The colorful flags of the nations were everywhere. They adorned a cluster of poles in the parking lot. They covered the back walls and stairwells of the auditorium. A giant globe sat atop a spare change fountain in the lobby, and about 300 plaques with faces of supported workers covered the wood paneled walls around the building.
This is how I grew up at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Under the leadership of Pastor Tom Paino, not one Sunday sermon seemed to pass without appeal for the people of the world, a call to embrace Jesus final words in Matthew 28, to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”
The Great Commission.
We slow cooked in this sacred calling from our Savior Himself. Jesus heart broke for the people of the world and so would ours. Global missions was our mandate.
That’s why it shocked me when a recent Barna study revealed that 51% of Christians could not identify The Great Commission. Worse yet, I nearly wept when I heard that half of millennial Christians think it’s wrong to evangelize at all.
I can understand some of the cynicism, as it can become easy to define missions success by global salvation counts while ignoring the fullness of the Gospel’s transforming message. A new generation of Christians wants to correct what they see as an imperial celebration of converts while the social and economic impact of God’s Kingdom go ignored in these same parts of the world, and even our own communities.
But the results of these studies appear to be a classic case of overcorrection. Instead of re-centering, we simply throw the issue out of balance in a whole new way.
We cannot ignore The Great Commission. Yes, we must embody the whole Gospel, but this is not just “doing good” around the world. It is proclaiming Jesus to every nation, tribe, and tongue.
The word Jesus uses in his final charge to His disciples is the Greek word “ethnos,” which is often translated as nation. Digging deeper into the original language, it actually means people joined by similar customs or culture. We call these “people groups.”
Around 7,000 people groups around the world are “unreached” with the Gospel, defined as less than 2% Christian. About 1,500 of these people groups have absolutely no access to the Gospel whatsoever.
3 billion people.
As the Western world becomes less and less Christian, we cannot allow current cultural moods to neutralize our passion for evangelism to those within arms reach and to those who have never heard. We must embrace Jesus call to take the Gospel in all its fullness to every “ethnos.”
The Great Commission is not optional.