You can’t isolate the Great Commission from all the rest of Scripture. It fits perfectly into the larger redemptive work of God seen throughout the biblical revelation. My colleague Mark Liederbach and I wrote a book a few years ago called The Convergent Church (it’s currently out of print). In the book we offer six ways to understand of the mission of God from all of Scripture:
- Everything begins in God and is to return to God. Understanding this undergirds any theological system, any system of ethics, any evangelistic strategy, or any evaluation of culture. God created, God sustains, God redeems, and God will consummate history as we know it.
- Human existence must be understood as theocentric, not anthropocentric. In Christian theology, particularly that of Augustine and Aquinas, this idea of exitus et reditus asserts that proper theology must begin with discussion on the existence of God, then the creation and fall of human beings, their salvation through Christ, and finally their return back to God in death and resurrection. It is foundational to understanding that the universe is theocentric, not anthropocentric.[ii] Our perspective on the world and the church begins with the assumption that the focal point is God, not us as individuals, our family, our church, or our denomination.
- Individual life stories must conform to God’s story. Because the whole of Scripture from Pentateuch to the Apocalypse holds God alone in the central place in the universe, all of our personal life stories must yield to the higher, grander, more wonderful story that God tells throughout the Scripture, and in which alone our life finds any meaning (the metanarrative). Christianity is not just one story as a part of many stories, from Genesis, through the wilderness wanderings, into the time of the Kings and the exile, until the time of Christ and the birth of the Church; it is The Story. Most of us live our lives, and approach the Bible, to find how to make God’s agenda can fit into ours. This idolatrous thinking must be reversed, and must affect the way we think about and do church. Our agendas and our stories will not enflame the hearts of men and women to follow hard and live greatly. Similarly, any compromise or capitulation on the uniqueness of the gospel story as the sole means of salvation serves only to dilute the passionate existence we were meant to live. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the grand story of the universe. It alone rightly captures the imagination and fires the soul for greater things. This is the story we must learn, live in, and seek to tell often and well.
- A higher affection must motivate a life lived for God’s glory. When we truly see God’s beauty and majesty from the creation through the Old Testament story and throughout the New Testament, when we grasp His greatness and our place in His plan, we can see the relative insignificance of other things that would vie for our attention and affection. It is through a Spirit-filled meditation on the Word of God here and now that we can find our affections transformed and purified. The more one tastes of this kind of beauty, the deeper our hearts will long for more.
- A life of worship should compel us to invite the lost to join us. As we see all of Scripture in its grand message of redemption and the invitation to be worshipers of God, evangelism becomes less a burden and more the joyful proclamation of the good news that others too can worship this great God! Evangelism becomes nothing more than inviting people to join us in being and doing what we have all been created for! Thus, worship from God’s intention in the beginning serves as the impetus for evangelism and the purpose of our mission.
- The corporate worship of the church ought to change the culture. When believers as individuals, families, and churches together live a life of worship, even as we were intended to do before the fall and are able to do now because of the cross, individuals and the culture are changed as a result.
We have the most amazing story to tell in history. But it is a story that begins in Genesis and continues throughout the books of the Bible. And it is still worth telling today.