Finishing the Great Commission

By Mike Beeson

A common conversation topic among my close friends and coworkers is the Great Commission…and specifically, finishing the Great Commission. It’s always fun to ponder the topic and dream of the day when Christ returns!

First let’s talk about the Great Commission. In a Barna Group study published in 2018, 51 percent of American “church-goers” stated they had never heard of the Great Commission. Another 31 percent had heard of it, but didn’t know its meaning…or weren’t sure of it at all.

Matthew 28 provides the narrative of the last recorded encounter of Jesus with the disciples. In verses 18-20 (ESV), Jesus says:

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.

These parting words by Jesus are commonly referred to as the Great Commission.

Going back to the conversation topic of finishing the Great Commission, how would one know when the Great Commission is actually finished? Matthew 24:14 (ESV) describes it this way:

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.

Who are these people (or “nations” or “ethne”) who have not yet heard the Gospel?

Joshua Project is a research initiative seeking to highlight the ethic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ. Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net) states that there are 3.19 billion individuals who have yet to hear the Gospel. South Asia (India and surrounding countries) represents 54 percent of the “unreached peoples.” There are “unreached peoples” in all lands, including the United States (4.8 million).

THE BREAKDOWN

In a recent conversation about finishing the Great Commission, my close friends and I took it a step further. We began to discuss practical ways to finish it, which led to some assumptions.

We began to ask ourselves, “What if one Christ-follower shared the Gospel with someone who has not heard it? Then annually for 30 years, the same Christ-follower would continue to do the same. And each new person who hears the Gospel will share with two others who have not heard annually for the remaining years up to the 30th year.”

What would happen and when would the Great Commission be finished?

We then created an Excel model of our assumption, and here is what we found. If one person shares the Gospel with two “unreached people” each year for 30 years, and each new person who hears the Gospel tells two “unreached people” each year up to the 30th year, then by the 29th year, everyone will have heard the Gospel and “…the end will come.”

And what happens if the number of “unreached people” who hear the Gospel becomes two every two months. By the 11th year, everyone will have heard the Gospel and “…the end will come.”

THE SOLUTION

First, we must tell others about the Good News of Jesus Christ. It’s the most important thing that has ever happened to us, yet the vast majority of American Christians choose not to tell anyone about it.

According to the Barna study, sharing one’s faith has become increasingly more “optional” to American Christians. In 1993, 89 percent of American Christians who had shared their faith agreed this is a responsibility of every Christ-follower. Today, just 64 percent say so—a 25-point drop. The study also indicates that nearly half (47 percent) of practicing Christian millennials believe that it’s wrong to evangelize.

Second, we all must get involved in the mission, which is “to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ wherever you are.” According to the Barna study, only 27 percent of American Christians have ever participated in the mission of Jesus Christ.

And third, we must go where there are people who have not heard the Gospel. Joshua Project states that there are 4.8 million unreached people in the United States…and 246 million Christians. That’s 51 Christians for every individual who has not heard the Gospel.

Joshua Project states that the leading regions of the world that have the most people who have not heard the Gospel are South Asia with 1.7 billion people Northeast Asia with 305 million people who have not heard North Africa and the Middle East with 261 million people who have not heard.

Short-term missions (less than two months in length) is one practical strategy of taking the Gospel to people who have not heard. In 2018, Prestonwood sent 64 teams (nearly 1,500 people) around the world on mission to locations on five continents. In 2019, we are set to increase this number of sent short-term missionaries by more than 20 percent. Members of the Prestonwood community are becoming more and more hungry to take the Gospel to places where it does not exist.

Here is one real-life example. In the past five years, my wife and I have led seven Prestonwood teams on mission to three countries in a region of the world whose expansive population are “unreached peoples.” Using a Luke 10 strategy (village-to-village, hut-to-hut), members of these teams have shared the Gospel with thousands of individuals who had never heard of Jesus Christ. In one of these countries, nearly 400 house churches have been planted from these original “seed sowing” initiatives and are now active bodies of believers advancing the Great Commission.

THE FINISH

In Acts 1, Jesus was very clear when He answered this question from those who had gathered around Him. When asked when He would return, He said to them (and us) in verses 7–8, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Listen to these powerful and sobering words by Roger Hershey and Jason Weimer in The Finishers:

We believe we’re on the verge of a far more significant “where were you” event—one that all of history has been building toward. It’s one that’s been anticipated for generations and outweighs all others in true historic significance. It goes far beyond the breaking down of a physical wall, and instead destroys the towering spiritual walls separating God and men, not to mention men and men. By now it should be abundantly clear that we’re talking about the finishing of the Great Commission.

Like a relay race with thousands of legs, the baton of world evangelism and discipleship has been passed from generation to generation, each one carrying forward the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ in every nation. Some generations have taken the baton a great distance, others only inches, based on their obedience to Christ’s command and reliance on His Spirit. Yet there will be one generation who will serve as the anchor leg, the one who will carry the baton across the finish line….

Every generation has reason to hope that theirs may be the anchor leg … and the hope that the current generation could be the very one who finishes the race is more than a pie-in-the-sky dream or wishful longing; there is significant reason to believe that this generation, your generation—the teens, college students, and young adults of today—could be the ones who run the baton across the [finish] line.

I will end with three practical questions for each of us who has the Holy Spirit:

  1. When was the last time you shared your story with someone who hasn’t heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ? You can start your day each morning with a prayer such as, “Lord, please place someone in my path today who has not heard your story, and please help me to slow down long enough to share your story with them.”
  2. Have you ever been actively involved in the mission of Jesus Christ, which is “to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ wherever you are”? Start with the above prayer and then add to the prayer something like this, “Lord, please stir my heart to pray for people in lands where there is no access to your Gospel and to financially support those who are taking the Gospel to ‘unreached peoples’ today.”
  3. Have you ever been part of a team whose purpose is to take the Gospel to places where it is not presently available? Continue with your morning prayer and then add something like this, “Lord, please make it clear as to my calling on taking the Gospel to places where it is not known. Please help me to have enough faith to know that You will already have answers to all the concerns that I will have … such as money and schedule and travel concerns.”And then close your prayer with Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am! Send me.”

Mike Beeson is a Christ-follower, a discipler, and an active participant in advancing the Great Commission. He currently serves as the Minister of Missions for Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

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