What is the Great Commission?

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 19-20, Jesus gives a final command to his followers:

Therefore 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Last night the Falkirk Center at Liberty University called Christians to take up the call of the Great Commission:

We were talking about the Great Commission this past week in my Created and Called for Community class at Messiah University. The context was a conversation about the relationship between the “gospel” and social concern. Traditionally, evangelicals have thought about the Great Commission in terms of evangelism. The goal is to get people “saved” or “born-again” so they can have assurance of eternal life. (Think Billy Graham).

The Great Commission calls Christians to baptize people in the name of the “Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptist evangelicals argue that the born-again experience should be immediately followed by baptism. (I am not sure how non-Baptists evangelicals, such as Presbyterians or Methodists who baptize infants, understand these verses). In other words, the call to “baptize” people is closely connected to evangelism. Get them saved and then get them in the river.

But as one of my students pointed out, the Great Commission also says to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In other words, the Great Commission requires Christians to live-out the teachings of Jesus. So what are some of the things Jesus “commanded” his disciples during his earthly ministry? Let’s take one example: the so-called “beatitudes” of Matthew 5. In this passage Jesus calls Christians to be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers.

Back to the Falkirk Center.

Take a look at its Twitter feed. Take a look at the Twitter feeds of co-founder Charlie Kirk and “fellow” Jenna Ellis. Do you see humility (“poor in spirit”), mournfulness, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity in heart, and peace? I see an institution that seems to make no distinction between the Great Commission and the culture wars. Notice how director Ryan Helfenbein’s tweet about the Great Commission is framed in combative way.