And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matt 28.18-20
Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples. He taught them how to live, how to pray, how to be strong, dynamic, obedient and faithful disciples. At the end of His Earthly ministry, after He completed the plan of salvation by dying on the cross and raising from the dead, His final words, His last command was, “Go and make disciples”. Basically, “Go, do what I did”. Jesus left Heaven – He left comfort, He left His role as God and king, He left everything and humbled Himself becoming a man, made disciples for three years and then sent them off to multiply the work. The apostles obeyed.
When you die and arrive in Heaven, do you long to hear the words,
“Well done, good and faithful slave.”
– Matt 25.21
I do. I certainly do not want to stand before my Savior, my God and the judge to defend why I disobeyed or neglected His commands. And it is on that foundation that I wonder why we as the body, as a church and as individuals willfully ignore and disobey this commission and command of Jesus:
We cannot all go. I do not feel a calling to the mission field. I am not smart enough. Somebody has to stay behind to send and support. There is no open door. I don’t know how to do it. Someone else will do it. I pray for the missionaries.
God said, “Do not lie” (Ex 20.16). When you are walking through your day, do you only tell the truth when you feel like it? Do you get to lie because someone else will tell the truth? Do you need an extra, spiritual, warm fuzzy feeling to enlighten you that God intended for YOU to not lie and tell the truth? Or is it clear that since He said it, since He wrote it in His word that it applies to you too?
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22.39). Does that mean I have to love my neighbors? Does that apply to you? Or do you spend hours wrestling with God and “digging into His word” to see if the commandment applies to you? Do you pray, “God if it is your will that I love my neighbor, give me a sign”? Or do you think that perhaps, since He said it and wrote it down, that it is understood as instruction for all believers?
Christians over-spiritualize the call to ministry. Some people have been given the gifting and abilities to preach. Some people have been given the gifting and abilities as evangelists. But everyone who knows Jesus, who loves Him, and who has learned to be a disciple is commanded to make disciples of all the nations. Period. There is no way around it. Yes, that does mean that someone has to make disciples in America, in South Korea and other Christian and post-Christian cultures around the world. That is a very real part of the ministry of the local Church. We are always only one generation away from a non-believing world.
However. God did not save hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Americans for us to all sit around, erect monuments to our wealth, wow the worldly culture with flashy lights and entertainment and to pat one another on the back for donating our old used clothes to the poor. God also did not save us to recluse ourselves into respectful, quiet, reverent communities. God radically called us from death into life, taught us how to be discipled, how to disciple one another, and to get out into the world of darkness preaching His name. We are called to get our hands dirty.
My denomination is big on percentages and shock-value. I live in Denver, CO and we tell ourselves all the time, “Denver is only 6% evangelical inside the city limits and 8% as you work your way out”. We comfort ourselves by stating that we are living in a mission field! It is one of the least-reached cities in the United States! Yes, that is true. Yes, there is a huge need here in Denver. But you know what? There are five churches in my neighborhood. I pass eight churches in my 4.4 mile commute to work every day. There are people groups of millions of people all around the world who have never heard the name of Jesus, who are thousands of miles away from the nearest church and Christian and who have absolutely no access to the Gospel. They do not fight about prayer in school because their schools are all Muslim and they pray five times a day to Allah. They do not wonder what God has to say about homosexuality because they do not even know that there is a God, that there is salvation available, and that He might have moral and ethical expectations of us.
2.9 billion people.
Thousands are dying every day…
Going to Hell, without ever having heard the name of Jesus.
But, it’s not my responsibility because “I don’t feel called”, and “I haven’t had an experience where God laid a people group or mission on my heart”.
You have been called. If you are a Christian, Jesus called you in Matt 28. He called you corporately as a body, and He called you individually. You might have a specific calling to make disciples in your family, community or country, because America is a nation. It is included in “all nations”. But Jesus did not call 99% of us to disciple the same people. It should be the norm to go, not to stay.
It is a misnomer and disservice to the missionary endeavor to expect an inexplicable “love for the people”. On occasion you hear stories of missionaries being called to the field by God supernaturally placing the name of a people group, a vision of a city, or passion for a specific tribe in their hearts, but this is not a Biblical model of calling and example that we need to expect for God to take us somewhere for service. Paul was given a vision one time, in all of his missionary journeys to go to Macedonia. The rest of the time he went through open doors and where he wanted to go. He stayed where people were receptive to the Gospel and moved on when they weren’t. He only knew that he was called and appointed to reach the non-Jews. Basically the entire world.
We do not go primarily for a love for the people, we go for a love for God. This is first a foremost a matter of obedience, and one that is enacted out of love and thankfulness for the salvation we have so freely been given. We never know what our receptivity will be in a foreign place. But God will walk with us, guide us, comfort us, sustain us and give faith to some people from every tribe, tongue and nation. And He wants to use us as His mouthpiece. The people may be wonderful people. We may love their culture, we may desire to be more like them in many ways. Or they may be terrible people. They may annoy us and the culture make no sense to us. But we do not go or stay based on our feelings or reactions to the people and culture. We go and stay based on the commandment of Jesus: Go, make disciples of all the nations.
Do not get caught up in the frivolity and emotion that is so often surrounding the missionary effort. It is an extremely exciting decision to make and there will be highs and lows emotionally, but we do not base our decision for obedience on our feelings. Missionaries are not super Christians, they are obedient ones. Going to a foreign country, however, does not mean that you are necessarily being obedient! You must proclaim the Gospel and disciple those who believe. Being a businessman in Albania or providing electricity to tribal peoples in the Congo does not make you a missionary; making disciples does. Jesus did not command us to “take clean water, medicine and electricity to the world”, no, He said, “go make disciples of every nation”. Everything else is periphery.
So, do not ask yourself today, “Am I called to go?” Rather, ask yourself, “Am I confident that I am called to stay?” Jesus very clearly told us to go. You ought to be extremely confident of your disciple-making role at home if you choose to stay. How do you decide where to go? If God has not supernaturally placed in your heart a vision or passion, then look to see where your church is already active. If your church is not already involved somewhere, then get a copy of “Operation World” (or check out the “Joshua Project” online) and find out where the greatest need is. Something will prick you, and you will get excited.
Let’s work towards obedience and know with confidence that we will hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.