The Barna Group, a Christian research company, recently asked churchgoers, “Have you heard of the Great Commission?” 51% said they had never heard the term; 25% said they’d heard the term but couldn’t recall it’s meaning; and 6% weren’t sure. Just 17% knew of the Great Commission and what it meant.
Matthew 28:18-20 is the passage most commonly called the “Great Commission,” where the Risen Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The Gospel writers Mark, Luke, and John also report a similar “commission.” Jesus “commissioned” his followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to go to all people, just as God the Father had sent him. Jesus’ kingdom on earth would be built by disciples who made more disciples.
So why don’t people know the Great Commission?
Well, the term isn’t in the Bible, and it wasn’t a term used by the church until the 16th century. It seems that the term was made popular by a British missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, in the 19th century. So it’s possible to see the words “all nations” and conclude the commission is for overseas missionaries. But the Greek words also mean “all people.” Jesus meant everyone, not just people “over there.”
At the same time, many people say, “Faith is a private matter. Keep it to yourself.” But what they’re really saying is that you need to believe in a different Jesus than the one in the Bible. They’re telling you to shirk the Great Commission and believe in a god they made up.
The one who was commissioned by God to come from heaven to earth, to live the life we should have lived, and to die the death we deserved, didn’t stay dead. He rose again and commissioned us to make more disciples.
That’s pretty great if you ask me.