April 6, 2011
Throughout his ministry, Jesus exemplified the importance of evangelism. He spoke boldly and truthfully of the Father wherever he traveled. As his time on earth came to a close, he laid out the next phase of his ministry. The Great Co-mission, in Matthew 28:19, was his call to the Church to participate in the practice of evangelism: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Just before his ascension, Jesus reiterated these words. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV). The Great Co-mission was to be understood as a call to start new communities of believers wherever the disciples traveled.
Any serious reader of the Bible will quickly see that “God’s nature is at the root of mission. The living God portrayed in the Bible is a sending God. He sends because of his love for the world.” The Church is called to be the living expression of the kingdom of God on this earth. It is to reach out to the lost with the truth and reality of the Gospel. It is to form loving, nurturing communities of new believers. In so doing, the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, should heal the spiritually sick. The Great Co-mission is not a new calling to God’s people. It goes back to the era of Genesis where God gave a very similar commission to Abram: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3)
This call to Abram shows God’s desire for Israel to become a movement that would touch the entire world, not merely a regional organization. God’s desire was to bless “all the peoples on the earth” through Abram. God’s design for the future of Abram’s race is one that was intended to transcend the socio-economic and ethnic borders of Israel. Abram’s obedience to God, after many generations, transforms itself into a nation of Israelites. This same obedience, taken on by Jesus’ disciples, will again transform itself into today’s Christian. God intended from the beginning—his call to Abram—for his Spirit to flow out of that nation into every nation on the earth. Israel, the nation that grew out of Abram’s lineage, was to be the prototype of the Church. Genesis 12:1-3 stands as the foundation upon which the Great Co-mission rests.
According to the New Testament, God’s children are no longer confined or defined by blood, or lineage to Abram Rather, true Israelites are understood to be those who received adoption into the family through the blood of Jesus. “It is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Rom 9:8 NIV). Those who are followers of Jesus Christ and are a part of his Church are now, through their obedience to the Holy Spirit, transformed into the “children” of Abraham. This classification becomes significant, as followers understand that the Great Commission is a reaffirmation of the original call given to Abraham. The Church, like Israel, is not to become a stand-alone organization, but a life-giving organism that can influence the world.
Church planting is not new to denominational bodies. Church planting is and always has been the “intentional pursuit of lost people” that naturally flows out of the Great Co-mission. As the Church involves itself in this work, it is fulfilling the original call, given to Abram, to be