31 Days of Evangelism Day 5: 6 Ways for Understanding the Great Commission from the Whole Bible

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

A Great Tool for the Great Commission: The Story Bible

Yesterday I had a chance to speak to about 250 leaders, mostly SBC but also including Lutheran, Charistmatic, and other groups, as part of the Loving Houston emphasis. The training was hosted by the Union Baptist Association in Houston. I loved being back in the city where I started as a full time professor at Houston Baptist University back in 1992. I saw old friends and made a lot of new ones.

I had three hours to teach The Story to the leaders. Getting three hours was a rare treat and I made the most of it. What a great response. These servants of Christ love the city and understand that the unchanging gospel must be understood by believers and shared with the lost in a way that clearly connects them to the greatness of our God and His redemptive plan.

I also told them about the just-released Story Bible. I think I could have sold hundreds of copies if I had them with me. The buzz about this resource greatly encouraged me. Crossway has done a fantastic service to the church by producing this resource. It includes the Story booklet at the beginning, a brief Bible study that shows God’s great plan of redemption in Scripture: Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration. Then, each book of the Bible has an introduction that shows how that book fits into the Word’s larger metanarrative.

I have already given this Bible to several people who do not know Christ, some who had no Bible, and one who has never really read it. I will be using this resource as a tool for evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved. I especially encourage student pastors to get this for your students.

I love teaching the Story to leaders, believers, and to youth. So many in the church have lost a vision of the Bible as one great and beautiful Story that makes sense of all of life, and of the gospel that helps them to see just how life changing a relationship with Jesus is. I love sharing the Story to unbelievers.

By the way, the good folks at Spread Truth have developed a Workshop training for the Story, which is what I use in classes and churches. It is ideal for a Friday night and Saturday training. I plan on doing this a lot in the days to come.

To find out more about the Story ESV Bible, click here.

To find out about the Story Training, click here.

To read the Story or to share with a friend, click here.

In the great awakenings, the churches recovered the gospel in its power, and as a result many (both in the church and outside) came to Christ. I see signs of this today, and I want to be a part of that movement.

Why Mission Trips? Worship Gatherings

If you have been a follower of Christ for long you have enjoyed — or in some cases endured — countless worship gatherings. Living for Jesus means a life of 24/7 worship, but the gathering together of believers for worship is both biblical and profitable. These times we gather corporately to offer ourselves afresh to God bring encouragement, edification, and fellowship with the saints.

One of the reasons I think we should regularly go to other countries on mission trips is to be refreshed in corporate worship. Sometimes we get so accustomed to our routine we can almost hit autopilot and drift through a service. I have a video below to remind you of how this is not only true of antiquated, lifeless churches full of tradition but also newer churches who have lost their focus on Jesus.

Today our Team Ukraine went to four different churches to worship with fellow believers in their normal services. Our group went to the church where my interpreter at the seminary, a young man named Sergey, serves as pastor. We sang in Ukrainian and English some familiar songs (Shine, Jesus Shine, for instance). I watched my former student-turned-Southeastern-colleague-now-IMB-missionary Russell Woodbridge jam on the bass guitar with the praise team. We observed the Lord’s Supper. Sergey told us a brief history of the church before the service, and after we enjoyed coffee, chai, and snacks in a time of fellowship.

The congregation of 50 or more consisted mostly of young adults. Enjoying a time of praising our common Savior served to inspire us all. We will be ministering with this church, called Open Hearts, all week. We will hang out with their students Monday, do servant evangelism Tuesday, and the rest of the team (I will be teaching at the seminary) will work with a street evangelism another day. We will also be sharing Christ through ESL classes and in other meetings.

We want to be a blessing to those who live here and will be serving Christ long after we are gone. When return on Saturday to American we will have many memories, but for me few compare to worshiping with other believers in their own way. When I think of all the places I have been on mission trips, the images — one church on a cold day in Romania, another in the bush of Africa or in the settlements in Cape Town, with Asians in Chiang Mai, or here in Kiev for instance –these images will stay with me always.

Get out of the country. But when you go, be sure to worship with believers in their churches. It may be the most memorable part of the journey.

Oh, here is that video…