Every Baptist is familiar with the Great Commission. Throughout our Baptist history, we have been a people committed to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. Our commitment to the Cooperative Program has always been driven by our passion to preach and teach the Good News to those who have never heard. This emphasis is right and one that should make us all proud.
In recent days, this focus has been heightened by the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). While there are many parts of the GCR that I feel missed the mark, make no mistake, I support the focus on unreached people both in America and to the ends of the Earth. Yet, I am afraid we have made the mistake of skipping the full teaching of the Great Commission. It certainly moves us to the outermost parts of the Earth, but the Great Commission begins with our Jerusalem and Judea. Properly understood, the Great Commission calls us to take seriously the command to disciple all people from the end of our nose to the ends of the Earth. We cannot skip our community and applaud ourselves because we are giving, and even going, to the ends of the Earth. It is a “both/and” proposition.
As I observe our churches, I fear we have become complacent in regard to our Jerusalem. It is easy to do business as usual, give to missions and fail to take on the mission that surrounds us. Becoming self absorbed as a church and finding satisfaction in just keeping things going is very easy. When a church makes its mission the comfort of the saints and is satisfied to give rather than go, she has failed to comprehend the truth of the Great Commission our Lord gave us.
How long has been since the baptismal waters have stirred in your church? When is the last time you prayed fervently for a lost friend? Has your church excused itself from regular and consistent outreach to your community on a weekly basis? When was the last time you invited someone to attend church with you?
The Great Commission is not just about Africa or India; it is not just about New York City or Los Angeles. It is about Skiatook, Durant, Lawton, Guymon—you get the picture. Is not just about walking the streets of East Asia; it is about Oak and Elm in your town. The Great Commission is about the family that lives on the farm down the road from you.
Evangelism has taken on many new approaches in our day. Frankly, I love the servant evangelism, event evangelism and the myriad of other ways we seek to open doors for Gospel witness. Billboards and advertising in the newspaper or other media is a good thing. Yet the number one reason people attend a church for the first time is because a friend or family member invited them. This fact has been proven year after year.
The same could be said in regard to people who become followers of Jesus. It is because someone cared enough to share with them one on one the Good News of Jesus. So maybe it is time we go back to the basics. Just maybe it is time for us to start inviting people and take the time to share the most important news we were ever given—the Gospel.
It’s not rocket science. If it was, I would have never been saved, nor would I have ever had the joy of leading someone to Christ. It is just about God’s people and His church taking all of the Great Commission to heart.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.