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Posts Tagged ‘The Great Commission’

“We’re on a mission from God.”

Those immortal words from the film The Blues Brothers – a movie I’ve only seen in edited form on TV – perfectly describe in succinct form what the church of Jesus Christ is all about.

God has given His people an assignment: to “make disciples of all nations.”

The assignment is not to hold worship services … or to preach sermons … or to construct buildings … or to fashion a church budget … or to create a shelter from the world for our kids … or to have a small group ministry.

Those are all means to one end: to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.

Jesus’ final words to His disciples are found in various forms in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; and Acts 1:8.

We worship God … listen to sermons … construct buildings … have youth groups and small groups and men’s groups and women’s groups … so we can make disciples of all nations.

And we do that by going … baptizing … and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20).

Most pastors know that carrying out the Great Commission is their divine assignment.

But from what I see and hear, most churches have flunked their assignment.  They aren’t making disciples … they aren’t baptizing new converts … and if they are teaching them Jesus’ words, their efforts have little to do with Christ’s divine mission.

In some cases, the pastor is the problem.  During my first few years as a pastor, I focused on helping believers grow spiritually – expecting they would share their faith with their network and eventually bring them to church.

But it never happened.

One year, I baptized one convert.

I asked myself, “What’s wrong with us?”  But in reality, I needed to ask “What’s wrong with me?”

Because in many ways, I was the problem.  I didn’t preach or prioritize the Great Commission at all … and our church was slowly dying.

Like many pastors, I was blocking the Great Commission in our church.

But once I realized my omission on the Commission, I changed my ways.  We built our church around Christ’s assignment and things changed dramatically.

But in talking to many pastors over the years, I realize that most know their God-given assignment, and want their church to go in that direction.

But when they try, they meet resistance.  In fact, this is the point at which many pastors are terminated.

Why?  Because the governing leaders and key opinion makers have another agenda for their church … and it’s not the Great Commission.

They want more and deeper Bible study.

They want to be doctrinally pure.

They want all of their family members … as well as their friends … to be happy.

They want to meet the budget.

They want to have a clean building.

While these are all worthwhile goals, they are not the Commission … they are possible means to the Commission.

But for some reason, most churches are willing to stop far short of actually winning people to Christ.

In fact, far too many of them are willing to make sure that the Commission is never fully implemented in their assembly.

Like one woman told a pastor friend: “I’d rather go to hell than to follow your leadership.”

Let me just say it: there are people in our churches who put their own personal agenda … and often the agenda of their friends … ahead of Christ’s agenda for their church.

When I attended the Catalyst seminar for Christian leaders several years ago, either Andy Stanley or Craig Groschel – I don’t remember which – told pastors:

“You cannot let anybody block the Great Commission in your church.”

I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

In fact, they suggested that pastors remove anybody who is blocking the Great Commission in their church.

Recently I spent some time with a group of pastors who shared the same story over and over.  They said:

“We wanted to reach our community for Christ, but one longtime member … one bully … one board member … one faction … stood in our way.  As long as they were successful, the church didn’t go anywhere.

But when we wouldn’t meet their demands … when we confronted their misbehavior … when we removed them from office … when they left the church … that’s when the church took off.”

As I read Paul’s letters, I get the impression there were many professing believers who were blocking the Great Commission in their churches … like Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-2) … and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18) … and Alexander the metalworker (2 Tim. 4:14) … and the feuding women Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3).

When Paul wrote about these Commission blockers, he expressed a sense of urgency, as if he were saying, “Resolve these issues as soon as possible so you can resume your evangelistic efforts.”

I recently met with a longtime pastor friend for a meal.  As we discussed these kinds of people, he said, “Jim, I just don’t put up with it anymore.”

As the late Howard Hendricks used to say, may his tribe increase.

23 years ago, I came to a board meeting at the church I was pastoring with a radical proposal:

I suggested that we sell our church property and start over again in a different location.

As I described what we could become and the people we could reach, the two oldest board members caught the vision … for which I will always be grateful.

They said to me:

“Jim, we failed to reach our generation for Christ … but we want to do everything we can to help you reach your generation for Christ.”

And they did … sacrificing time and energy and money for the Great Commission.

Rather than block my proposal, they embraced it and led interference for me every step of the way.

And I will never, ever forget them for it.

We eventually did sell our property and start a new church, and in five years, we baptized 100 people … a far cry from one per year!

I don’t like saying it this way, but I’m going to say it anyway:

The pastor is the professional.  He’s been called by God … trained and certified and examined in countless ways … and he’s specially gifted to lead a church.

The governing board members are at best amateurs who lack God’s call … who lack special training …who haven’t been certified … and lack their pastor’s giftedness.

The factions inside the church may be vocal … and they may be loud … and they may claim, “The pastor hurt my feelings” … but they have no idea how to lead a church.

So I’m going to follow my pastor’s leadership … not that of the board or any faction – even if they are my friends.

This is the choice we all have.  In football parlance:

Am I going to block the plays my pastor calls, or am I going to block for the plays my pastor calls?

And if I can’t block for him, I’ll find another team where I can block for that pastor.

But one thing’s for sure: I never want to block the Great Commission from happening in my church.

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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