We have the privilege and the opportunity to be involved in what God is doing in the world around us. As we examine the words of our Lord Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 commissioning His disciples to make disciples of the entire world, we are left with the ball of involvement in our court. The next logical question would then be “what does this mean for my life?” Before a variety of avenues of involvement are presented, three preliminary statements must be made that will provide the grid-work through which we view our involvement, as well as others.
First and foremost, involvement is essential for compliance with our mandate of making disciples, as a plain reading of Matthew 28:19-20 presents. Every believer has the responsibility to be involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. When the question is asked as to what God’s will is for our lives, the biblical answer must include the overarching umbrella of our commission to be in the disciple-making industry; an industry that is not limited to one location, but rather all locations.
Second, though involvement is essential, it does not look the same for everyone. How the individual believer chooses to be involved, and to what extent, is between them and the Lord. It would be helpful, when considering this point, to think of the Great Commission as the responsibility of the corporate body as a whole, as well as the individual believer in part.
Third, there is not one type of involvement that is more important than another type of involvement. The Apostle Paul provides us with this line of reasoning in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8 when he states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” This is vital in that they help reign in our tendency to value one type of ministry as more important or spiritual than another.
Now that a framework has been provided through which we view involvement in the Great Commission, we will now move to certain types of involvement. These forms of participation are based upon simple observation of how the church responded in scripture, through the example of the Apostles, as well as the infant church at the time. Essentially involvement can be broken down into two categories: those who go and those who send.
Those Who Go
John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
This group represents those people who take up the task of making disciples directly upon themselves, and commit their full time involvement to that endeavor. Even this can be practically broken down into two categories.
1) Those engaged in a direct discipleship ministry, such as one-on-one discipling, personal evangelism, Bible teaching, church planting, etc. 2) Those involved in support ministry, which may include: mechanic, school teacher, pilot, cook, accountant, dorm parent, construction worker, media production, administration, medical work, the list goes on. This support ministry is typically used to free those involved in a direct discipleship ministry to do their work more effectively. It should also be mentioned at this time that sometimes the above roles are used to get into areas where Christian discipleship is not allowed. This work may be done with a Christian community development organization. Just about any skills, talents, or training of any kind can be used to further the reach of the gospel.
When it comes to going, it is common to hear from people that they have not felt called to go. Though the topic of the Lord’s calling/leading is a study in and of itself, I like to challenge people to go by faith, as if they are called, with the confidence that He will let them know if they are not.
Those Who Send
Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
There are many ways that people can be involved in the spread of the gospel apart from dropping what they are doing to go. This is the ministry of sending. The following breakdown of partnership is not exhaustive and is taken from the book called Serving as Senders by Neal Pirolo.
Philippians 4:10 How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn’t have the chance to help me.
This is a simple, yet valuable contribution many people can take part in. These people believe in the work the Lord is involving those who go in doing, and express appreciation for them through encouraging actions and words both when they are home and overseas. They help keep the goers focused on the Lord and what He can do, instead of on circumstances.
2 Timothy 4:13 When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.
These people aid the goers in the areas of helping manage the nuts & bolts of their personal business and legal affairs, as well as attending to personal details. Oftentimes, depending on the organization (how old it is, how big it is), they may handle a lot of this stuff.
Philippians 4:15-16 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone…you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
These people aid the goers by giving money, as one time gifts or regular giving. Goers need money to live off of and to conduct their ministry. The benefit of one time gifts is that they are usually larger and the missionary may use them for a larger need. The benefit of regular giving is that the missionary is able to budget and plan better. Most organizations offer tax-deductible receipts for donors as an added bonus.
Romans 15:30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me…
These people aid the goers by praying for them and the ministry the Lord has them in. They clearly understand the vital role of prayer in the ministry. They are willing to depend on God on behalf of the missionary, relying on Him for the continued provision of needed resources, as well as completion of the task. This is an absolutely indispensible role.
Philippians 2:19 If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon. Then when he comes back, he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along.
These people are the mouthpieces for the church to the missionary, and for the missionary to the church. They update the body as to the struggles and successes of the work taking place, and as to prayer requests for them. They also remain in close contact with the missionary.
When it comes to sending, anyone can do it, from anywhere. This is the perfect opportunity for those who do not believe the Lord has called them to go themselves at this time. They have the opportunity to partner in the spread of the gospel in this way.
The Great Commission should be viewed as a team effort, where every player is critical to the successful completion of the our mission. You can play a part!
And If Nothing Else…
…never be the reason another believer isn’t involved!
2Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith has done me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done.
It is unclear who Alexander the coppersmith was. Scholars are varied in their opinion as to the spiritual status of this man, whether he was a believer or not. The harm that he did to Paul is speculated as defaming the character of Christ’s apostle. No matter what the case was, this man had been a hindrance to the ministry of Paul, and it serves as a warning to us. If we choose not to be involved for some reason or another, it is imperative that we not be a hindrance to the involvement of other believers, and their ministry. (Of course, at the same time the choice to not be a part could be viewed as an indirect hindrance in and of itself.)
Partnership in the Great Commission is truly a privilege and an honor. God has chosen to use His people to reach the world. Do we see the amazing opportunity that we have before us? In 2 Timothy 1:8 we are challenged by Paul once more to “not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.”
The only question that remains is: How will YOU join?
“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” -Mike Stachura