This Sunday, during week 3 of our Go! Series, we listened to a story from Craig Mayes, Interim Lead Pastor at Clinton Twp. campus, and he wanted to share these additional thoughts on what it means “to go” when we aren’t necessarily uprooting our lives for the mission field. We can “go” even when we’re just going about our day. Watch week 3 of our Go! Series.
The plan for growing the Kingdom of Jesus is expressed succinctly in the words captured by Matthew in what is often called The Great Commission:
Therefore, go and 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
“Go” is the operative word here. Jesus handed off the work he had started with his disciples to his disciples, and to those who would follow later, including those of us alive today who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. It is simple imperative Go and make more disciples of Jesus. It is not complicated, although I think it has often been made more complicated than necessary. What is the nature of this “going”?
Recently I discovered a postcard I sent to my grandmother when I was 12 years old. She was an amazing woman who, in her 60’s, after retiring from her job as a bookkeeper, headed to the philippines as a missionary. I had sent her the postcard from a church camp I was attending, and wrote these words, scribbled in pencil: “I just came forward in a meeting. I said I would go where he [God] wanted me to go.”
While most of the details of what was going on at that time are now fuzzy after all these years, I remember that a missionary had spoken, shared stories of his adventures overseas sharing the gospel, and then at the end of his message invited us to surrender to God’s will. I went to the front of the chapel – and said that I would “go” and tell people about Jesus. Whether or not the speaker said this or intended this, I believed that the going would necessarily involve moving to some far away, unfamiliar place.
When we hear the words of the great commission, I think it is common to think about “going” in this manner: uprooting our lives completely and heading off to another place to make disciples. While that will be the case for some people, as it was for my grandmother, clearly most followers of Jesus are not called to this kind of going. What about the rest of us? How can we participate in going?
The answer can be found in a brief grammar lesson. The form of the word translated “go” in Matthew 28:19, without getting too technical, could perhaps better be translated “as you go” or “in your going”. Perhaps something like this: As you go about your life, make disciples…” Jesus was inviting all of his followers into a lifestyle, a way of life that brings sharing the good news, making disciples, teaching others about Jesus’ Kingdom, a part of the rhythm of everyday life. It’s meant to be what we naturally do in the context of where we live and work and play. This kind of going is not reserved for specialized missionaries who leave one place to go to another.
The accounts of the work of Jesus recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shed some light on this. How did Jesus go about this work day by day, for three years? While we can’t possibly know what was fully in his mind, there is a phrase that shows up that I have found instructive. It appears in various forms, but all are along the lines of six words we find in John 9:1.
“As he went along, he was…”
In this case, Jesus saw a blind man, and stopped to heal him. There is no indications that Jesus had put it in his day-planner or on a “to do” list. Jesus was paying attention as he went along, eyes and ears open for an opportunity to encounter and help someone in need. This is not an exception in the gospel accounts. As Jesus went about living, he touched and taught others. This is the example his closest followers would have seen for three years. So in the culminating challenge to his disciples in Matthew 28, I think he was saying, “keep it up!”
In the story we know as The Good Samaritan, three travelers, all on their way to do something, encounter a man robbed, beaten up and left to die. None of them had helping this man on their agenda for the day. As they “went along,” only on truly saw the opportunity for love, compassion, rescue, and the saving of a life.
Broadening our understanding of the great commission can open before us untold opportunities to bring the gospel, the kingdom of Jesus to others. The great adventure of participating with Jesus, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is possible every day “as we go” about our lives.
I never did end up living overseas as a “traditional” missionary. I don’t think that is what God had in mind for me. That doesn’t mean that I did not go. I am still going. It’s an everyday thing in the Kingdom of Jesus.