The “Great Commission” is not so great. I mean, of course everything Jesus says is awesome, but we are making a huge error if we define missions only based on Matthew 28:18-20, basically because we are not given so much information about missions there. Jesus says: “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Now, to understand what “everything I have commanded you” means, we obviously have to read the rest of the gospels! Missions is not only about baptizing people and telling them what to believe, it’s about raising up a non-violent army of passionate disciples that are willing to do the stuff Jesus commanded us to do.
If we stick to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus starts teaching discipleship in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). This is not a collection of random sayings of Jesus, it has a common theme: actions. Radical actions; love your enemies, give to the poor, do not store up treasures on earth, do not judge, do not look at someone with lust, etc. This is all part of the Great Commission – we are supposed to live like this, and those who we baptize are supposed to live like this. Thus, missions include peacemakting, social justice and holiness.
Missions also include signs and wonders. After gathering the rest of the apostles, including Matthew himself, Jesus sends them out in Mt 10:7-8, saying: “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” The proclamation of the Kingdom has to be supported by the demontration of the Kingdom, through supernatural acts of God that show His Kingship.
Obviously, Jesus did not say in Mt 28:20 “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you except that signs and wonders part”, but the supernatural ministry of the apostles was supposed to multiply to next generations as well. This is why Paul exhorts the Corinthians to prophesy and heal the sick (1 Cor 12-14) – he taught them everything Jesus had commanded the apostles to do.
Thus, when understanding missions we have to have a holistic view God’s mission, where the call to baptizing people from all nations not only means making them think and believe right, but also live and act right. However, this should by no means decrease the importance of saving faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we only talk about peace and justice but not salvation and eternal life, if we only focus on cool miracles and not evangelism, then we are making the same error as those who only focus on eternal salvation without taking activism or charismatic spirituality into account: we are limiting the Great Commission.
Within missiology, it’s popular to talk about Missio Dei, God’s mission. Its most common interpretation is that our understanding of missions should be trinitarian, meaning that the Father sent the Son to send His disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit to become God-obedient, Christ-like and Spirit-filled. Likewise, I would say that this divine sending has three dimensions, just as the Trinity itself is threefold: love, power and life. Love all nations with peace and justice. Empower all nations with signs and wonders. And preach to all nations about the wonderful, eternal life with Jesus Christ. Remember how Paul brought the Gentiles to the Lord: “by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Rom 15:18-19).
This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on Missional Spirituality for the month of December. MennoNerds is exploring through this event Spirituality through an Anabaptist lens and what it means concerning participation in the missionof God.