How great is the Great Commission . . . really?
April 15, 2007, 7:37 pm
Filed under: books, evangelism, missiology

Earlier this year, I read David Bosch’s game changing misiology book, Transforming Mission. It’s long, thorough, and so good in so many ways. It’s truly a remarkable work. Not an easy read, mind you, but well worth the work I put into it. I will re-visit that book many times in the years ahead.

As I was reviewing some of the notes I made on it this weekend, I came across something that was very curious to me. It goes a little something like this. If you were to take a poll of evangelical pastors in North America, and asked them what the three most important verses/short passages in the Bible are, what do you think they’d say? John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 11:6 . . . what else? I gotta think that Matthew 28:18-20 would be included in the list that many many pastors would give. I don’t remember how old I was when that was one of my memory verses, but it had to be pretty early – I mean, it’s the Great Commission, right?

So imagine my surprise when I read Bosch write that this short passage of the New Testament that I and countless others have come to think of as central was basically not elevated to any special status as Bible verses go until about 60 years ago. Are you kidding? The way we talk, and preach, and organize our church activities, you’d think that this would definitely have been a biblical staple throughout the entirety of church history. Alas, it seems that it wasn’t.

So my question is, “What does this mean?” Why is it that something the church has so organized itself around wasn’t always given such importance? Not that it was dismissed or marginalized. I’m just curious about this. Perhaps that’s not very interesting to you. It caught my attention, though, so I figured I’d share.

Using the Great Commission has certainly led to the expansion of the Church, it’s fueled a lot of efforts at serious discipleship, and motivated many to take sharing their faith in Jesus seriously. Cool enough. But that stuff also happened prior to 1940 . . . what motivated folks then?


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I don’t think people needed a single verse to motivate them to do anything. A single verse can perhaps sum things up, but it is all the things that it sums up that count.

Comment by Steve Hayes

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