June 19, 2011
The Swiss missionary and theologian, Emil Brunner, likened the church’s involvement in missions to the relationship that exists between fire and burning: “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” In other words: no burning, no fire; no missions, no church.”
One picture of a missionary is of someone who goes and lives in another culture so he or she may learn the ways of the culture and people and share the gospel with them. It is correct to give such people a place of honor. Missiologists ask, “Why does the Christian west have such an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of those involved in full-time Christian ministry when the greatest numbers of those without Jesus Christ are in other places?” Not everyone is called to be an overseas missionary, but there are a lot of people who resist a call to serve Christ overseas.
Why is the task of missions so important? It’s obedience to the command of Christ to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. Notice we do missions so we may be obedient to the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations. It’s not enough simply to get people saved, as important as that is. We must teach them what it means to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
We must ask, “How do I know if I’m a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ?” or “How can I have such a radiance and an integrity to my life that others are drawn to Jesus Christ, and my life can present a compelling case to someone else that they, too, should be a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ?”
The answers emerge as we look at Jesus’ Great Commission. The scene is after the resurrection. The text tells us the disciples went into Galilee as Jesus had instructed. In Matthew’s account, we’re not told who had seen Jesus and who hadn’t, but we know some worshiped and some doubted. The religious authorities are trying to make up a story about the body being stolen.
It was while the disciples were there in Galilee that Jesus came to them and uttered those words that give the job description to every church and every Christian: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us. Jesus also gave the promise that as we’re doing that, He would be with us always.
The doubts the disciples were experiencing were hopeful doubts, not the doubts of skepticism. They wanted to believe, and they needed some help overcoming their unbelief. With whatever doubts they had, they worshiped Him.
Jesus told the disciples He would be crucified and then would rise again. By virtue of His resurrection, He asserts His place as rightful King of the universe, the One to whom all allegiance is due and the One before whom ultimately all of creation will bow. He comes back and says, “I want back what’s Mine!” because it all does belong to Him.
One question, though: What is a disciple? According to Dallas Willard, is a person who has decided to be with another person in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is. If we are going to be with Jesus, we ask, “What did Jesus do?” The answer is, “He lives in the kingdom of God, and He applies that kingdom for the good of others and even makes it possible for them to enter into it themselves.” A disciple or a follower is a person who does what he or she does for the sake of Jesus Christ that He may be seen in and through all that they do.
Jesus said, “If you do that, I’ll be with you.”