Perhaps it’s the lazy part of me, but whenever I’ve read the Great Commission located at the end of Matthew and Mark (and kind of Luke), I’ve always assumed that Jesus was talking to the missionaries – the ones who love to travel to different countries and who are more open to talking about Jesus with complete strangers. It seems the whole “Go and make disciples of all nations” part is more suited for people who are more out-going than I am. And yet, when I read Luke’s ending, which kind of has a Great Commission tone, I realized that Jesus was talking to His disciples. In a way, Jesus is talking to everyone who has chosen to follow Him.
There is a slight indication of this when you read each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) individually. Matthew’s account is very direct and organized. Mark’s account, although not found in the earliest manuscripts, begins with rebuking unbelief and lists several indications of true believers (which includes protection against snakes and poison… weird). And Luke’s gospel has a more educational tone to it; that this idea behind preaching the gospel to all nations stems from a correct understanding of the Scriptures. Since a Great Commission style of closing is included in each of the Synoptics, I’m led to believe that the earliest followers found it to be exceedingly important. And since each gospel ending varies in style and content, I’m led to believe that such missionary actions weren’t meant to be formulaic. They were meant to be personal.
Believe it or not, but I don’t really like to travel. Sure, it’d be nice to one day see London, Paris, and Rome – cities rich with history. And thinking back to the vacation I once had in Atlanta and Florida, I loved every bit of it. But it’s never been a strong desire of mine to go places. If I were to live out my days here in Oregon (the only state I’ve ever lived), I would be perfectly content. So when Jesus said to go to the ends of the earth to preach His name, I’ve always assumed He wasn’t talking to me.
And yet, one does not need to leave one’s own city to be a missionary. For all we know, James (most likely author of the book of James) never left Jerusalem. And in fact, Luke’s account of Jesus’ commission-like statement specifies that this whole mission of proclaiming the gospel is to begin in Jerusalem, that it need not leave the city just yet. It seems that Jesus was more focused on having His disciples tell His story – not necessarily going anywhere and everywhere to do so. They could, but it wasn’t an obligation.
I bring all of this up because I’m still in a very transitional season of life. I’ve been out of college for a year and a half, I’m still working a part-time(ish) job, and I’m still figuring out what I want to do with the next phase of life. At such a point in one’s walk with the Lord, I have found it helpful to reevaluate my own mission statement. It’s like updating a résumé in between jobs; it gives you a renewed focus for what’s next.
Tonight I got some coffee with Scott Lamb, pastor of Emmaus Life (my new home fellowship). Over a tall vanilla latte, we talked about attending seminary, ministering to people within our own church, and investing into peoples’ lives. In essence, we talked about missions in action – after mission statements are made. No, you don’t need to write out a mission statement before taking on a new phase in life. As much as it might help, it’s not a prerequisite. What I think might be, though, is having a strong vision for what you hope to accomplish – be it helping transform certain individuals’ lives as much as possible, serving hurting people as much as possible, or simply striving for a stronger Christ-like character in your own life. Having a strong sense of what you wish to do makes all the difference.
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law,” – Proverbs 29:18, ESV
What the author of Proverbs is saying here is that where there is no vision for the future, no laying out of a path to follow, then nothing but laziness and recklessness ensue. All that energy that you might have put toward something positive and constructive might then be used for negative and destructive things. In short, bad things can happen when you let yourself get bored.
I don’t wish to jump ahead to New Years and amending one’s New Years resolutions before Christmas arrives because that’s like thinking only of Christmas right when Halloween has ended. But I find that I have frequently asked myself about what I want to do in the next phase of life. And if you’re in a similar boat as I am, I’d encourage you to do the same. Seek the Lord, inquire what He would like you to do, and be ready and willing to hear the answer, especially if it’s an answer that makes you terribly uncomfortable. It might be like Bilbo Baggins from Tolkien’s The Hobbit being thrust into an adventure he never would have asked for; you just might get tossed outside of your comfort zones.
Deciding what to do next is (usually) difficult. Will I have a job? Will there be a strong, Christ-seeking community? Will I enjoy any of it? These are some questions that have flooded my mind recently. What has helped settled them all is something Scott once said during our Monday night Villages gatherings. He was talking about a professor being asked by his students about what they should do with their lives. The professor’s question to them was, “If money had no part of the equation whatsoever, what would you want to do?”
May this question help you as it has helped me.