FIRST PERSON: What makes the Great Commission great?

Ernest EasleyWe call these words of Jesus the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

But what makes the Great Commission so great?

It's great in its responsibility

Every follower of Jesus has the responsibility to share Jesus everywhere he or she goes. Jesus tells us in Luke 14:23 that we are to "compel them to come in...." This word translated "compel" means to urge upon, to press.

In Acts 18:4, the apostle Paul "persuaded both Jews and Greeks." The eternal destiny of souls is at stake and God has given His followers the responsibility go and tell.

It's great in its reach

We will never meet a person whom God doesn't love nor wants to save. Red, yellow, black, brown and white, they are all precious in His sight. The apostle Peter said it this way in 2 Peter 3.9: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance."

As pastors and churches make plans for the summer, for instance, don't forget to include opportunities for sharing Jesus. In their book "Why They Stray," Steve Parr and Tom Crites report that 75 percent of adult Christians say they accepted Christ before age 16, according to a national survey they conducted. "Research has shown that people are more likely to accept Christ as a child than they are as an adult," Parr and Crites write. "Some have reported that the probability of a person experiencing salvation in adulthood is only 6%."(1)

They go on to urge, "[G]et strategic about sharing the gospel with children in your mission field." In other words: Go after the souls of boys and girls while their hearts are still tender toward the things of God.

What is on your church calendar this summer for reaching children for Jesus? How about Vacation Bible School? What about children's camp? Is a children's summer sports camp a possibility? What about a children's fun day? Every church can provide something, regardless of size, to help introduce children to Jesus. God forbid the children in your community echo the words found in Jeremiah 8:20, "Harvest has passed, summer has ended, but we have not been saved."

It's great in its results

The results are making disciples and equipping them to live godly in Christ Jesus, which includes sharing Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 4:19: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Here He gives us a command and a promise. The late evangelist Vance Havner said, "Jesus takes the disciple and makes not a depository but a dispenser out of him, and through him reaches others." He goes on to say that "fishing for souls proceeds following the Savior."

We can fish without following Jesus but we cannot follow Jesus without fishing. We fish to the degree we follow Jesus. Or as Havner said, "Soul-winning is a product of discipleship."

Responsibility, reach, results -- keep in mind these simple yet profound words that remind us of the Great Commission and, indeed, its true greatness.

Ernest L. Easley is professor of evangelism at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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