I‘m currently reading Kevin DeYoung’s book A Hole in our Holiness with a group of men. We meet every other week to discuss the chapters over coffee. In the first chapter, Kevin DeYoung (besides showing his disapproval for camping) points to an often overlooked relationship between our pursuit of holiness and the Great Commission. If we are majoring on making disciples within our church without a goal of holiness, it’s not really the Great Commission – right?
The Commission of Jesus
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). What a vast charge to God’s people. We are to go and reach the world with the gospel.
While we live in a sophisticated culture in 2016, we must not overlook that a great number of people on planet Earth still live in extremely poor conditions without running water, without Internet, without smart phones, without many of the luxuries that we enjoy. One critical thing that a vast number of the world’s population lives without is the good news of Jesus Christ. We are commanded to go and tell and disciple these people in the gospel. That is the heartbeat of the church and it should be the heartbeat of God’s people. But, as we consider what it means to be a Great Commission church or a Great Commission Christian, we should look well beyond the waters of the baptistry and see the whole picture of a redeemed sinners serving, worshipping, and living for Christ.
The Goal of Holiness
The ultimate goal of Jesus’ command to His disciples was far more than just sparing His elect from the eternal flames of hell. It had a purpose and that purpose is centered in holiness. Far from baptism statistics, Jesus was focused on His people and how they reflect the glory of God to all peoples across the world. When we as believers become competitive and focused on getting high baptism statistics, we miss the point of the Great Commission.
From the very beginning, God has purposed to select His people from the population of humanity and His desire has been for them to be a set apart people – distinct – and holy unto Him. That doesn’t mean that God expects His people to be peculiar in the sense of odd or strange. God expects His people to be sanctified. What does this sanctified life look like? The entire book of 1 John explains that God’s people love God rather than the world. Great Commission Christians go and reach people with a goal that extends far beyond the baptistry. It has a goal of holiness. J. C. Ryle provides a helpful reminder:
We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. . . . Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, he does more—he breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10). 
- J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan, 2011), 49.
Why should we plant churches in other nations? In a few hours I will be on a plane headed south to work with our mission team from Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in order to plant a church in the mountain regions of central Ecuador. The purpose of the trip is exploration, networking, relationship building, evangelism, and preparation work for the church plant that we will establish by God’s grace in the mountains of Ecuador among the Quichua Indians. We have been praying and preparing for this project for months now, and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost here. I looked at my family as I left this morning with a real sense that I will be leaving in a few hours – and I will sure miss them.Why are we going to the expense of planting a church in the mountains of Ecuador? The time and financial investment seems rather high – so why should we go to Ecuador to plant a church? As we look at Scripture, we see that God is a missionary God. David Livingston once said, “God had only one Son, and He was a missionary.” He has a love for people and a mission to accomplish among the nations of earth. He chose one nation, Israel, out of all the nations in order to make His name known among the other peoples on planet earth. It has always been God’s plan to save His people from their sins – and He accomplishes that task through His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit who draws people to God through the preaching of the gospel. He has sent us out to preach that message of Christ among the nations in order that they will be saved by His sovereign grace and for His eternal glory.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,nor are there any works like yours.All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord,and shall glorify your name.
As we look at these words from the Psalmist – the plan of God is apparent. He is going to bring the nations to His feet to worship Him forever. God’s plan of salvation is achieved through His Son Jesus Christ. Later in the New Testament, we see Jesus making strong statements regarding missions.
Matthew 10:16 – Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus said some very difficult things to His disciples. However, the repetitive theme of Jesus’ mission is centered upon the sending out of His disciples into the world. Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s will and to save His people from their sins. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). However, the Great Commission text at the end of Matthew’s gospel looks far beyond the borders of Israel. God is not interested in one country alone – He is interested in the nations of the world. That’s why Jonah, a disobedient prophet, was sent to Nineveh. That’s why Paul, a Jewish man, was sent out to reach the Gentiles. God sends out His people to preach the gospel, the Spirit convicts hearts and draws them, they respond in obedience and faith, and God saves them on the basis of Jesus’ blood (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 10:17; John 6:44, 65; John 3:16).
Charles Spurgeon once said, “If there be any one point in which the Christian church ought to keep its fervor at a white heat, it is concerning missions. If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is in the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world.“
Statistics tell us that approximately 41% of planet earth is unreached with the gospel. As Islam rises and America gives way to false religions – the number of unreached people will rise. The people at The Joshua Project (http://joshuaproject.net/great-commission-statistics.php) are reporting the number of unreached people on planet earth to be 2.8 billion. These numbers demonstrate the enormity of our task. It should create a flood of urgency in our soul to reach out to the billions of people who are going to a hell all around the world! There is no time to waste! We must go and tell the good news of Christ!
Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “The great question is not, ‘Will not the heathen be saved if we do not send them the gospel?’ but are we saved ourselves if we do not send them the gospel?“
We are not going to Ecuador to glorify our name. We are not going to Ecuador in order to be trendy in our missions ministry. We are not going to Ecuador in order to elevate our leadership in the eyes of other church leaders. We are going to Ecuador because God has sent us out to reach the nations with the gospel. It is our desire for this new church plant in Ecuador to become a strong and vibrant church in the years to come. It’s also our desire that it too will be a reproducing church that reaches out to the nations for the glory of God! John Piper said, “There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient.”
Revelation 5:8-14 -And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
For the praise of His worthy name!
Pastor Josh Buice
If you are interested in providing information to your church about the unreached people groups on planet earth – you need to check out the Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net). Today they are reporting that there are 6,872 unreached people groups. That is approximately 1.6 billion people who have never heard the gospel.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38 – ESV).
According to the 2010 US Census Bureau, over 150,000 people will die today around the world. To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent of 50 September 11th, 2001 attacks each day. Some people die in automobile accidents while others succumb to cancer. However, from the rising of the sun this morning until the rising of the sun tomorrow, over 150,000 people will die. The sad reality of that enormous number is not centered on the children who will never see their daddy return home from work this afternoon. The most troubling reality surrounding that number is centered on the fact that most of those people will go to Hell (Matthew 7:13-14). While anyone going to Hell is a horrible thought, what intensifies that even further is the reality that many people who make up that 150,000 live in remote corners of the earth where they have never heard the gospel. This sobering fact should compel us to have an urgent mission heart for the nations!Even with the sophisticated technology we enjoy in our present day, it still takes months and even years to translate the Scriptures into the languages of the many different unreached people groups. Many unreached people groups in remote places in the world are verbal languages without a written system for their language. It takes many thousands of dollars to get the Word of God to these people. It takes many months to train missionaries in the different cultures prior to sending them off to the field. The entire process is complicated and lengthy from start to finish. Therefore, if we are serious about reaching the nations, we should get busy praying, training, translating, printing, and distributing. If we continue to wait – people will continue to perish! Consider getting involved with the following efforts:
May God send us out on mission for His glory! Follow Christ intensely and have an urgent heart for lost people around the world. Pray, give, and go – for God’s glory.It was Nate Saint (fellow missionary of Jim Elliot) who once said, “And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”Pastor Josh Buice
What type of church do you attend? That question alone could require further clarification, or you may have a quick answer prepared. Some my classify their church as old fashioned. Others may consider their church to be modern. Another group may consider their church to be trendy and hip. While many different definitions and descriptions float around regarding the types of churches that are presently visible in our culture, the question remains to be answered – should we seek a church full of people just like ourselves or should we seek a church that is racially, age related and culturally diverse? If we attend a church that is focused on one type and one age range of people, is that church really focused on fulfilling the Great Commission? If we train our people to seek people that look a certain way, walk a certain way, dress a certain way, and talk a certain way – does that teach people to fulfill the Great Commission or deny people attention based on the fact that they do not fit a specific standard? What is the standard? Does God have a place for people of different skin colors, dress styles, speech patterns and ages? Does the “faddish” church movement enhance or subdue our evangelistic efforts in our culture?
Revelation 5:9 – And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
A few months ago, I was speaking with a friend who informed me of a situation that has recently occurred in his church. He told of how several families in his church left in order to start a “Cowboy Church” in their town. He said, “The new congregation of cowboy types is attracting many visitors and the church seems to be growing quickly.” After thinking about that situation along with other similar situations within the Southern Baptist Convention at this present moment (on the other end of the spectrum) it has caused me to think about the Great Commission in a way that shines light on the types of churches we attend and plant in our culture.
The Great Commission is really simple. It is a command by Christ to His followers to go out and reach the world with the Gospel. Acts 1:8 tells us how it is to be carried out. The Great Commission started in their own region and then spread outward to the ends of the earth. From Acts 1:8 to Matthew 28:18-20, we see that the Gospel is not focused on one group or one people, it is focused on the world. Paul was sent out to preach to the Gentiles the good news of the Gospel. Christ had broken down the middle wall that separated the Jew from the Gentile through His death on the cross. It was Paul who said in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel was to the Jew first, but also to the Greek. That mirrors what Acts 1:8 says and it should literally transform our evangelistic and church planting strategies.
Below are some problems that hinder the Great Commission within our church culture:
1. Faddish ideas about types of people our church should reach. Often this type of thinking is born out of a group of people who mean well, but they often use language like, “We are trying to reach a group of people that the typical church or traditional church would not be able to reach.” Therefore, in their attempt to reach a specific group (cowboy, young, tattoo wearing, body pierced, ultra modern – no suits or ties, loud modern music styles, etc..). This type of attitude is often the result of traditional church rejection or lack of focus on this type of people within their church.
2. Faddish ideas about worship music styles. This is often a desire to reject any modern song that is not found in the old hymnal or a desire to do away with all hymns and focus on all modern praise songs. Either way, both groups are guilty of being faddish in the way they approach worship. It turns the service into something other than worship and more about pleasing the flesh.
3. Faddish ideas about racial barriers. This is still a major problem in our present day. Many times you will hear people describe a church as a “black congregation” as you pass by their property. What does that mean? Should a white congregation not focus on other skin types in their evangelism efforts in hopes of remaining all white? Should a non-white congregation focus on their skin color or people group in order to remain non-diverse?
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
At the present moment within the SBC, we have groups of younger pastors who seem to be tired of fighting battles of non-essentials such as music, dress, and other issues that often become a problem in the traditional congregation. In order to avoid such problems, many of these people are leaving the SBC or forming faddish groups that seem to be focused on specific things that the typical traditional congregation has not accepted. This type of movement has sparked much debate, but the debate has most often centered on dress or music rather than the real issue – the Great Commission.
Those who are serving in a more traditional church (like myself) should not be drawing a line in the sand and focusing on suits and ties or music styles. The issue is much greater. It is a Great Commission issue. If a church is seeking to appeal to blue jeans wearing, body pierced, tattoos, and a youthful age group – what about the lady across the street that is 70 years of age and unsaved? How will that church reach that woman for Christ? Will she feel at home in their worship service? Will the members of the trendy church reach out to her or will she be overlooked because of a lack of tattoos and blue jeans? The issue is more than style. The issue we face today in our church is about love. It is about the Gospel. It is about the Great Commission. Therefore, we should be extremely cautious (both traditional and modern types) in how we structure our image as a church. Our image should be more interested in displaying Christ to the world as opposed to our modernity or traditionalism. In either case – we can leave people behind and overlook groups of people because they do not fit our standard. We must remember – the Gospel is for all!
Therefore, the church that is too young, too old, too pierced, too tattooed, too trendy, or too traditional may be more interested in serving fads or traditions than serving Christ. A healthy church is one that reflects a family structure. It will have all ages and types. It will have the smell of bad diapers in the nursery as well as white haired seniors on the pews. It will have children running through the halls and “20 somethings” on the pews. The healthy church will not have old people sitting in the pews where no children’s cries or footsteps in the hallways can be heard. The healthy church is not one that is full of young moderns without any senior citizens with white hair. The healthy church is not one with cowboy hats that does not focus on white collared business persons. The idea of the church seems to be identified in the Great Commission itself. The church should not be hyper focused on one type. The church should be reaching out to all groups, types, and skin colors – all for the glory of God! The church is about Christ, His love for the world, and His Gospel Commission to the world – for His glory – not our trendy or traditional images.
Pastor Josh Buice
As the SBC numbers have been reported in recent days, we have noticed a drop in baptisms, Cooperative Program giving, church membership, and church planting. These statistics often breed many who simply come to the forefront claiming that we need to baptize more next year. However, merely dunking people under water does not accomplish anything except inflated numbers for boasting rights. Schemes of man to produce numbers are nothing more than prideful idolatry at heart. While having breakfast this past Monday with fellow pastors and evangelists, one of the men spoke up and said that many evangelists are constantly focused on numbers and reporting “decisions” in their meetings because they are hanging their success on the amount of people they get to come down the aisle. How do we avoid such idolatrous errors and accomplish a true Great Commission resurgence in the SBC? Dr. Danny Akin has provided a solid approach to this effort that is Word driven and focused. Many key issues that face SBC churches are directly addressed in Akin’s sermon and the Great Commission Resurgence. Below are a few key issues that jump off of the page as extremely important for unity surrounding the gospel of Jesus Christ within the SBC.
I. The Issue of Expository Preaching
Many people today in the pew may not understand the importance of having a preacher who preaches with an expository format week by week, but those who have taken a serious look at the pulpit today understand the need for that type of approach. When the Word is not being preached in full, the people are not receiving an adaquate diet. Therefore, they are left to feed on the fancy speech and cleverly constructed cliches found in the favorite sugar stick sermons of many preachers today. However, as Akin rightly noted, the way that the SBC will move toward and experience a Great Commission Resurgence is through the Word of God being rightly proclaimed. Dr. Akin said,
We need a new battalion of well trained expositors who preach the whole Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, phrase by phrase and word by word.
When preachers enter the pulpit each week with a goal to allow the Word of God to speak – God will speak to His people and move them toward obedience in all areas – including the area of missions and evangelism. No scheme of man or numbers based formula will replace the clear proclamation of God’s Word.
II. The Issue of Doctrinal Divisions
The SBC comes together for the purpose of missions. The entire SBC will not agree on every issue of doctrine, however, the BF&M 2000 is a document that protects Southern Baptists from heresy and exalts the essential doctrines of Holy Scripture that bring us together. In recent days, some folks in the Convention have decided to stop fighting the world, the flesh, and the Devil in order to fight over doctrinal differences. Dr. Albert Mohler, as Akin points out, has a great article titled, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity which describes the differing levels of doctrine and when it may be necessary to part fellowship.
Rather than seeking unity for the sake of the gospel, many folks in the SBC are seeking division. When preachers stand in pulpits and place the focus on Calvinism as if it is the main goal of the church to equip believers to go out and make Calvinists – they have lost a true focus of the local Church. Likewise, when preachers stand in the pulpit and beat on Calvinism or Calvinists as if they are the “Great Red Dragon” coming to get everyone – they likewise have erred and proven themselves to have a lack of education regarding the history of the SBC. Their attitude further aligns them with a divisive agenda. Yes, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded by men who were Calvinists and many of our famous missionaries, SBC Presidents, Seminary Presidents and founders, and SBC theologians were Calvinists – 5-point Calvinists. Many today are Calvinists and modified Calvinists. However, with a lost world surrounding us, why should we sit and debate the 5-points of Calvinism, fight over Calvinism, or divide over Calvinism when we should be working together to reach this lost world with the gospel that saves? It is simply not profitable. Those who push agendas (on either side of the fence) and who are working harder to make Calvinists than disciples have embraced an error filled movement. Those who would rather preach on why Calvinism is the “Great Red Dragon” than the gospel of Christ that is the “Power of God unto Salvation” have likewise embraced an error filled movement. Both sides need to repent!
III. The Issue of Healthy Churches and Baptist Identity
Many churches today are so numbers driven that there is absolutely no means of biblical counsel or desire to make sure the people coming to join the church embrace solid essential Baptist doctrine before they are brought into the membership of the local church. As a result, the churches are often left with a largely inflated roll where only a percentage of those people attend. Furthermore, when this occurs, the local church is often filled with people who have differing doctrine than historic Baptist doctrine. This creates unnecessary friction within the community and could lead to unhealthy church splits. According to the Great Commission Resurgence:
We must be especially mindful to resist contemporary threats to our historic, biblical Baptist identity. Our churches must remain committed to the Baptist distinctives of a regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism by immersion, the priesthood of all believers, congregational church polity, local church autonomy, and liberty of conscience for all people. Each of these distinctives must be embraced under the lordship of Christ as revealed in Christian Scripture and interpreted by gospel-centered congregations. We must be willing to alter our practices to better accord with a robust Baptist identity, including in many churches a more responsible baptismal policy, a recovery of redemptive church discipline, a healthier balance between pastoral leadership and congregational authority, and a commitment to an every-member ministry.
The numbers oriented church policies of today are crippling the local church. When no standards exist for membership, no true and distinctive Baptist identity requirements are in place, when no church discipline is being practiced in the setting of the local church, and when people who are not saved are being baptized without any serious biblical counsel – the local church becomes something other than a true church of Jesus Christ. When this happens in the SBC – the entire Convention crumbles on a faulty foundation of pride-based number reporting that is nothing more than idolatry with makeup.
Last night, I signed the Great Commission Resurgence. I pray that we will see a true moving of God rather than a numbers based scheme of man within the SBC in the days to come. I pray that we will see the passing of a day when “numbers of decisions” are being elevated by evangelists and our Convention as a whole as the means of success. If all of those numbers were true – our local churches, our communities, and our world would look drastically different. Join me in praying for a God initiated, Spirit empowered, and Word driven Great Commission Resurgence that will turn the world upside down with the gospel of Christ.
Pastor Josh Buice
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Great Commission Resurgence Website
Dr. Danny Akin’s Sermon on the GCR -Video and .pdf