When people ask core questions about who we are as humans and what our purpose is on earth, the majority of churches and modern missionary organizations would be quick to turn to Matthew 28 – the Great Commission. This is where Jesus tells the disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations. It seems like a clear command, and many have taken it analogously to a battle or war that we must fight for God. See the best-selling book Radical as proof. The entire book’s foundation rests upon the Great Commission being the chief purpose of life.
However, this is like starting a movie halfway in and expecting to know everything going on in the story. This is what Christian leaders are doing when they flip right to the Great Commission and use it as their church’s mission statement. The proof-texting (lifting a verse out of context) of the Great Commission in order to satisfy Western ideas of world missions is proving to be increasingly criticized by Majority World Christians, and more recently, Western scholars too.
What if I told you that the Great Commission was not a verse that could stand-alone in Matthew’s Gospel, but it was actually a summary of the entire book? How would this change your view of Jesus’ words to the disciples? Wouldn’t it want to make you read the rest of Matthew, the Gospel most focused on discipleship, and see what we can learn from the entire book that may illuminate the Great Commission as a final summary? Many modern scholars, such as David Bosch, hold the view that the Great Commission is not a stand-alone passage, but a summary of the entire book of Matthew.
The lack of contextual understanding for the Great Commission gives us the need for a better missional paradigm. This comes to us in what is called the missio Dei, John 20:19-23. Many scholars call this passage the Greatest Commission because it is a more accurate description of how we are to view our mission and commission. It is a trinitarian approach that reveals God as the missionary whom we join!
Understanding the missio Dei (God as missional by nature) causes a paradigm shift from doing things for God to participating with God in His mission. In the Greatest Commission, John 20:19-23, we find that our call is to participation in both communion and mission with God. It never has been or never will be about our own individual capacity to save souls or do great works for God. It is not a synergistic process, where we do our job and God does his, but it is by participation in the life of the Trinity where mission happens. We are a creation of the Creator meant to live fully with God, with others, and with creation. Are you ready to explore this new paradigm?
“The Mission of God“
“The Mission of God’s People“
“Missional God, Missional Church“
“The Open Secret“
“Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the 21st Century“