If you’re not deeply entrenched in Christianity, you might not have heard the phrase “The Great Commission.” You’ve probably heard about it anyway, though. The term refers to the message of Matthew 28:16-20, where Jesus tells his disciples to “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.” There are a few other places in the New Testament where Jesus says something similar, and it’s basically the scriptural basis for evangelism.
At the same time, there’s “The Great Commandment,” which is essentially the Golden Rule. Both God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament remind people to “love your neighbor as yourself” or some variant thereof. Now, if you’ve ever been the victim the target on the receiving end of evangelism, you might be wondering what happens when the Great Commandment and the Great Commission inevitably come into conflict.
Having had such thoughts before, I was really happy to read this post over at John Shore’s blog, called How Is “Convert, You!” Loving Others? In it, he explains what he’s heard from non-Christians — that Christians’ attempts to convert them are actually offensive and push them away from the faith. He encourages Christians to knock it off!
For Christians to solve their “I love you” / “It’s a shame you’re you” conundrum, all they have to do is realize that what Jesus tells his disciples at the end of Matthew was critical at that time. When he said those words, almost no one but his audience had heard of Christ or his message; then his disciples needed to get out there and spread the word, in order to ensure it survived at all.
But today? Not so much with the urgency. Today, Christians can rejoice in the fact that the Great Commission has been fulfilled. It’s done! It’s over! Yayeth! Christianity is, and has long been, firmly entrenched virtually everywhere in America. Television, radio, video, the Internet, almost as many churches as there are Starbucks: there are infinite information streams about Christianity available 24/7 to any and all. No Christian has to worry about anyone out there being ignorant of Christianity. Everybody knows about Christianity. Which means that in America today, it’s very safe to trust that the reason for which any given person is not a Christian is because they have weighed the evidence and chosen not to be a Christian. (And it’s likely that one of the reasons they so decided is all the Christians forever running around telling everyone else what they should and shouldn’t believe. Most people aren’t keen on joining a club of apparent crazies.)
I was so relieved. A Christian who gets it! And not just a random dude, a dude who’s written several books about Christianity, and who makes his living doing so. People read what he writes. People write about what he writes, and people read that. And this guy understands that (many of the) people who aren’t Christian have thought about it but just don’t think there’s evidence for Christianity. Going around and shouting about hell isn’t going to provide us the evidence we require.
So, hooray. The Great Commission is fulfilled. Maybe Christians will stop putting so much emphasis on evangelism now…?
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–By an estimated 3-to-1 margin, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report was adopted June 15 by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. …
“We are still brothers and sisters in Christ. We differ on no article of faith. We are guided by our shared commitment to the Gospel itself and to the articles of faith identified in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The Southern Baptist Convention is a convention of churches that is committed to a missional vision of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. We are a Great Commission people.”
(Source.) So … the Great Commission has not been fulfilled. Still really important if you’re a good Christian. Get all up in everybody’s faces about Jesus, pronto!
This seems like a really fundamental disagreement on what being a Christian means. Interestingly, I found out about John Shore’s writing and about the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force from the same website. Their about page says that they “want to be robustly biblical, richly theological, constantly elevating what God himself in his own Word makes central.” What has God made central in his own Word, then?
How can we tell what real Christians really believe?