By Steve Wallace
Christ’s giving the Great Commission is a natural consequence of his mission while on earth. He gave it after he had conquered man’s two greatest enemies, sin and death (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:20). The commission commands the spreading of this wonderful news to the lost of this world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). In light of the theme of this special issue of Truth Magazine, what is involved in carrying out the Great Commission?
Overcoming Contrary Emotions
In reading the accounts of the giving of the commission, the transformation that took place in Jesus’ disciples is sometimes overlooked (cf. Mark 16:14; John 20:19). They went from being full of doubt, unbelief, and fear to bold pro-claimers of Jesus’ words (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:10-12; Acts 2-3). Everyone who endeavors to teach others will undergo a similar change. This is so in a special sense for those who would preach in another country. At least, I found it so.
My first exposure to oversees work came when I took some trips to Europe at my own expense I can still remember my thoughts when brethren in Germany wrote me, asking me to consider working with them. While I was careful not to say as much to them, my thoughts were something like, “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to move over there!” However, they insisted that I come and I reluctantly gave in. (I will always be thankful to Danny and Mary Huber and Karen [Thompson] Dargon for prodding me to do this.) Others have grappled with similar feelings. My work in Germany was, with a few exceptions, among the American community there. However, I had unwittingly placed myself on what would become the front lines when the Berlin Wall fell. This event not only transformed my life, it influenced my thinking with regards to subjects on which I had preached for years.
Take the Gospel Into All the World
Jesus taught his disciples for the three years of his ministry. After this, he saw that they, under the guidance of the Spirit, were up to the task of carrying out the Great Commission. “Go” is before “gospel” in Mark 16:15. However, it is the gospel that is of primary import in Jesus’ commission. It will both cause one to “go” and equip him for his work (2 Cor. 5:10-15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). In light of this, those who have made it their practice to regularly preach on such things as first principles, the church, and denominational errors with regards to the two aforementioned subjects are naturals for carrying out Jesus’ commission. A major part of my work has been encouraging workers to come to Lithuania. Over and over I have assured prospective workers who are faithful men that they can do the work there. It goes without saying that my fellow contributors to this special issue have long since learned this truth as well. By contrast, one can read, in papers circulated by our institutional brethren, of intentional neglect in preaching the gospel. For example, in the April 1993 issue of The Christian Chronicle we read of an effort in an East German city where a preacher dealt “with the hurts and anxieties of the populace, rather than presenting doctrinal themes” (20). To be sure, there is a lot of both physical and emotional suffering here and abroad, and one might incidentally have an opportunity to help those so afflicted. However, the Great Commission involves preaching the gospel and those who would take part in its execution must prepare themselves accordingly.
Churches Should Facilitate Preachers in “Going”
The New Testament reveals that churches of that day actively supported preachers in fulfilling the Great Commission (Phil. 4:15-16; 2 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Thess. 1:8). The church in Ramstein, Germany, was exemplary in their dedication to this principle. Brethren allowed me to be away in mission work for as much eleven weeks and a number of men were happy to fill in during my absences, preaching and teaching. They also were generous in their support, not only of me in my own efforts in Eastern Europe but also of other men as well. At one point in 1998 our treasurer told me that we had sent out over $10,000 in outside support in the past six months. For a church whose attendance was usually in the low 40s this alone says a lot. By contrast, I have known men who have preached in difficult places while being inadequately supported. If the Great Commission is going to be fulfilled in our day, churches must commit themselves to the support of those carrying it out.
In the Language of Every Man
While one can find English speakers in many places it should be obvious to all that nothing will reach the population of any given country like words in their own tongue. Paul knew Greek and Hebrew (Acts 21:40; Rom. 1:16) and, perhaps, Aramaic. However, even he had problems on occasion with an unknown language (Acts 14:11-14). Learning the language of a given country is the first option open to a person. Working through interpreters, while not acceptable or financially feasible in all countries, has worked very well in Eastern Europe. Producing literature in a given language, while being a tedious, demanding process, is a big help. In some instances, people have been converted by means of a tract; in others, they have learned the truth on a topic wherein they had been in error. If the Lord lets time go on, literature we translate will still be doing its work long after we have left this earth. We must recognize that all of the world does not speak English and adjust our efforts accordingly.
Establishing Churches in the Faith
Jesus’ commission also included, “Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). The immorality and excess of the city of Corinth mirror many cities today. Coming out of such a background and living in such an environment will take its toll on even the most dedicated Christians (1 Pet. 2:12; 4:4). Attrition has been high in churches in many parts of the mission field. Preachers and churches must make long term commitments if the churches they establish are to stand the test of time.
Many brethren today are involved in carrying out the Great Commission. Men with experience in given countries around the world have contributed to this special issue. Their articles reflect their simple faith in the commission our Savior gave so long ago. The common goodwill reflected by brethren involved in different fields and efforts joining their voices together in these pages is reminiscent of that seen among our first century brethren (Gal. 2:7-9). We hope you will be informed and encouraged by their words.
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