Was the Reformation “Missional”?

Was the Reformation "Missional"?

Was the Reformation "Missional"?

Ed Stetzer, in his book Planting Missional Churches writes that, “After the Reformation took hold, the evangelistic mission of the church was often neglected….The Reformers were trapped within geographical Christendom while their Catholic counterparts were engaged in colonial expansion….Protestant ‘mission’ became missions to Catholics” (pp. 28-29).

But isn’t this exactly what Stetzer is claiming a missional church is?  It is a church that is “doing missions” right where they are (p. 19).  And again, “missional means being a missionary without ever leaving your zip code” (p. 19).  Is that not exactly what Stetzer accuses the Reformed church of doing?  That they focused so much on their own culture (their own zip code as it were), and the lost among them (the Catholics), and therefore lost sight of their mission?  At the very least, Stetzer is being inconsistent.

One of the reasons I hesitate whenever someone uses the word “missional” is because its “mission” is just too small!  God did not call us to only reach our own zip code!  He called us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20).  There is nothing inherently wrong with the term “missional” but we need to base our practice, and define our terms on the Word of God, not just on new terms that sound cool.


Lo, I am with you…

The NationsEveryone loves the promise of Jesus to those who follow him, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b).  And so we should, for it is a great source of comfort, and strength.

But we must not forget that this promise is conditioned by what comes before it,Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

As William Carey rightly said,

“we claim our share in His promise: ‘Lo! I am with you.’ We have no right to the promise unless we observe the command.  The one conditions the other.  To neglect His commission is to forfeit His benediction.”

May we be found obeying our Master’s commission, and finding great peace in his benediction.

Is the Great Commission Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Some come to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:7-8), and see it merely as a description of the words of Jesus to his disciples and not as something prescriptive, meaning those of us who are followers of Christ now are not required to follow the commission, but that it was meant for those who heard it directly from the Lord himself.

A few things to consider:

First, this command is from Christ, and therefore you do not have the difficulties that normally come in narrative with sinful men acting and speaking – Jesus is perfect, and everything that he says is true.  So if someone follows what Jesus says to the letter, what are you going to say, “hey, stop being so much like Jesus.”  If someone is going to error, I think erroring to doing what Jesus said is the best error one could make (if one could call it an error).

Secondly, the repitition of the command is important – especially its repitition in the book of Acts.  Why?  Because, the Gospel was not preached to every tongue, tribe, and nation (the “remotest part of the earth”) by the end of the Apostolic age.  There was still work to be done, and so in this sense we see a continuation of the command in that it was not fulfilled.  Also, if we think that the “going” part of the command is descriptive, what about teaching people everything that Jesus taught and what about baptizing?  Is that merely descriptive as well?  No, it is not – it is prescriptive – it is a command.

Thirdly, we are the result of this Great Commission being followed.  We (most of us) are not Jews, and we (most of us) are not in Israel.  If followers had not followed the command of Christ, we would not have believed.  God uses his people as the means by which the message is proclaimed.

Fourthly, given in this command is “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  What would this include?  Well, in the nearest context, it would include teaching this very command to those you are making disciples!  The Great Commission is inherently a command to ALL disciples.

Fifthly, the phrase, “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20), makes it clear that the “you” who are being addressed are not just the eleven disciples, but rather this promise extends to all of Christ’s followers throughout time.

So, let us obey our Lord and Savior, not tomorrow, but today:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

(for more on the Great Commission go here: Go and Make Disciples)

Go and Make Disciples

“Therefore go and make disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20a)

We were talking about this verse in Greek class today so I thought I would spend some time walking through its translation (mainly for my own benefit – the final is coming up!). This will be a bit technical, so I’ll put the interpretation first, and then if you want to read more to find out why I said what I said, you are more than welcome.

It is wrong to emphasis “Go” as the main thrust of this passage because in fact “make disciples” is the main verb.  Another fallacy would be to translate the participle in this way: “as you are going…” In reality the main thing Jesus wants to happen is that we would “go and make disciples” – attendant circumstances, meaning that Jesus is commanding us not only to go but also to make disciples – both are part of the command – they function sort of like a unit (a clear example of this is Matthew 2:13 “Rise and take…and go…”). Continue reading →