Matthew 28:19-20 King James Version (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Recently I've been pondering Matthew 28, famously known to contain "The Great Commission." To me, this great commissioning has always been a lofty goal. But I've been rather disassociated with it all, and my previous understanding has been mostly connected to the "Go and preach..." part. This has always had the feel of a sent missionary directive that didn't really apply to me because I wasn't called to be a missionary.
(Subconsciously I thought this applied to other people and my job was to be a good Christian citizen. So I was kind of off the hook. Shhhhh...)
It wasn't that I had somehow rationalized all this to let me off the hook, rather, I lacked real understanding. I glossed over it, perhaps thinking I'm too unimportant for such a grand undertaking. Or maybe it was lack of insight.
Maybe the scales have been lifted off my eyes, which honestly feels more accurate.
If you are reading this, chances are you are familiar with TLI's training and you probably know the drill: Abide. Focus on a passage of scripture. Be quiet. Sit with it. Listen. Participate in inward reflection. Is God saying anything to me through this experience?
Matthew 28:19-20 is a pretty dangerous passage to focus on if you are serious about the abide part.
Because there are very clear directives here. This is about action. These are commands. Go. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach. I have to actually do something.
What am I actually doing?
The answers are embarrassing - I'll spare myself the public humiliation and move on because that is thankfully not the point I want to make here.
As I was turning this over in my head, pondering the applications to me and what this should look like, I started thinking about why more people are not actually doing anything. Why was I not doing this stuff?
It was in the context of my current TLI Faculty Training experience and some comments from a fellow journeyer that an idea hit me. Where does all this come together? How do I fulfill the Great Commission?
I'm just a regular guy, I'm not a preacher. I can't baptize. Even if I wanted to, I'm not ready. I don't feel prepared, or qualified.
I need to prepare myself. So I'm learning. I'm studying. I'm doing the "prep work" for the someday "do work." I go to church. I read the bible. I read books. I'm learning. I'm being a good Christian. I'm on track. If the church needs a volunteer I'll help out.
My friend Doug describes his "service church" where he integrates the learning and the doing. It's unconventional compared to most churches. So I started thinking about the doing part. All the preaching and teaching and learning - the never ending input of preparation. I'm on input preparation overload!
Where's the action, the "doing" part? Does parking cars Sunday morning or serving as ushers or holding bake sales count as service? I mean, real Kingdom service? Is all the churchy stuff making a difference in the Kingdom?
Perhaps Satan has pulled a real coup within the church.
Okay, so Satan hasn't stolen many souls inside the church so much as he's done a masterful job of taking good and well intentioned stuff (learning and preparing) and totally neutralized people with these good intentions.
It's brilliant, really.
I'm so busy trying to be good and do the right thing that I rarely engage the world in places where the Kingdom doesn't reign. If Satan can't have my soul he has the next best thing - a well prepared Christian that doesn't do anything that really matters.
In other words, a worthless Christian, or at best, a no or low impact Christian.
Do you ever begin something with certain expectations? I thought I'd have a nice little "abide" experience with Jesus. I'd relax, calm myself, and settle in like I was sitting in my big chair next to the fireplace. Nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings.
Obviously it didn't work out that way.
I'm finding myself pretty convicted. Almost a revelation of truth - I'm busy doing stuff but I'm not really making an impact. Ouch.
I feel like a gunfighter that carries a big shiny pistol but I've never killed anyone. Big hat - no cattle.
Truth can be humbling. I've been kidding myself, or at least I've been distracted with good intentions. What am I going to do about it?
I don't really know. But now it's out there.
Mike, I too have struggles when abiding with this powerful passage of command, direction, especially the GO, and promise. By way of introduction, I’m an alumnus of The Journey’s Generation 1 and a participant and mentor for much of 18 years until my retirement 7 years ago. I still definitely miss it, and some of those abiding times, which may be harder to find in retirement, accentuate the struggles.
As I read through your thoughts and then the biographical paragraph, I was impressed with a few words to share with you. It really struck me that you are definitely a missionary and acting on the command, etc. How do I know? “Mike enjoys finding opportunities to bring hope and healing in places of brokenness or chaos…” I see that as an important manifestation of the gospel commission!
I wish you Christ’s presence (I am with you always…”) and affirmation as you bring hope and healing to others–and relish what He gives you in the process.
Joy and peace,
Hello Merle. Thank you for introducing yourself. Gen 1 – wow. A mentor too. Wonderful. But retirement…I struggle with that word and the traditional concept of retirement. A topic for another time perhaps.
I also struggle with “missionary.” The term evokes a mental image for me that stems from childhood. So I don’t consider myself a missionary. However, I will say that I am developing a much better sense of ministry. Again, I had to overcome a concept and construct embedded since childhood that only in the last 5 years or so have I been able to rework.
I have found freedom in a new way of thinking. I don’t have to be a “missionary” to do ministry. I don’t have to quit work and join a church (or non-profit) to serve in the Kingdom. These were my own hangups – a struggle with how to relate the great commission to me.
You and I are probably speaking the same language, only differently. I really appreciate your comments, especially about a missionary. You have helped me to broaden my understanding of such and, in some way, increased the word’s application.
I hope to meet you someday. Perhaps you will attend the Alumni Retreat in October, 2018. I will be there.
In the meantime, blessings on you. May the opportunities to mentor others only increase in this season of life.