Jesus purposely made our task humanly impossible so that we will never rely on ourselves for the results. Instead, we are to trust in him and his ability to give us all we need to fulfill this great mission.
The Great Commission is characterized by key distinctives which we should never lose sight of. First, it hinges on the authority of Christ (28:18). Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” What a relief! The weight of the church’s mission does not rest on my brilliance (or lack thereof) but on the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just like a scrawny traffic cop can stop a truck “in the name of the law,” you and I are able to fulfill the Great Commission in the name of Christ.
Second, it centers on the character of Christ. The Great Commission is about making disciples of every nation. We do so by going to where people are, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ. The New Testament word for disciple literally means “a student.” As a church, we are in the business of teaching people to be students of Christ in order that they might become like Christ.
Third, it banks on the presence of Christ. Just because Jesus had to return to the Father it does not mean he leaves us to fend for ourselves. As he reminded the disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” What a comfort to know that as difficult as the mission might be, we are never alone in ministry because the same Christ that sends us to every corner of the world promises to be with us every step of the way.
Finally, our commitment to the Great Commission must be rooted in our deep love for Christ. Hudson Taylor, the famed missionary and founder of the China Inland Missions, would often ask missionary candidates about their motivation for ministry. Most would respond by saying they want to see every person saved, or to keep people from being in the dark regarding the Gospel, or some other noble idea. To this Taylor would respond, “All these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ.” My prayer for each and every one of you is that you may all grow in this love.
Have a blessed day!