In a classic song from the eighties, Keith Green said,
“Jesus commands us to go
It should be the exception if we stay
It's no wonder we're moving so slow
When His church refuses to obey
Feeling so called to stay”
Was he correct? Was the Great Commission a command for Christians to leave home and go to the mission field? Are we being disobedient when we stay?
Jesus gives the Great Commission
Before His ascension, Jesus gathers His disciples together in Galilee and instructs them:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16–20, NIV).
It’s important to point out that Christ’s command isn’t as cut and dried as it appears. In the Greek, the imperative is on the command to “disciple.” This means that the emphasis of the passage lies in the requirement to make people mature followers of Jesus. At the beginning of this movement, that would have required that the disciples go out to spread the gospel, and they did.
So why are they still in Jerusalem?
In Acts 15 we find a problem brewing in the early church. Jewish Christians are demanding that Gentile Christians get circumcised. Paul and Barnabas find themselves embroiled in a controversy over whether the Gentile believers need to become Jews before they can become Christians. Of course Paul and Barnabas are opposed to this idea.
This dispute reaches a boiling point, and the church sends a contingent to get a ruling from the apostles. This is where we find this curious verse:
“When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them” (Acts 15:4, NIV).
This faction is sent to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles. Why are they still in Jerusalem?!
Most of the disciples at least did some travel to spread the gospel, but as the church grew, they needed a base of operations. There needed to be a place where groups like this one from Antioch could receive training and wisdom from those who walked with Jesus.
The apostles’ role in Jerusalem ensured that the gospel was still “going.”
We’re still expected to disciple
The gospel is still being spread. And even if individual followers don’t feel called to “go,” we’re still expected to create disciples. We can help do this by:
- Sharing the gospel with those around us.
- Leading studies to help people learn to follow Jesus more closely.
- Contributing financially to organizations that are spreading the gospel.
- Praying for the spread of the gospel locally and abroad.
We are all missionaries
God’s commission is to grow and expand His kingdom throughout the world, which means that we’re missionaries everywhere we find ourselves. If you’re ready to learn how you can make a bigger impact in the Great Commission, download a free copy of We Are All Missionaries.
This four-week, discussion-based curriculum is a fantastic way to get your small group or youth ministry talking about what it means to share the gospel. Download your copy today!