A few weeks ago, I spent time visiting two friends of mine in North Carolina. They are twin brothers who moved back to their hometown after graduating college. One aspires to serve long-term as a missionary among the unreached. The other brother plans to stay in the United States and work for a financial firm.
Both of them love the Lord dearly and are growing in their heart for the nations. During our time together, we spent time talking about evangelism, missions, and discipleship. But, the Great Commission is for every Christian. The Great Commission is not only for the brother who desires to serve as a missionary. In fact, both brothers have a unique role in obeying the Great Commission.
The Great Commission does not belong to any individual because the Great Commission belongs to the church.
As Christians, we can be tempted to think that the Great Commission belongs to the few who go serve among the hardest-to-reach places. The reality is that the Great Commission does not belong to any individual because the Great Commission belongs to the church.
When we read the book of Acts, we quickly realize that establishing churches is foundational to the biblical pattern for missions. In Acts 13:1–3, Luke tells us that the church at Antioch spent time worshiping, fasting, and praying. While the church gathered together, the Holy Spirit revealed that Barnabas and Saul were to be sent off for their first missionary journey. Corporately, the church laid hands on them and sent them off on their way to Cyprus.
Was the church at Antioch obedient to the Great Commission? Absolutely. Did everyone in the church need to leave Antioch to reach those in Cyprus? Certainly not. Did someone need to be sent? Yes! The church at Antioch stays behind, but they participate in the Great Commission by sending Barnabas and Paul off on their missionary journey.
Like Paul and Barnabas who were sent from Antioch to Cyprus, someone needs to be sent to unreached peoples and places. Today, there are over 3 billion people who will be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel. There is an urgent need for churches to send out biblically-qualified missionaries to these difficult places. Echoing the words of Paul in Romans 10:14–17, How will they call on him whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him, of whom they have never heard? How will they hear without someone preaching? How are they to preach unless they are sent?
Someone needs to go, but not everyone should go. We need to send biblically-qualified missionaries who are sent by local churches.
What Are We All Called to?
Whether you send or you go, every Christian is called to belong to a local church, share the gospel, and support missions.
Belong to a Biblical Church
As Christians, we are given the local church as a gift. Both senders and goers should belong to local churches in their area. The church is not a Western construct or an optional add-on for missionaries in secure regions. Rather, the church is for every Christian, and certainly every missionary. Why?
Because the Great Commission has been given to the church, not individual believers. It is through the church that our faith is publicly announced through baptism and that our faith is regularly affirmed through the Lord’s Supper. If you’re not a member of a local church, consider finding a healthy church in your area. If you’re aspiring to serve in an area without a church, talk to your pastors in your sending church about options to partner with an elder to plant a biblical church.
Share the Gospel
As Christians, we have been saved in order to proclaim the beautiful work of God, the one who called us out of the darkness and brought us into the light (1 Peter 2:9). Every Christian has been called to share the gospel. The biblical call to evangelism is not simply for missionaries and pastors, but for every Christian.
The biblical call to evangelism is not simply for missionaries and pastors, but for every Christian.
Whether you aspire to go overseas or plan to support missionaries, you have an opportunity to share the gospel with your unbelieving neighbors, friends, and family members. Consider those you interact with on a weekly basis that do not know the Lord. Take a moment to pray for them and for God to give you the boldness to begin gospel conversations with them.
Support Missionary Work
It’s important to remember that all that is on earth, including our finances, belongs to the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:26). When we give to our local churches in order to support missionary work, we ought to remember that Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Giving is not an obligation, but a joyful invitation to participate in God’s work among the nations (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In some seasons, supporting missionary work will look like simply giving a percentage of your local church. In other seasons, it will also look like supporting individual missionaries or initiatives like Urgent that work to provide discipleship, leadership development, humanitarian relief, and strategy for Christians around the world. Regardless, every Christian is called to support missionary work.
Consider the example of the brothers that I mentioned earlier. Both brothers belong to a biblical church in their new city, share the gospel with friends, co-workers, and family members, and support missionary work through prayer and their finances. If life goes how they plan, one will go and one will send, but regardless, they will serve their church, share the gospel, and support missions wherever they are.
Examine your own life and take time to pray. Do you aspire to be a sender or a goer? How can you obey the Great Commission wherever you are? Whether you stay or go, join a church, share the gospel, and support missions.