Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions.

Hello and welcome to episode 49 of Missions On Point. Let's get started. This is the fourth of five episodes on discovering missions throughout the Bible. In this episode, I want you to think deeply about the Great Commission. We have some very important, and different things to say about the Great Commission. I hope you'll want to hear. There's no way that we can cover everything that I would like to say in this episode. So, I would encourage you to go back to some of the earliest episodes of Missions on Point, and look at those that talk about you can't fulfill the great commission without planting a church, and the whole New Testament screams for church planting as the goal of missions. There are other places in which we touch on elements of the Great Commission, so please just take a walk through the episode list and listen to some of those.

If we're going to think deeply about the Great Commission, there's a couple of concepts I need to debunk right at the front end. First of all, the Great Commission is not just a New Testament phenomenon. It's true that there is a distinction between the church's role, and the Great Commission, and Israel's role pre-Christ, but the concept of God reaching out to all nations and loving all nations is not new to the New Testament. Secondly, it is not just for the apostles. Some people try to weasel out of obedience to the Great Commission by saying, "Well, it was just for that original audience." Not so. Thirdly, people often think that the nations mentioned in the Great Commission passage we think of most, that is in Matthew 28 are political, geographical entities. We know, even on our modern maps, that nations change over time and our maps go out of date.

It's not just political, geographical entities, but ethnicities if you will. That's the term that's used in Matthew 28 and many other places. So, to be more precise, we're talking about distinct language groups and ethnic groups of the world. Most countries have multiple ethnicities within their boundaries. So, some beginning points for thinking deeply about the Great Commission are understanding the great commission is not new. It's not just a New Testament phenomena. It is all woven throughout the Old Testament. Second, the Great Commission colors our whole understanding of the universal offer of spiritual salvation, reconciliation with God, and God's solution for sin. The Great Commission is the marching order for the church. The Great Commission is expressed through the church, and proclaimed by the church, and is the goal of the church, resulting in local churches doing the same, repeating that cycle. The Great Commission obedience is a benchmark of maturity and effectiveness of every church.

The elements found in the Great Commission suggest maturity as a body of believers, effectiveness for every church discipling, baptizing, teaching, being faithful to obey the things that Christ commanded us, and even to the planting of other churches. It's also important to recognize that the Great Commission is for every generation. Just the other day, I was talking with someone on the phone about the fact that Portugal is now considered to be pre-Christian. The scope and context of evangelical Christianity changes over time. There was a time when Western Europe was considered post-Christian, which is a cultural term, but it just means that there's very little evangelical witness among those countries and ethnicities in Western Europe, and I should say in Scandinavia. The result is that the Great Commission is for every generation. Every generation is responsible to obey the Great Commission, and has to look at the world, and the opportunities for the gospel in light of their generation.

If we're going to think deeply about the Great Commission, we have to ask some gut level questions about the Great Commission and what is included, what is it do, what is conveyed, what is the flow, and even the pedagogy or the teaching that is intended by how it's stated. What is to be obeyed, and what are the results and consequences of that obedience? To whom is it given, and when will it be fulfilled? How will we know when it's finished, and what difference does it make for us today and how we live our lives, the choices we make, the stewardship of life and resources, the intensity of our passion for Christ? These are the kinds of questions that will help us think more deeply about the Great Commission. We understand this popularized concept that distinguishes between the centripetal movement of God's missions to the world versus centrifugal.

What does that mean? Centripetal is the inward pulling force. It's the attractional force of God's people in the Old Testament in particular, which was supposed to attract the nations to see the beauty and glory of God's people obeying his laws and worshiping him in a central place. Particularly in Jerusalem, though there were elements of God sending his people even through dispersion to the world, the people of the world were to find out about God by knowing His law, the "Word of God," we would say, and seeing the worship and the community of God's people displaying God's glory. After Christ, the whole movement changes to centrifugal. That is that force that slings things outward as it spins around a circle, and the whole impetus of the Great Commission is moving outward, going out from the center, going out from the original location to fill all the Earth.

Thinking deeply about the Great Commission over the years has caused me to realize that The Great Commission as described in Matthew 28, and then reinforced and backfilled, if you will, from information throughout the rest of the New Testament, shows that the basic unit of the Great Commission is the local church. The Great commission itself is the marching orders of the local church. It is the vision statement of the local church, and it combines all the basic elements of a biblically functioning local church. So, think about it. It's a mutually committed body of local believers, worshiping regularly together around the teaching of the word of God and prayer, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion, under the leadership of biblically-qualified shepherds while being active witnesses of the gospel. This insight, along with other passages, demonstrate that the local church, as the bride of Christ, is the agent of God for proclaiming his word and drawing people to glorify him, as is his ultimate overarching purpose in everything.

The local church, through its unity and community and joint worship together and study and growing spiritually are demonstrations of the power of the gospel, the transformation of this community to be God worshipers, and a great testimony of the gospel to the onlooking world. It assumes, then later affirmed, and filled in by the rest of the New Testament, that the gathering together is the gathering of believers. This happens to be really contradictory to the modern image of church in North America. The gathering of the church is God-centered in worship, and edifying of saints. That is people who are genuine biblical believers, and it is not intended to be a mass concert or gathering of unbelievers, even though the gospel should be articulated regularly as is taught throughout the scriptures in the services of the church. So, just as a caveat of clarification, should the church be attractional in wanting people to come and welcoming and being warm and loving to anyone that comes to services?

Absolutely, yes. But the service design per the Great Commission, is for "Teaching all things that I had commanded you," teaching them to observe. So it's practical teaching of God's word for believers. Now, I mentioned that thinking deeply about the Great Commission includes asking hard questions about the Great Commission, and to this end, I'm going to refer you to an article called "Mission Statistics: Have we failed the Great Commission? The State of World Missions." I'm just going to share some of these statistics which beg for a little bit of interpretation, which we don't have time for in this episode. Just listen to these statistics about fulfillment of the great commission, or lack thereof, and see if that doesn't drive you to prayer, as it has me. For every $100,000, a Christian earns, only $107 on average will go to World Missions, and roughly only 1% of that money will support the 3.1 billion people who live in unreached people groups.

Here's a crazy illustration to put it in balance. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are estimated to spend $1.12 billion on Halloween costumes for their pets, but only 450 million is given toward missions among unreached people groups. We actually have enough money and people as evangelical Christians to send missionaries to every unreached people group, but not enough people are going, and not enough people are giving. It's estimated that one missionary is needed for every 50,000 unreached people. So as a result, we would need something like 66,000 plus more missionaries to serve those people. If you take what it costs to sustain a missionary overseas, we would need something like $4 billion a year to support these missionaries, and it sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money, and yet evangelical Christians together earn almost $6 trillion a year. That means if every evangelical gave an extra $6.63 cents for every $10,000 we earn, that would cover all the missionary financial costs.

There are an estimated 341 million evangelicals worldwide. That's only one more missionary needed for every 5,120 Evangelicals. So you have to ask the question, has God only called 0.02% of his people to reach the 3.1 billion of unreached people groups? It's estimated that there are about 700,000 university students in the United States that come from countries that are in that 10 40 window where most of the unreached people groups live. Yet, 90% of those students will not come in contact with an evangelical ministry before returning home. Admittedly, some of the people in unreached people groups are really difficult to get to. That's one of the reasons why they're still unreached. If you measure the population of the number of people in unreached people groups by country, here are the top 10 countries in order. Number one, India. Number two, Pakistan. Number three, Indonesia. Number four, Bangladesh. Number five, China.

Number six, Japan. Number seven, Iran. Number eight, Turkey. Number nine, Thailand. Number ten, Nigeria. We dare not think just of population statistics without looking at the need for Bible translation because the Bible is the primary means that God uses in our salvation and spiritual growth and the way that we know God and the gospel. What about the need for Bible translation? A full Bible is available in only 670 different languages according to [inaudible 00:13:38]. 1500 languages only have the New Testament with other languages having just a few select portions of stories of the Bible in their language. That leaves over 1600 languages that need translation work. That means that there are 220 million people without any Bible in their native language, and 1.3 billion people who do not have access to a full Bible in their language. We really need healthy, biblical churches to raise up Bible translators that are going to produce faithful and accurate Bible translations that have integrity to the original text.

Thinking deeply about the Great Commission should give us an enthusiasm for the work of God going on in the world, and our part in it. God has intended that we have a place, that our church has a place, in fulfillment of the Great Commission, and it is exciting to see what he is doing around the world, that we not only get to be a part of it, but we are charged to be a part of it. May it be so for God's glory. Let's close with these words from Jesus Christ himself, found in Matthew 9, verse 37. "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Amen.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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