I'm sitting across from a friend who seems bent on filling in a great big hole in what I can only describe as a barren wilderness. You may be curious to find out why he's doing this, but I'm not going to share that information with you here. Instead I want to talk about filling the hole that exists in our Gospel.
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus issued a call to 'go and make disciples of all nations'. In an inspiring book on God’s call, entitled Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns writes ‘[i]t was not a call to give up on the world, now holding our “tickets to heaven” firmly in our hands and retreating into our churches. It was a call to go into the world to reclaim, reform, and restore it for Christ.’ The author goes on to expand this thought along the line of finding purpose in life as Christians. He notes: ‘[t]he implication of this is profound. God created you intentionally to play a very specific role in his unfolding story. God didn’t create any extras meant to just stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; he created players meant to be on center stage. And you will feel fully complete only when you discover the role you were born to play.’
Two points jump out from that statement. First, in the call to action in God’s great work of salvation among the nations there are no substitutes who stand on the sideline waiting for injured or disqualified players to be called off the playing field before they can be involved in the action. All who have discovered Jesus and His commission are called to take part in God’s great work of salvation among the nations! There are no exceptions. We all have a specific role to play in the unfolding event throughout the world. Second, it is that involvement in the plan of salvation that gives purpose and direction to the Christian life. And without this purpose and direction the Christian can never really feel fully complete in their life, as they will have missed the very thing they are called to do as disciples.
This raises the question whether all are called to go to the nations. To address this pertinent question we have to revisit the Commission as Jesus issued it in the New Testament; and note Stearns once again. Matthew 28:19 reads, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” There’s really no specificity in that command to go, unless we want to argue that the gospel commission was only binding on the few who were present when Jesus spoke these words. That of course is a slippery slope argument, as we would need to also apply the same logic to most of what Jesus said in the Gospels. But the call appears to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Furthermore, the following verse seems to indicate that Jesus is issuing the call to everyone who will ever become His disciples, even “to the end of the age”. And as Stearns noted earlier “God didn’t create any extras meant to just stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; he created players meant to be on center stage.”
The rationale brought out in this argument suggests that the commission in Matthew 28 then is a requisite for all Christians. It appears that all are called to help take the gospel to the nations. I recognise that many will take issue with this view that ‘we’re all called to go’ and will argue instead that there is a specific calling on individual lives. While this is certainly true, it nevertheless does not negate the general command of Matthew 28:19 to help take the Gospel to the nations. That command does not seem to be negotiable even if we are fully involved in our home church as clergy or laity; or even if we are involved in compassionate activities throughout the world. The command to go and make disciples of all nations is binding on all who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour; and recognise that He is the Saviour of the world.
Dr. Charles F. Stanley, founder and president of Touch Ministries, and senior pastor at First Baptist Church adds validity and clarity to the argument when he points out how ‘Paul and Barnabas set the standard for the church’s mission work when they obeyed God’s call to go forth. The local body of believers – those left behind to share Christ with neighbors and friends – equipped the men for their journey.’ It is in this way then that we must all personally respond to the command to go and make disciples of all nations. And E. G. White, the author of a wonderful little book called Steps to Christ writes, “If the followers of Christ were awake to duty, there would be thousands where there is one today, proclaiming the Gospel in foreign lands. And all who could not personally engage in the work would yet sustain it with their means, their sympathy and their prayers.”
For many of us, the Gospel Commission is something that is far removed from our faith and practice; and belongs in another realm and to a separate and distinct order, divinely chosen and set apart for the task. For many, even supporting workers in foreign fields does not apply to us. We believe and act as if our personal calling is simply to worship God; and we ignore or read over passages in scripture that remind us of our duty: that we too are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14) and that if we lift Him up from the earth it will draw people to Him (John 12:32). We forget that faith without works is in fact dead (James 2:14-26), and that even the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Mark 10:45). If we find ourselves in that category, then we do indeed have a hole in our gospel and are living a partial experience with Jesus and can never feel fully complete as Christians. Perhaps the time has come then to fill the hole that exists in our gospel.