The Great Commission is a great statement that many, if not most of us (myself included), fail to realize the greatness of it. Let’s consider the statement in detail, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20). These verses remind us of many things like the importance of going, sharing the gospel, making disciples, baptizing them, and continually teaching them. There is something often overlooked and misunderstood in this statement though. It is assumed that this is a command Jesus gives to individuals in particular to those that are called to be on the foreign mission field. This then means that most believers feel the only way they can participate in this Great Commission is by giving some money and occasionally offering up some prayers. On the contrary though. The commission IS given to LOCAL churches. That includes the local church that you are a member of. Let me explain.
A Transfer of Authority
One of the most significant things Jesus says to His disciples when He sanctioned this commission was, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18a). The Father has given the authority to expand the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (verse) to His son. Jesus then does something amazing. He shares that authority with His disciples that are standing before them. When He tells them to go, ultimately He is saying go carrying the authority that I have received from the Father. The disciples pattern exactly what Jesus did and then they passed that authority to the church. The church then started other churches and those churches have started other churches. With each new healthy church that is started, they are carrying the authority of Christ to be used as tools to extend His Kingdom. The Great Commission is all about the local church and not about individuals. What does this mean then?
Serve the Church
This means that when we faithfully serve a local healthy church that we are doing Great Commission work. Serving the local church is one of the best ways to be involved in evangelistic and discipleship work, doing it as a community project. Jesus works through a community of individuals, not through individuals apart from the community. In America, with our individualist ethos, we have greatly distorted this. We assume that as long as we attend church somewhat regularly and every now and then tell someone about Jesus that we are doing our job. We fail to understand that everything we do matters and serving the local church is Great Commission work. If we are part of the First Impressions team and our job is to make people feel welcomed and at home, carrying out that job is Great Commission work. If we are brewing the coffee, we can brew that coffee for the glory of God doing Great Commission work. If we are ministering on the Next Steps team to walk along side people to grow in their spiritual development, every conversation and follow up call we do is Great Commission work. If we are part of the Kidz ministry, our job is not to babysit but to preach the gospel to the next generation which means we are doing Great Commission work. If we are playing in the band and hitting every key for the glory of God, we are doing Great Commision work. Every time we gather together in a small group to worship, study the Bible, and pray we are doing Great Commission work. Everything we do matters and it is either working towards the expansion of the Kingdom or against it.
You and The Great Commission
The first step in understanding how committed you are to the Great Commission is to ask yourself how committed you are to your local church. Are you a committed and faithful covenant member of that local church or do you appear to simply be dating your church? Are you excited to get up every Sunday morning while joining together with your serving team and then to worship God? Are you excited to come together with your small group every week and be involved in discipleship? Do you regularly meet with members of the church to be discipled and to disciple them. The answer to these questions in reality reveal the commitment that you have to seeing the Great Commission go forth and for the Kingdom of God to be established on earth as it is in heaven.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.