to the Commission: Becoming a Mission-Active Church
By Danny Gasperson
God has ordained the Church, led and empowered by the Spirit, as the means to accomplish His purpose and work until Christ returns. But even a cursory glance at church history shows the people of God have not always stayed on track. At times, the direction and magnitude of her straying are both surprising and heartbreaking. For example, at one time, the church’s predominant view held the Great Commission was only for the original Apostles.
When the young preacher William Carey, considered by most to be the father of modern missions, expressed his desire to carry the gospel to spiritually dark India, he was reprimanded by senior pastors: “Sit down, young man. When God chooses to win the heathen, He will do it without your help or ours.” We are grateful Carey did not listen to this terrible advice.
Thankfully, we have corrected this erroneous view and understand spreading the gospel and building the Kingdom of God are the primary marching orders for the Church. But while our doctrine has been corrected, I fear our practice still has room for improvement. Although we claim the responsibility of the Great Commission belongs to all of us, many Christians and churches are not directly involved in its fulfillment. They act as if this is someone else’s job. The issue is not a lack of desire or concern, they just have not discovered how they can become more mission active. How can a church increase her engagement and involvement in the Great Commission?
I vividly remember struggling with this challenge when I first became a pastor. I was blessed to pastor Zephyr Hills FWB Church in North Carolina. Together, my congregation and I embarked on the journey to become more mission active. We discovered a handful of principles to increase our direct involvement in the Great Commission.
Recognize your responsibility. A serious study of Scripture reveals the Great Commission is of greatest importance to God. As a church, we wanted our priorities to match God’s priorities. The Bible also teaches every believer be actively involved in the Great Commission endeavor. We have not all been called to be missionaries, but we are all called to be mission active. We should feel both the burden and blessing of that responsibility. How should we respond to His call? It is said necessity is the mother of invention. When we become convinced something must be done, our determination, diligence, and creativity propel us toward our goal. When our church embraced the realization the Great Commission is not optional, stepping up our game in mission involvement became our primary focus.
Aim to be comprehensive. The Lord gave us three primary touch points for involvement in the Great Commission: prayer, provision, participation.
We are to pray faithfully, focused, and fervently (Luke 10:2).
We are to provide generously, sacrificially, and joyfully (Romans 10:15).
We are to participate personally and passionately (Matthew 28:19).
follower is responsible to utilize each of these avenues to engage in the Great Commission.
Acts 1:8 outlines four geographic/cultural arenas in which we are to apply these touch points. Jerusalem represents those who live nearby—family, friends, neighbors, coworkers. Judea represents those with whom we are connected culturally but separated geographically. Samaria represents those closer geographically but culturally distant. The uttermost includes those from every nation, kindred, people, and tongue.
This is not a list of options from which to choose while neglecting the rest. We have responsibility in each of these arenas.
Start where you are and begin immediately. The good news is any individual or church can make the decision to deepen their mission involvement. One can never start too early. In our journey, we discovered we needed to eliminate some comfortable excuses we used to justify our inactivity.
“We are too small.” This sounded reasonable to us until we realized when Jesus first issued the Great Commission in the New Testament, He was talking to 12 men.
“We can’t afford to do it.” Some people use this same excuse when it comes to tithing. Most pastors would rightly remind them it is impossible to outgive the Lord. He has promised to bless our faithfulness. I suggest the same truth applies to churches. We experienced the reality of this in our journey. Certainly, we experienced times of sacrifice, but we always found God’s abundant and generous supply for our needs outpaced our giving. You may think you cannot afford to become more involved in the Great Commission. We found we could not afford to neglect it.
“We don’t have time.” You will be glad to know I am not offering a list of new activities for you. Most of us have too much to do already. Being mission active is not only about the things we do. It must become who we are. It may affect what you do to an extent, but it is more about why and how you do the things you do. As we examined those things keeping us so busy, we found some items occupying a significant portion of our resources were not things God considers priority. Yet, they inhibited our involvement in the one clear priority the Lord gave us.
Don’t feel you must do it alone. Every time the Great Commission is repeated in Scripture, the pronouns referring to our involvement are plural. Our responsibility is individual, but always in the context of community. The Great Commission is given to the universal Church, but you have an important part to play. Your local church has an essential role. God’s will is that “the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Use the resources of partnering with IM, NAM, state and local mission boards, and other churches to find support, direction, and encouragement.
Realize it is a process. Becoming mission active is not a destination but a journey. It is a process; it takes time. You cannot flip a switch to instantaneously become missional. But making it your primary purpose and devoting yourself to it passionately will launch you into the most satisfying adventure you can imagine.
Our desire as Free Will Baptists is not to just talk the talk, but to walk the walk. Our challenge is to deepen our commitment and involvement in the Great Commission.
About the Writer: Danny Gasperson is director of mobilization for IM, Inc. Find resources at: www.IMInc.org, including a world prayer guide to help you become more mission active.