My Understanding of Matthew 28:16-20
The Great Commission has very little to do with mission trips. I just thought I would get that out of the way in the beginning so it is not hanging over these words and thoughts, but I really do believe that statement. Our American, colonial nature of missions has badly missed the mark of the original goal of being “sent out”, and I pray that this generation would begin to redeem God’s high calling of missional living.
Churches in America have transitioned to being programmed, activity-driven institutions and have even turned the foundational challenge of Jesus into a series of activities we perform once a year in the inner city or the Native American reservation. We have become people who distance ourselves from real need through the expenditure of our money. We have become people who do not even know the very people Jesus spent time with and came to save.
The challenge of the church must be one of movement from charity to compassion, from service to servanthood. God is not calling God’s people to a life of writing checks to worthy organizations, but rather to a life of ‘suffering with’ the outcast and marginalized of this world. The greatest tragedy in the church is not that people do not care for the poor, but that they do not know the poor. The church must transition from its way of mission-based activities to lives of ultimate service and sacrifice on behalf of the world, a daily dying to oneself and taking up the cross of Christ.
I would suspect that this new way of being missional probably will not look like “going on mission trips”. While mission trips do often expose the attendee to new cultures and introduce justice issues to their consciousness, they have many drawbacks as well. These short-term experiences lull us into thinking that ‘mission’ happens 10 days a year and the other 355 are all simply building toward this grand endeavor. This pattern of living seems to be far different than the way of life spoken of by the early disciples, a daily denial of self and care for the other. With this in mind, it would seem that the way of Christ might look more like adopting an African child whose family has been ravaged by AIDS, than serving at the local soup kitchen once a year. Perhaps the way of Christ looks more like selling your possessions to unite your heart with the poor, than ringing a Salvation Army bell for an afternoon during the holiday season.
The way of Christ has come to be seen as an easy road that, at most, will cost you 10% of your paycheck, when following Christ is meant to cost us everything. I pray that God’s people will rise up and take hold of the full life that only comes through the giving up of life for others.