“Just as you sent me into the world, so also I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
As strange as it might seem to us now, there was a time when many (if not most) Christians did not believe the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) applied to them. It was commonly assumed that Jesus’ instructions to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” had already been fulfilled by previous generations of Christians. As a result, many Christians concluded that their highest priority was to focus on building up the bureaucracy and the cultural influence of Christendom—understood as the Western-dominated hegemony of institutionalized churches.
That all changed when a humble Baptist cobbler named William Carey (1761-1834) came along. In spite of what we might consider to be the lengthy title of his most widely-read work (An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, 1792), his overall message was straightforward and compelling. Carey argued that when Jesus gave the Great Commission he conveyed the marching orders for all Christians, for all time. While we might understandably stumble over his reference to “the heathens,” there’s no disputing that Carey’s Jesus-shaped love for all people led him to pour his life out on the altar of the Great Commission. For Carey not only wrote about missions, he lived missions. In order to establish the very first churches in India, Carey was forced to endure hostile persecution, unspeakable loss, and devastating failure—all in the service of missions. Carey, therefore, has rightly earned the moniker, “Father of Modern Missions.”
As we seek to carry out missions at Tabernacle, Carey’s missions-directed life challenges us to always remember what’s at stake. When we act as though Jesus’ instructions were intended for someone else, we deny that Jesus was speaking to us. When we fail to see our role in addressing the existence of pain, brokenness, and injustice in the world, we underestimate both the power and the relevance of the gospel. When we refuse to “go,” we reject God’s call on our life by refusing to be sent.
Living out the Great Commission is not first and foremost about asking if the Lord wants you to go serve in ministry overseas (although we would all do well to prayerfully consider that possibility). To respond to the Great Commission is to be willing to submit your entire life—wherever it’s lived—to the Mission of God. Jesus was sent into the world to bear witness to God’s righteous desire to save. Now Jesus sends us into the world (the whole world!) to bear witness to what the grace of God can accomplish. Every single disciple is commissioned to go. Consequently, may the Lord equip Tabernacle to make, mold, and commission disciples.