In the Oxford dictionary, the word “commission” has two definitions. One is “an instruction, command, or role given to a person or group.” It reminds us of the great commission recorded in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 28 verses 19 – 20 (…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you… – NET) The other is the “authority to perform a task or certain duties.” That reminds us of the power for witnessing which Christ promised us in the book of Acts chapter 1 and verse 8. (But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.– NET)
These two verses indicate that Christ has commissioned and empowered us to accomplish a certain mission. Unfortunately, however today the great commission has become the great omission in the church. A favourite quote of mine from a film goes like this – “With great power comes great responsibility.” The great commission is our great responsibility because Christ has clothed us with great power from above.
Now I am aware that you have listened to sermons on this theme before. A Google search for sermons on the Great Commission and similar themes returns 7,990,000 results in 0.51 seconds! (I have covered the topic twice before. You can revisit them here and here.) While many sermons tell us what to do about the Great Commission, messages that tell how to do it are not so much. Therefore, tonight I want to show you how to fulfil the Great Commission by sharing three ways you can respond to the Great Commission.
1. First Response to the Great Commission: Build Bridges
Most believers are reluctant to go to the non-believers for the fear of resistance. Most non-believers resist believers because they fear rejection. We shouldn’t be surprised because for centuries the church has condemned sin and the sinner both creating a gap between us and them. We must bridge that gap before going to them. Friendship is how we do that.
We spend billions of dollars on evangelism today although we are not willing to spend a minute on forming new friendships with the lost. Of course, there’s no guarantee there will be no resistance at all. We will meet some very wicked people. Jesus even said he is sending us out like sheep among wolves, (Matthew 10:16). While preparing for this message I remembered a film I watched back in the year 2018. The title of the film was “Alpha”. In it, the protagonist befriends and earns the trust of a wolf that attacked him. Jesus was saying we are ought to befriend even the Wolves and earn their trust. It is then alone we can influence them with the gospel.
This is exactly what Jesus did. He became friends with the marginalized of the society, (Luke 19:1-10; John 4:1-42; John 12:1-8). Which is why his enemies called him the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Friendship has to be genuine, however. You can’t fake it because people will know sooner or later.
How to befriend people?
If you are not sure how to be friends with people here are a few powerful suggestions to help you do just that.
• Accept them: Jesus showed you can accept somebody without approving of their lifestyle. They may be doing something contrary to the word of God, but you can accept them as a person without approving of the sin they are involved in, (Romans 15:7). Mahatma Gandhi said, “Hate the sin and not the sinner”.
• Be available: The Parable of the Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:25-37) shows that a friend in need is a friend indeed. Sometimes being available can be as simple as a prayer for healing or needs. At other times it can be as complicated as going out of your way to help. Either way, you cannot make friends unless you are available.
• Enjoy fellowship: every culture has many holidays every year and you can always invite your neighbour for a meal. Although food is not fellowship itself it’s one of the few keys that unlocks fellowship because people feel less vulnerable while enjoying a meal together, (Acts 2:46). Guy Fieri once said, “Food is the universal element with the power to bring people together.” As Cesar Chavez says it works the other way also. “If you want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. The people who give you their food give you their heart.”
• Leave the comfort zone: you must be willing to go out on a limb, (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6). Someone said, “friendship is every day not just when it’s convenient for you.” Risks and friendship are a package deal. You cannot have one without the other.
Making friends or building bridges is the act of going to the Great Commission. Next, we will look at sharing your story.
2. Second Response to the Great Commission: Tell your story
Pope Paul VI once said this about sharing one’s story. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
Research indicates that nine out of 10 people trust what a customer says about a business more than what that business says about itself. As a result, customers are likely to spend 31% more with a business that has good customer testimonials. Your story or how you came to know Christ (also known as your testimony) has a similar but far powerful effect on your friends. A personal testimony about the difference Christ has made in your life grabs the attention of your friends and often touches hearts more than talking about the ideas of the faith in an abstract way.
Even Paul the apostle used the same approach in his ministry more than once, (Acts 22:1-21; 26:1-32). He was always willing to debate people about the gospel, but throughout his letters, he pointed to his experience as the most compelling proof of Christ’s significance.
Sometimes we are tempted to hold back our stories because we feel our stories are mundane. I used to feel the same way but then I began sharing what I could have become if it wasn’t for Christ. You can do the same. Besides God has chosen to work in your life in a particular way for a particular reason. For example, consider the story of Brian Erickson. Remember, you are testifying to his work, and that is something to be celebrated. Testimonies about many small ways of turning back to God can be just as powerful as more dramatic stories of conversion.
How to share your story?
There are two benefits when a story is told right. One is you don’t need to know theology to tell others how you met Christ. The other is people might argue with you about the authority of the Bible, but it’s a little more difficult to debate when your message is, “I once was lost, and now I’m found.” Besides, the purpose of your story is to lead someone into repentance. Hence, it’s crucial to tell it right. Tonight, let’s consider the model Paul used for sharing his story.
• Life before Jesus Christ: Be modest and discreet when mentioning the sins of your past life. Something like as simple as “I was doing things on the weekends I shouldn’t have been doing,” “I was struggling with purity” or something similar is usually enough to give people a sense of your real struggle without putting a picture in their minds of you in your sin.
• Coming to know Jesus: if other people were involved in bringing about the conversion see to it your story is focused on Christ, not someone else. Don’t exaggerate. Often words can’t express the deeds of God in our lives. Always organize your story so that people will understand what you have been through and who God is.
• Life in Jesus Christ: emphasize which areas in your life have changed since accepting Christ because the listener needs to know the significance of a relationship with Jesus. Avoid Christian jargon. Don’t pause as a saint but don’t dwell on struggles and failures also.
• An invitation: now you can ask your friend in a casual setting “Would you like to learn more?” You could even transition from your story to sharing the Gospel directly. Once again, the purpose of the story is to lead your friend into conviction, confession, repentance and finally commitment.
Also, be prepared to share your story whenever the opportunity knocks. If someone asks you a question about the faith, shows curiosity about Christ, asks you why you live the way you do or simply seems like they need encouragement, hope or inspiration, be prepared to tell what Jesus has done in your life. There are many settings and situations when you might use your story, so be prepared.
3. Third Response to the Great Commission: Build Up Others
So, we learned about building bridges which is the act of going, then telling your story which is the act of witnessing. Next, we will look at building up others which is the act of raising disciples. Remember, the great commission is all about making disciples. It’s not about winning converts or producing supporters of Christianity. Unfortunately, it’s exactly what we are doing. Consequently, we have quantity in our churches but not quality.
Discipleship is crucial. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” I want to ask you two questions tonight. Who is a disciple and what does he do? The answers are simple. A disciple is someone who follows the example of his coach and does everything the coach taught him to do. A disciple is a related term of discipline. Hence you and I cannot say we are disciples of Jesus or make disciples unless we follow and does everything, he taught us to do. Tonight, I want to share with you three steps to discipleship.
• Build Self-discipline: as I already stressed you can’t make disciples unless you are a disciple yourself. Dr John C. Maxwell said, “Motivation gets you going but discipline keeps you growing”. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody is. But signs of regular spiritual growth and discipline should be evident in your life.
• Build healthy relationships: Nick Runyon says “Discipleship Happens in the Context of Relationship.” The lives of the disciple and the coach must be interwoven just like the lives of the twelve and Jesus were. Of course, there are certain elements of discipleship that happens in the classroom. However, discipleship is more “watch and learn” than “sit and learn”.
• Teach God’s Word: Dr Billy Graham once said: “We need to encourage new believers to feed on God’s Word—it is nourishment for the soul.” God’s word is the handbook of discipleship. It’s the curriculum of Christian discipleship. You need to teach it to your potential disciple for it’s the foundation upon which he is ought to build his life.
Discipleship is important because we want people to become fully committed followers of Christ. It helps them to grow in faith, maturity and wisdom, and build their faith on a strong foundation so that they can then disciple and lead others towards Christ.
In conclusion, I want us to consider Matthew 28:18 and the end of verse 20. Jesus made two beautiful promises in these verses. One is that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. This is of significant value unto us for it indicates we are not being led like sheep to slaughter when we take the gospel to our communities. Rather Christ is sending us as his ambassadors, (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The other promise is that Jesus will be with us even to the end of the age. This is a promise of assurance. We will face opposition from demonic and human entities as we go to our communities and even the world with the Gospel of Christ. Still, we don’t need to be afraid because we are not alone for Christ himself will accompany us. It’s a repeated promise, (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:38)
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