Jesus, having been raised from the dead, has traveled with his disciples to a mountain in Galilee. As he prepares to ascend to heaven, he leaves these words with them,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20)
The church has rightly called this “The Great Commission.” The term commission comes from the combination of two Latin words meaning “to send together.” Simple enough, right? Jesus wanted us to make sure that the Gospel gets shared everywhere in the world.
So the church got herself together and has been sending folks out for 21 centuries. With the advance in communication capabilities in the last decades, there are relatively few places where the good news of Jesus has not reached. So we pledge to support missionaries to those areas, and we then can sign off on the “commission” as pretty well accomplished. Maybe we Christians here in the good old USA need to revisit the term “mission.”
I am very close to a young man who is a Navy Seal. If you were to spend much time around him you would soon hear a word familiar to all who have served this country in the military — the word is mission. In general terms it means “a task or duty assigned to an individual or unit.” More specifically it can be broken down into “mission objective,” which is what you intend to achieve, “mission critical,” which are the things absolutely essential to the success of the mission, and “mission focus,” which is keeping to the intent of the mission without deviation.
I bring all of this up because we can get so comfortable in living out our faith that we can forget that Jesus came to divinely intervene in a war for men’s and women’s souls. He went to the cross so that every human being might be given an opportunity to have eternal life with him. His final words on that mountain so long ago were nothing less than Jesus giving to his church the mission of carrying on the struggle of bringing the lost to him.
That is our mission objective as Christ-followers, the purpose of the church. Problems have occurred, however, when believers have lost their mission focus. It has been easy to do whenever we have forgotten that the spiritual war still rages and sometimes exacts the most casualties amidst seasons of great worldly prosperity. It is during such times that Christians can get distracted from the mission even while looking wildly successful. How easy it is to “major in the minors” — to assume that success in the Kingdom of God can be measured by the magnificence of our facilities, or the size of our budgets, or the crowds we attract to special events, or the column inches we score in the newspaper. Such things are not bad and can even be wonderful, but they must never be allowed to move the eyes of any follower of Jesus off the mission of the church.
So why is mission critical to bringing the lost to Jesus? God’s people faithfully live out and share the truth of Holy Scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the charge which our Lord has given to every one of his followers, not just to those few who are ordained. People are attracted to grand edifices, great music, stirring sermons and spectacular events but, with few exceptions, they come to accept Jesus as their Lord through the witness of another human being who has taken the time to become their friend.
God has given every Christian who has a personal relationship with Jesus and is willing to share what that has meant to them the power to lead someone to Jesus. In this great spiritual war every single life matters. As the church has remembered this and taken it to heart, those following Jesus as Lord and Savior have multiplied and the faith has thrived.
The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.