Hope Springs International

Lasting Change One Village at a Time

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Great Commission…What’s that?

Would it surprise you to know that only half of U.S. churchgoers recognize the term “Great Commission”?

When asked if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission,” 51% of U.S. churchgoers said they do not know this term. This question was posed in a recent survey by Barna in partnership with Seed Company. The report continued by saying, “It would be reassuring to assume the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%).

Meanwhile, “the Great Commission” does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term “the Great Commission” before.” Translating the Great Commission

Go with me for a moment to that mountain outside of Galilee. Some believe it may have been the same mountain where Jesus first selected the disciples. The scripture says, “when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). The disciples met Jesus there at His request, but they are still confused about the true nature of the Kingdom Jesus had come to establish (Acts 1:1ff). So much happened over the last few weeks that it is hard for them to take it all in. They are still filled with so many questions.

Jesus is standing before the disciples in His resurrected body. In plain sight are the nail-scarred hands that held Him to the cross. Those hands had become a familiar sight over the last 40 days as he appeared to them from time to time. But now, with His mission completed He is ready to depart and return to the Father. Last words are immortalized often when people die, but these last words are from the resurrected Son of God who has defeated death and overcome the grave.

He begins by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (verse 18). You don’t question the authority of One who can come back from the dead and walk through walls. So, what He says next has all the power of heaven behind it.

“Go therefore.” The “Go” literally means “as you go”; “therefore” because of the authority He has. The command to go is powered by all the authority of heaven and earth. The participle conveys a continuous action that is already happening right now, but that also continues to happen into the future. So, the idea is more like… “As you’re going along in your life.” Wherever you go, discipleship is a part of your life here or wherever the commission of God may send you.

“Make disciples.” As His disciples He was their Rabbi and their very aim in life as a disciple was to be just like their Rabbi, even to the point of saying things like He would say them. They were to embody the teaching of their Master, not just have knowledge of it. Jesus told the disciples that people would know they were His disciples by how they loved each other (John 13:35). Now Jesus is commissioning them as they go throughout the world to disciple others as they had been discipled. It is a process of multiplication. Disciples make disciples who make disciples.

“Of all nations.” Literally ethnic-specific units (ethne= nations). We are talking about every tribe and language on the face of the earth. Without Jesus, they are lost. The message is to not leave anyone out. Jesus was not trying to establish a new Jewish sect. His message was for all people everywhere.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism was to picture a transformed life of one who had died to self, was buried in water symbolizing physical burial and then resurrected to walk a new life of service to Jesus. Disciples were to no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them. Their life from this point forward was to glorify Christ.

“Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. This is not a trivia contest to see who can answer all the questions correctly. The end goal is obedience. Our faith in Christ is not just fire insurance, but a walk with Christ and a process of being transformed into His likeness in all that we do (Colossians 3:17).

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The One who gave the commission is also going with us. Not in the flesh as with the original disciples, but His presence is “IN” us through the Holy Spirit that he gave us (John 14:17).

So today we can go forth with the same authority as we share the most important message of all time. There are no boundaries, for everyone in the world needs this message desperately. This is what makes it “The Great Commission.”

These comments will seem familiar to some who read this, but if you are a part of the 51%, maybe, just maybe, this will become your personal great commission to take this message to your world, your ethnic group, tribe or tongue. But it is also a commission to take this message to those who are not like your group, tribe, or tongue. Disciples make disciples wherever they go.

“We have an incomprehensibly great God who has looked upon a sinfully depraved people and sent a scandalously merciful Savior, and as a result, we have an indescribably urgent mission” (Radical, by David Platt).

Each of the Gospel writers states the commission in his own words and understanding.

The Commission Modeled: “As the Father has sent me…” John 20:21

The Commission’s Magnitude: “go into all the world… to the whole creation” Mark 16:15

The Commission’s Methodology: “…make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:18-20

The Commission’s Message: “…repentance and forgiveness of sins…” Luke 24:44-49

The Commission’s Means: “you will receive power…” Acts 1:8

Maybe one of the reasons the “Great Commission” is not better known and understood is that we seldom see people live out God’s heart for the nations. So before moving on I want to go back to the beginning and see that God’s eternal intention has always been to reach all the world. We will do that next time.

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How Does the Church Change the World?

I am old and so are some of my memories. Back in the ‘70s when I first began going on campaigns to Ghana, West Africa, there were reports of a lot of baptisms. While the numbers made for successful reports to churches back home, most of those so-called converts were sadly never seen again. There is also the possibility they were given a false feeling of security from saying yes to something they did not understand.

A similar thing happens even today when we focus on making “converts” and not making disciples. Jesus never sent us to make converts, but disciples, and there is a big difference. Here is a quote that sums up the problem very well:

“In the United States and around the world, leaders sometimes say, ‘Our greatest problem here [in this country] is that the church is miles wide and inches deep.’ Obedience to the Great Commission suffers because nominal Christians, who have been momentarily ‘converted,’ do not grow in integrity or character or biblical knowledge or Christian living. These superficial decisions are not necessarily integrated into the way they live, treat their spouses, operate in their community or participate in business and politics” (from the book Western Christians in Global Missions by Paul Borthwick).

In an article entitled “No One Likes the Product,” Mike Glenn explains why today’s generation, and past and future generations for that matter, are not buying into the Christianity they see. “Because of what they see every day in the lives of those who proclaim to be Christian. Rarely can people remember an encounter with a Christian who was kind and loving. Everyone, on the other hand, has a story about a Christian who was rude and condescending. Many of us who are Christians won’t use the word anymore because it has become associated with attitudes of bigotry, hatefulness and judgment. We introduce ourselves now as ‘Christ-followers.’

“No one wants to be a Christian these days. The word is almost an insult in polite conversation.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2021/september/no-one-likes-product.html

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He was starting a movement. When people came to Jesus, He minced no words when it came to His expectations of His followers. “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ ” Luke 9:23. Crosses today are worn as jewelry and placed on the walls in our homes, but you would never have done this in the first century. Crosses were a symbol of the most heinous form of torture and death known at that time. It would be like wearing a miniature electric chair around your neck. Or hanging an electric chair on your wall. When I “take up my cross” it is a picture of my death to self that Christ might live through me.

Jesus was calling people to love Him with a love that surpasses all other loves. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, 27 (emphasis mine). Jesus says our love for Him must surpass love for the closest people to us on earth; in fact your love for Him makes your love for those relationships look like hate in comparison. Stop for a moment, read that again and reflect on what Jesus said.

You and I don’t determine if we can be His disciple; Jesus does that. Remember we are part of a movement that He started. It won’t be easy, and He makes that abundantly clear in many places with many illustrations.

I have been reading recently about the lives of early 18th and 19th century missionaries. One common thread running through all their stories is their commitment unto death, to take the Gospel to areas of our world that had not heard of Christ regardless of the consequence to their own lives. One of those stories was about Adoniram Judson. His commitment to Christ is humbling and inspiring.

Adoniram lived from 1788-1850 and was a missionary to Burma for almost 40 years. Before he left for the mission field, he fell in love with a lady named Ann Hasseltine. Knowing the hardships that were ahead of them, Adoniram wrote a letter to Ann’s father asking for her hand in marriage. Take just a moment and slowly read this letter.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?” Wow, can you imagine getting that letter asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage?

Ann’s father did give his consent, and many of the things mentioned in his letter were fulfilled in the lives of this couple. Ann had three pregnancies. The first ended in a miscarriage while moving from India to Burma; her second child, Roger, was born in 1815 and died at 8 months of age; her third child, Maria, lived only 6 months after Ann herself died in 1826 of smallpox. Adoniram Judson lost two wives and six of his 13 children on the mission field. Ann and Adoniram suffered through many other trials while serving as missionaries. They left their homes and their family to spread the glory of God to an unreached people.

Ultimately, their sacrifice yielded much fruit. While Judson only had 18 converts after 12 years of work, when he died he left 100 churches and more than 8,000 believers. He was making disciples, who made disciples. Today we can see the results of his work since there are 2.5 million evangelical Christians in Burma (modern day Myanmar).

Judson also wrote a grammar of the language that is still used today, and he translated the entire Bible into Burmese, which took him 24 years to complete.

It is amazing what can transpire in our lives when we realize the seriousness of the commission that Jesus gave. We call it a “Great Commission” for several reasons. The one who gave it. The importance of the mission, salvation of souls. And the urgency of it, because so many people who face a Christless grave have yet to hear. Maybe it is time we took another look at “The Great Commission.” We will do that next time.

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Global Missions…How Things Have Changed!

By Lee Hodges

Global missions have been in my heart and mind since I was a teenager. I remember being moved with a passion and concern for the lost when missionaries visited my home church and told how God was using them to bring people to Christ. Missionaries became my heroes. They were my early motivation for becoming a minister.

A major turning point in my life came from reading the books written by Elizabeth Elliott about the work of her husband and four other young missionaries. These brave souls were determined to bring Christ to the jungles of South America only to be killed by those they came to reach. “The rest of the story” reveals some of the very men who killed these missionaries were eventually brought to faith in Christ.

I was also encouraged and motivated reading about the lives of missionary pioneers from Europe in the 19th century. Many of them packed and shipped their belonging in coffins because they knew they would die where they were going.

“Some estimate that 70% of the world’s Bible-believing Christians (as opposed to nominal or cultural Christians) now live in the Majority World (those outside of North America).”

Paul Borthwick

This kind of story and testimony is rarely heard today, but the work of missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries was so critically important. Paul Borthwick in his new book “Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?” says “Some estimate that 70% of the world’s Bible-believing Christians (as opposed to nominal or cultural Christians) now live in the Majority World (those outside of North America).” Those early missionaries who put their lives on the line for the Gospel of Christ planted the seeds for the harvest going on in the Majority World today.

While this is exciting, it is not a complete picture as there is still so much to be done. Almost 3 billion people made in the image of God are destined for a Christless grave having never heard about Him or His death on a cross for them. What makes this picture even more sad is the USA, which followed those 19th century missionaries with a strong missions emphasis after World War II, has significantly decreased in sending missionaries within the last 20+ years. We have seen an inward trend of “Let’s fix America first.” While no one today would question the validity of reaching people in America, we still must never lose sight of the vision God has for the entire world to hear the Good News.

The church’s mission should never become a choice of us OR them, but should always be us AND them. The first Christians made a similar mistake. Even though Jesus’ words were intended to send them into all the world, the early disciples didn’t want to leave Jerusalem. It took a period of persecution to move them out of their reluctance to leave the familiar and comfortable.

Today the USA is presented with wonderful opportunities at home and abroad. We may not have gone to all the world, so God is sending the world to us. Now the mission field is in our back yard, as new immigrants are our neighbors who have connections around the world.

It is also interesting that the countries where early seeds were planted by mission efforts in the past are now sending missionaries to the USA because they are concerned that we have lost sight of the mission we first shared with them. A book titled “Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City” features a specific case study of African church plants based in New York City from churches out of Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria has already planted 500 churches across North America.

“The Redeemer Christian Church of God in Nigeria has already planted 500 churches across North America.”

“Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City”

While some might think “we can’t do both local and foreign,” let me share another quote from Paul Borthwick’s book mentioned above: “Most of us are living on an island of affluence in the sea of poverty. We fail to realize this because we think that everyone else around us is more affluent. So we often think of ourselves as ‘poor,’ failing to remember our relative position in this globalized world” (page 26).

Our challenges in following the commission of Jesus to carry the Good News to all the world are not financial. God has provided us with everything we need to do what He has commissioned us to do. Ours is a faith and trust issue. When we deal with those issues, then we will join Christians in the rest of the world to accomplish the vision of God.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9, 10). God’s vision fulfilled is that all people hear the Good News! We may pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus,” but not until all hear! There is work to be done, souls to be saved, that God might receive glory for the gift of His Son. How could we hold such a priceless gift and not share it with those who have never heard?