United Methodist Church of Livonia, NY

The Great Commission

If I were to ask you what the Great Commission is, what would you say?...

The latest data from the Barna Group tells us that only 17%  of church attenders in the US have heard of it, and know what it means, while 25% have heard of it, but can’t recall its meaning.  A whooping 51% of US church goers report they have never heard of the Great Commission.  I want to underscore these are church people, not the unchurched.

The Great Commission is found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28.  16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

Be truthful…did you know it?

The data also shows that age makes a significant difference in whether churchgoers recognize the Great Commission. More than one-quarter of Elders (29%) and Boomers (26%) said they knew the term, compared to 17 percent of Gen X and one in 10 Millennials (10%). Although not even half of any age group knew the Great Commission well, the youngest adult generation was least likely to recognize it.

As I read the report this week I was shocked.  All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind. It seems incredible to me that the Church of Jesus Christ could have lost sight of the final commission he gave his disciples.

A commission given to us by Jesus.  Look up the word commission and you will find it is and instruction or duty given to a person or group.  When someone is given a commission they are given the authority to act, charged with a particular task.  In giving us this Commission, Jesus is telling us we are to continue the work he began in his 3 years of public ministry.  Jesus is telling us we are to be his partners.

This data says to me that there is something wrong with the Church.  It says to me we are not teaching what our Lord has commanded.  It says we have not taken our commission seriously.  Clearly pastors are not doing their job from the pulpit.  And while our Christian education programs may be full of creativity and fun, it seems we are failing to convey the most basic of all Jesus’ commands.

If the Church does not understand this is its most basic function, is it any wonder the Church is in such drastic decline in the US (and the rest of the world)?

GO, MAKE, BAPTIZE, TEACH are the functions we are charged to perform. These words are all verbs, actions.  The Church is meant to be an active, not a people who sit behind pleasantly painted walls.

Go, make, baptize, teach.  These actions are the foundation of Christ’s Church.
·      What would it look like if our church were to GO?  Go where?
·      What would it mean for us to MAKE disciples, and how would we know we are doing that?
·      What does it mean to BAPTIZE?  I don't think sprinkling water on babies is all that is meant.
·      What are the ways we can TEACH and what is the content of such teaching?

I have asked us to dream like Jesus.  I wonder if the Great Commission gives us a starting place for our thinking.  I believe in the Great Commission we find Jesus’ dream for his Church, a people who will be active in gathering and teaching God’s children what it means to be a Christ Follower.

Maybe our dreams for the UMCL can be framed using the Great Commission?

I invite you to watch the series of messages on Dream Like Jesus.

Pastor Hoyt