Ever wonder what would happen if your local church got serious about using their spiritual gifts and began infiltrating their neighborhoods (and surrounding cultures) with the gospel? You might just be amazed at what God would do. For example…
On the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, the apostle Peter didn’t hesitate to preach through the open air to the thousands of Jews who were amazed at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He simply responded with his spiritual gift and ministered in a way that glorified the Lord. Through Peter’s radical obedience to the commands of Great Commission Discipleship, God responded by saving 3,000 souls from the eternal lake of fire.
When the Lord commanded Phillip to go and witness to the Ethiopian eunuch, he did not waste precious moments vacillating about what to say once he overtook the chariot (c.f. Acts 8:26-39). Phillip simply did as he was told. He didn’t fret over how best to begin a religious conversation with the high-ranking foreigner. Nor even how he would make the transition from the natural realm to the spiritual. He simply went. And through Phillip’s radical obedience to the commands of Great Commission Discipleship, the Lord responded by saving that eunuch’s soul from the wrath to come.
When the apostle Paul journeyed from city to city preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles alike, he knew it would be difficult work. Many more people rejected his message than believed it. In fact, he ministered with the Lord’s assurance that much more than mere rejection awaited him in every city he entered.
Luke recorded Paul’s words in Acts 20:22-23 when he confessed, “And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” Yet despite that perplexing reality hanging over his head, Paul remained passionate about fulfilling his assigned ministry. He responded by saying, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Paul was sold out to the demands of Great Commission Discipleship and the Lord worked through him mightily because of it.
Modern-day Christians should expect similar results when sharing the gospel with boldness, joy, and compassionate love. We can expect heaping spoonfuls of both acceptance and rejection, and in varying measures as well.
Jesus forewarned His disciples (the application remains true for us today as well) that sinners “will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony” (Luke 21:12-13). Yet the Lord also offered encouragement for our loyalty as well, concluding that divine lesson by saying, “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:19).
We are rarely more Christ-like than when we are graciously sharing the gospel with sinners who outright reject the message and persecute us. Though rejection and maltreatment are neither our aim nor even a prayerful outcome of Great Commission Discipleship, it is—nevertheless—a normal bi-product of sharing the gospel with both sin-loving God-haters and—sadly—nominal churchgoers.
With that said, however, you are probably a lot like me in that neither of us are yet to have anyone cast stones at us like with Stephen or have certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium travel all the way to Lystra just to stone us like they did with Paul in Acts chapter fourteen.
In our contemporary western culture, it is highly unusual to be physically assaulted just because you shared the goodnews of repentant faith with a sinner. I am not saying that it never happens in our civilized culture, because it certainly does on occasion. All I am saying is that it is a rare moment when a Christian gets punched in the face just because they shared with someone in a coffee shop about how to get to heaven.
Not all cultures are like ours, unfortunately. (Or maybe fortunately?)
Many churches around America financially support missionaries in hostile cultures where we cannot publicly advertise their names or the countries they minister in for fear of their exile and/or bodily injury. Yet with the many possible outcomes of sharing our most precious faith, Jesus offered words of immense encouragement when He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Despite the seemingly negative results to sharing the gospel, however, the contemporary church must be about its core business and “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Ultimately, we need to be more concerned about other people’s souls than we are about protecting our own necks.
It is quite challenging to do, I know. Jesus never said it would be easy. But it is what’s most important, right?
When Jesus issued the Great Commission to go out into all the nations and preach the gospel, He was not offering a sanctified suggestion or even a take-it-or-leave-it recommendation to the church at large. It was not a parable with a hidden meaning and it certainly wasn’t meant to be an obscure speech set-aside for the super-saints who sell everything they have and move to the jungles ofAfrica, either.
The mandate of Great Commission Discipleship is as valid for each of us today as it was for the early disciples who fixed their gaze on the clouds as Jesus ascended into glory.