Why We Have Not Accomplished the Great Commission
The Great Commission mandates that we tell everyone in the world about Jesus and make disciples of all nations. Acts 1:8 provides the strategy for the local church to accomplish the Great Commission. The Church must be focused on making disciples on the local, national, and global level.
I began a preaching series on the book of Acts on Sunday and my study of this book has amazed me. In just one generation the church goes from a group of 120 to thousands upon thousands strong. It grows from just one church group meeting in one upper room in one city to dozens and dozens of churches spread over two continents with Christians within the upper levels of Caesar’s own household. The early church obviously took the Great Commission seriously. Based on the rocket start of the church it would be easy to think that the Great Commission would have been accomplished in just a few more generations. But that did not happen. In fact, after 20 centuries the Great Commission is still unfulfilled. A question I ask is: Why?
We have far more Christians and churches today than there were in the first century, but our penetration of the Gospel into the last reaches of the earth has slowed to a crawl. There are now seven billion people that live on planet earth. Only 11% of them are true followers of Jesus. The number most widely used for those claiming Christianity is 33% but that number is a farce. We know that 38% of the world’s population have heard the Gospel but have rejected it. And we know that a full 50% currently have no one engaging them with the Gospel. There are 6,734 unreached people groups left on planet earth and 3,800 of them are completely unengaged with the Gospel.
Those numbers sound daunting but I believe that we CAN accomplish the Great Commission in one generation IF WE REALLY WANT TO. My own denomination by itself boasts 44,000+ churches. What could 44,000 churches do for the Great Commission IF THEY REALLY WANTED TO?
So why has the Great Commission gone unfulfilled? Here are some reasons that come to my mind:
- People in church do not tithe. The average church-goer in America gives less than 2.5% of their income to their church. Our people are hoarding billions of dollars that could and should be spent on the Great Commission and are instead spending it on themselves.
- Churches get distracted by ministry. There are all kinds of things churches should do. But nothing should trump the Great Commission. The vast majority of the churches in America give little to no attention to accomplishing the Great Commission. Most programs are internal and those programs that are external tend to be related to benevolence with little to no Gospel impact. I am not saying that a church should ignore internal ministries or benevolence, I am just saying these things should not trump the primacy of the Great Commission.
- Christians think that the Great Commission was given to the disciples and does not apply to us today. Yes, it is true, some people actually think this way. This is how some explain not focusing on the Great Commission.
- Christians are waiting on a specific “call to go” ignoring that God has already given the call to go: The Great Commission. These people believe that God only calls a select few to go on mission. They believe that the “norm” is for us to stay. The Bible, in fact, says the opposite. The norm is that we ALL go, and ONLY those who get a specific call to stay should stay. We have turned it all around today and have it backwards.
- God calls and people ignore. I do believe that God does, in fact, call on the individual level just as he does on the corporate level with the Great Commission. It’s just that people ignore the call. I cannot tell you how many people I have met in my years of ministry who told me that God called them when they were younger but they did not go. Maybe their parents discouraged them (yes, this is more common than you would think), maybe they decided the American Dream was more attractive than going, or maybe they were just scared. But they just did not go.
I believe that in any generation, that God calls more than enough people to fulfill the Great Commission. But because people say “no” and churches say “no”, the Great Commission goes unfulfilled.
May it not be so in this current generation!
Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.