Behind and Before
18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The apostles and early believers were sent out to follow by Jesus as He demonstrates and expands His kingdom. But it was not in the same vein as the expansion of the Roman Empire. God’s kingdom is not defined by geography and politics. Rather, it displays itself wherever the reign of God exists in the human heart.
Before you move any further into understanding The Great Commission from Matthew 28, we should note the provisions surrounding the command, “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (v. 19). Christ begins the Commission by reminding us that “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (v. 18). Then He concludes by assuring us that “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20). Even as Christ sends the apostles and early believers out to do kingdom work, intimacy with God alone is sufficient for the work. Only God, who by His character loves, would not only make the assignment, but would invite us to join in the work He is already doing throughout creation. Let there be no mistake, He does not send us out alone; He reminds us of His prevailing presence in the work.
It is here that we need to be reminded of a caution. It is one that many generations of the church have needed: Missional ministry is not about having the coolest church or the most technologically savvy ministry. It is not simply a race to the finish line of “most contextualized.” Many are witty enough to crack the culture, emotionally wedge in with people, and intellectually convince others of the truth. But missional ministry is not about our abilities. It is about presenting God’s presence to the people of our world. If it becomes something besides that, then all we’ve done is create a new idol.
Many attempt to grow individual churches through “gimmicks,” such as concerts, sermon series with shocking themes, special event days, or pastors shaving their heads if the high-attendance goal is reached. But here is my point… When we educate members and the public to attend our church based on attention-grabbing events, we are also educating them to attend other churches, nonprofit organizations, and even cults based on the events they offer. God’s mission and true growth in a church is based on the loving authority of Christ, not imaginative gimmicks.
As Jesus began His ministry, Mark’s Gospel describes this scene: “After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!’” (Mark 1:14–15). When Jesus states that the kingdom of God is near, He is referring to His own presence among them. As believers, we move forward in missional ministry as ambassadors of the King who travels with us by the Holy Spirit. It is all we need.
-A form of this post was originally published in my book Compelled: Living the Mission of God.