A God-Given Mission
After the Resurrection and before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He met with the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee and charged them with what is now known as the “Great Commission.” He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Church has been given a mission by God, and if you are part of the Church, the mission is for you too. However, it is not our mission, but God’s. A commission can be defined as “a command to perform prescribed acts, with the authority to act on behalf of another” or “a charge; being entrusted with a task, as an agent for another.”
We can read about the task God has entrusted to us in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” We have been commissioned to proclaim the good news of salvation to the entire world.
It is not uncommon to feel a task God has called you to do is beyond your ability or the responsibility of spreading the Gospel is too big. In our own strength, we do not have what it takes to fulfill God’s calling in our lives, but we can be assured that Jesus, who upholds all things by the word of His power, does.
That may seem like a daunting assignment, but God is big enough to accomplish what He intends in your life and in the lives of those around you. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He bracketed the instructions by two important statements. The first was His declaration that all power in Heaven and earth had been given to Him. We read about this power in the Book of Hebrews, which states Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). It is not uncommon to feel a task God has called you to do is beyond your ability or the responsibility of spreading the Gospel is too big. In our own strength, we do not have what it takes to fulfill God’s calling in our lives, but we can be assured that Jesus, who upholds all things by the word of His power, does.
The second bracketing statement was “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” The enemy may tempt you to feel that you are all alone and must rely on yourself. However, Jesus said, “I will be with you.” One time I heard a preacher say, “If you are alone, you are alone with Jesus,” and that is always the case. Wherever God sends us, whatever He calls us to do, and whatever situation He places us in, we can know that we are not alone.
Jesus’ instructions on how we are to fulfill the Great Commission were given in a straightforward manner; He said to go, teach, and baptize. By reviewing each of these, we will see that it is possible for every Christian to answer God’s call to spread the Gospel.
Jesus’ first instruction was to “Go.” The basic model given in the Bible for “going” is found in Acts, chapter 1, starting at verse 4, “And, [Jesus] being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. . . . But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (verses 4 and 8). In order for a person to go somewhere, he must start somewhere. That is what the disciples did. They were praying in Jerusalem when the power of the Holy Spirit fell, so that is where they started. Wherever you are living is where you must start. People get excited about Judea, Samaria, or the uttermost parts of the earth. And it is exciting to think that mission work could take you a great distance away, even across oceans to other lands. However, the place to start is right where you are. God may very well call you to speak to your neighbors across the street or to the person who sits at the desk next to yours or to the clerk in the grocery store.
Wherever you are living, is where you must start.
Years ago, Harold Barrett, the founding missionary of our Korean work, came to me down at the altar one morning after a service and asked, “Do you want to be a missionary?” I was a young man, and my heart just jumped. Then he looked across that altar at me and said, “Have you talked to your neighbor?” He continued, “There is no ocean to cross there, no language barrier, no deprivation . . .” My head had been big for about two seconds, and then it got really small, because I had not talked to my neighbor. When I got home, though, I did talk to my neighbor. I did not go preach at him, I just talked to him over the back fence. I still talk to my neighbors! Currently, a man named John is my neighbor on one side. Not only do I talk to John, but so did the pastor who lived in the parsonage before me, and the pastor before him. In fact, when John’s wife died, the pastor before that spent time walking around the neighborhood with him in his grief. That is how you start to obey the command to “Go.” You start by talking to the people around you.
The second model for “going” flows from the first. This is when a person is called to leave and minister to people elsewhere. In Acts 13:1, we learn the church at Antioch had an abundance of preachers—five are named. The Holy Spirit called for Paul and Barnabas to be set apart from the group and sent out as missionaries. God still calls missionaries today, but a person does not start at this second model. George Hughes, who was our first missionary to Africa, did not start his service by going to Africa; he started by being faithful at home. He consecrated his life to the Lord, and then began to pick up songbooks in the campground tabernacle, give violin lessons, and direct music. Likewise, Brother Harold did not start mission work by going to Korea. He was a painter, and on the jobsite, he talked about Jesus—a lot. For years, he did jobs around the campground. Eventually, he began hosting merchant mariners whose ships were docked in the Portland harbor. So mission work begins at home.
The next instruction Jesus gave was “Teach all nations.” The word translated here as “teach” comes from the Greek word matheteusate, which literally means “make disciples.” In Jesus’ time, rabbis had followers who listened to their teachings and modeled their lives accordingly. It was much like an apprenticeship or internship today. We follow a similar model, training apprentices in the Gospel.
We need to share what we know with others, so they too can start, and eventually go and teach.
Several years ago, I was observing a remodeling project where one of the brothers in the church was the contractor. He had hired some employees, and one young man arrived on the jobsite toting all new gear. He was wearing a brand new carpenter’s apron and carrying a new hammer, level, and nail puller. He stood out as an apprentice, and I teased him that we needed to stomp on his apron a bit and put some holes in it so he would look like he knew what he was doing. However, he was on the right path. He had purposed to learn the carpentry trade, acquired the necessary tools, and was even making an apprentice’s wages. He mostly stood around on that job, because there was a lot to learn, but that is where one starts. Like the brother who was training him, we need to share what we know with others, so they too can start, and eventually go and teach.
After Jesus instructed to make disciples, He went on to say, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” When we have a water baptismal service, we follow these exact instructions. However, there is more to this command than just dipping people in water. One author, Dallas Willard, said this about water baptism: “Immerse them together in the presence of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, baptize them in the Name, but, dear friends, that doesn’t just mean getting them wet while you say those Names. It means to immerse them in the Reality.” The reality of a loving God, the Father, who has reached out from eternity to call humanity into a relationship with himself, with the guidance and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and with the sacrificial love of Jesus the Savior. We want to share with others the reality of God, the fullness of God, in every part of our lives.
What to teach
Jesus expounded on the second instruction to “teach all nations” by saying, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This directive is not very complicated. We are to teach others to do what Jesus told us to do. At the Apostolic Faith, we teach Pentecostal holiness doctrine. We tell people they can be saved from their sins and live victoriously. Then they can be sanctified wholly and have their inner motives purified. Sanctified believers can be filled with the Holy Spirit—endued with power for service—evidenced by speaking in a language they never learned. These experiences are the foundation for what we teach, and find their basis in what Jesus taught and lived.
This is the most critical factor of effectively sharing the Gospel. We are to proclaim the Good News, but more importantly, to embody the Good News in our lives and actions.
Before we can teach these things, however, we must experience them. Evangelism is not just some big task that we do; it flows out of who we are. Our lives have been transformed by Christ, and this is the most critical factor of effectively sharing the Gospel. We are to proclaim the Good News, but more importantly, to embody the Good News in our lives and actions.
Receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost will make us even more effective as witnesses. Shortly after Jesus resurrected, He appeared to the disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21-22). The Holy Ghost not only empowers us to be bold in words, but to boldly reflect in our lives this wonderful message of redemption that God has for the world.
The testimony of my sister-in-law illustrates how simply sharing the Gospel while living it is a fulfillment of God’s mission. She played clarinet in her high school band and sat next to a young lady who was a Christian. They began getting rides home together, and every day this girl shared a little bit about Jesus. At the same time, her life backed up what she was saying, and this had an impact on my sister-in-law. She prayed, gave her life to God, and several decades later, is still serving the Lord. Her classmate fulfilled the Great Commission, not by going a long ways away or doing anything fancy. She simply started right where she was, and shared what she knew about Jesus, while living what she said. And that is what we all are to do.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has called all of humanity into His grand story of redemption, and He has called us to be a part of sharing His work.
It is true that if you live for God, some people will be offended and you may face persecution. However, not everyone will be offended. Some will be drawn to Jesus by the hope that is offered. In this ungodly and sinful world, we need the right perspective. Instead of thinking that this is an awful time in history because things are so bad in the world, we need to think that this is a wonderful time to share the Gospel, because people are desperate for hope.
God has a mission for the Church, and fulfilling it is possible with His help. We have been sent to the world, just as Jesus was sent by the Father to the world. The Great Commission is not complicated if we will simply follow the instructions Jesus gave. We can have a part in bringing hope to others if we will simply go and make disciples, immersing them in the reality of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, teaching them to do what Jesus said while living it ourselves.
 Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), 239.