“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:37-38).
I have been a pastor for more than forty years. In the process I have started churches, led existing churches, mentored new believers and pastors, shared the gospel on the mission field, taught Arabs in Israel, worked for a well-known parachurch ministry to prisons and have started several new ministries, including one as a chaplain to auto racers. Zoom. Zoom.
But there’s one thing I have learned that stands out above everything else and that is that the ministry of the church is first and foremost to proclaim, teach, preach and share the gospel wherever we are and wherever we go to every person who will listen.
I don’t believe there are any exemptions to this calling. It is not the sole domain of the offices of the church, the apostles, prophets, evangelists or pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12). It doesn’t make any difference whether you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, professional or blue collar, sophisticated or otherwise, a new believer or old salt, married or single, retired or just beginning your career. If you are a true believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s calling on your life is to spread the good news about what Jesus did for you through his death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
These final instructions were on the heart of our Savior as he met with his disciples during the forty days he was on the earth between his resurrection and ascension into heaven. His mandate to them was what we call the Great Commission or evangelism, which is winning the lost by preaching the gospel. The specific directions consisted of five different statements Jesus made in this regard and which he commanded his disciples to inaugurate after his departure. And they did. Aren’t we glad!
Here are those five statements Jesus gave to his followers, first in Jerusalem, then in Galilee and finally at the Mount of Olives. I call them the Message, the Model, the Magnitude, the Method and the Means.*
And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things. — Luke 24:46-48
Notice the emphasis on repentance and forgiveness of sins and proclaiming that message to all nations.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” — John 20:21-23
Notice the emphasis on sending out the disciples and receiving the Holy Spirit and to teach God’s forgiveness and judgment.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
— Mark 16:15-18
Notice the emphasis on going into all the world and preaching to everyone and the signs that would follow those who believed.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. — Matthew 28:18-20
Notice the emphasis on going to all nations, baptizing and making disciples by teaching them his commandments.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. — Acts 1:8-9
Notice the emphasis on receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to witness and then going to the end of the earth to do it.
Every true believer and every church that exists is commissioned to follow in the footsteps of these first disciples. We have been given our instructions. How are we doing? Maranatha!
*Dr. Marvin J. Newell, Commissioned, pp. 23-25.
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better.