The Great Commission (The Mandate): Matthew 28: 16 – 20: Final Part Two
The Task of The Church:
The Task of the Church will be addressed from the perspectives of some writers and evangelists that I share similar theology. Christian Schwarz’s concept of the Church is based on the divine principle of Creation and focuses on God, who created the Church to sustain the health and growth of the Church, like in organic farming where the root produces fruit. Schwarz formulated his concept using God’s growth automatisms. Schwarz centers on the Eight Quality Characteristics: Leadership, Ministry, Spirituality, Structures, Worship Service, Small Groups, Evangelism, and Relationships, and the three Paradigms: Biotic Principles, Spiritualizing, and Technocratic. He considered the ‘overestimated’ significance of Institutions, Programs, & Methods of the Technocratic Paradigm. Also, the ‘underestimated’ significance of Institutions, Programs, Methods, etc., of the Spiritualistic Paradigm and the Theological approach underlying the natural Church development in the Biotic Paradigm. He surmised that ‘the correlation between growth and the eight quality characteristics is statistically significant.’
Charles Van Engen is more concerned about the local ecclesia regarding the missionary people. He targets the leadership of the ecclesia and sounds very passionate about the Biblical and Theological issues that are fundamental to the task God has given the Church. Van Engen’s theological purpose is to build missionary congregations in the world. Charles Van Engen’s ecclesiology is ‘the anticipatory sign of the Rule of the King’, and its mission is to spread knowledge of the Rule of the King. He sees the Church as a unique body of Jesus Christ that is divine and human. So the human and divine aspects of the Church’s nature must be unified to arrive at a true understanding of the ecclesial mission. The congregations must intentionally live as the missionary person of God to make the Church become what it is truly by Faith. Van Engen’s ideas are biblical as it agrees with the Great Commission and Paul’s missionary ecclesiology in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul, in his writing, saw the local Church as an organism that should continually grow in the missional expression of its essential nature in the world. Engen’s ecclesiology is in Unity (Eph. 4:1-16); in Holiness (Eph. 1: 1-14, 4:17 – 5:5, 5:6 – 6:20) and in Mission to All (Eph. 1:15-23, 2: 1-22, 3: 1-13). In Van Engen’s missionary perspective, there are four attributes of a church that he described as gifts and tasks of the Church’s life with Jesus Christ at the center. They are:
- Gathering to Jesus (Col. 1: 28)
- Invitation to the great feast (Matt. 22: 2-10)
- Incorporating Faith
- Establishing an organic cohesion (Eph 1: 9-10)
- Becoming “One” (John 17)
- Building up Christ’s body (Eph. 4: 11-13)
- Preparing for the Lord’s return (Rev 19:7)
- Preserving Unity in a bond of Peace (Eph. 4:3)
- Apostolicity ((Proclaiming)
- Teaching & Discipling
- Receiving instructions (1 Cor. 11: 23)
- Witnessing & Mobilizing
- Sending out (Acts 13: 1-3)
- Holiness (Sanctifying)
- Forgiving & Healing
- Ministering as a nation of Priests (1 Peter 2: 4-5)
- Relating to God in holiness & Relating to others in Purity
- Reflecting the presence of the Holy Spirit by serving compassionately
- Conforming to the pattern of Beatitudes (Matt 5: 3-12)
- Catholicity (Reconciling)
- Becoming world Christians (Phil. 2: 1-11)
- Accepting others (Rom 12: 3-10)
- Acting as Ambassadors (2 Cor. 5: 11-21)
- Bridging (Networking) & Giving oneself to the world
- Breaking down barriers & Loving (1 Cor. 13)
John Wesley, another great evangelist, sets out his methods to accomplish the command of Jesus Christ in the Great Commission with the resources given by Jesus Christ. Wesley’s methodology emerged by borrowing ideas from a wide range of diverse models, and the final product was a refined synthesis of proven techniques. Wesley’s awareness of the Assurance of God’s favor became the cornerstone of his methods.
Lorrie Sanny, the Chairman of the Board of the Navigators, defines Evangelism as “taking a good look at Jesus Christ and then telling someone what you saw” this John Wesley did in his evangelical approach by:
- Making people recognize their need for Jesus Christ and
- Understand how to receive Jesus into their lives.
Evangelism, to John Wesley, was both an act and a process. He did not just make converts but trained and mobilized them to share the good news effectively. Wesley’s revolution in Evangelism illustrates that long-lasting Spiritual transformation is not the product of dynamic preaching or correct doctrine but comes only through serious disciple-building in keeping with Christ’s Great Commission. Wesley used three distinct modes for Evangelism and disciple-making in early Methodism.
The Modes are:
- The Society Meetings that aimed at cognitive instruction
- The class meetings that provided an environment for behavioral changes
- The Band that facilitated effective redirection.
“Metaphorically, the Society Meetings aimed for the head, the Class meeting for the hands and the band for the heart.” (Quote from D. Michael Henderson as written on page 112 of John Wesley’s Class meeting).
The three modes were built into the early Methodism and complemented each other. Wesley used them as tools for Evangelism and disciple-making. Field preaching was also not neglected. It was used for effective Evangelism in increasing the numbers of participants in the modes and to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the Land. Wesley directed the poor and the oppressed people in the community to the Scriptures. He pointed them to Biblical examples of people who had experienced a powerful, loving, and personal God at work. These are the People who believed in the ‘living faith.’ Wesley’s Methods of disciple-making are still potent today as they were in his days.
The learning progress of the disciples was to be demonstrated in their daily lives. Wesley defined a mark of a mature Christian as “consistent obedience to God, in which the new relationship of justifying faith is no longer interrupted by a wayward disposition but firmly grounded in a service of love.” His modes provided sequential order, with each phase building on the previous one, and this is the actual process of discipleship development Today. The Society Meetings of the Methodist systems are like what is today known as covenant groups called Come and See phase. Wesley’s Class Meetings represent the basic accountability group known as come and follow me phase of Today. Wesley’s Band represents the ongoing accountability group of “Be with me,” while Wesley’s Select group is the ‘Remain in me.’
Wesley’s principles are more potent Today for a disciple-making Church to grow spiritually and numerically. The Ministry in Africa Today has mature churches that are diverse and better articulated than at the time of John Wesley. Idol worshipping was more prevalent at that time. Missionaries like John Wesley brought the Christian religion to Africa through their evangelical outreach. Wesley’s timeless discipleship principles were to define the end product and develop the recipe at each phase of the process. That has helped disciple-making churches to:
- Help newcomers understand the ministry they need when they join.
- Help Ministry leaders understand precisely their objective in discipling persons.
- Articulate church programs with “all the things” on their ladder.
How It Affects Our Theologizing:
Theology is an instrument of sound evangelical strategy. The word of God is the revelation, while theology is the indispensable support of the revealed word of God. Our theologizing, therefore, must be the precise map of the knowledge of God for non-Christians. After Christ determined the pattern and end of all theology for his Church, the glorified Christ commissioned His Church to disciple the nations, baptizing and teaching his followers to obey everything that he had commanded them.
The Great Commission then places upon the church specific intellectual demands. There is the evangelistic demand to contextualize, without compromise, the gospel proclamation to meet the needs of every generation and culture. There is the didactic demand to correlate the manifold data of Scripture in our minds, and to apply this knowledge to all phases of our thinking and conduct. And there is the apologetic demand to justify Christianity’s existence as God’s revealed religion and to protect its message from adulteration and distortion (Tit. 1:9). Theology has risen in the life of the Church in response to these concrete demands of the Great Commission. The theological enterprise serves the Great Commission as it seeks to explain logically and coherently for men everywhere the truth God has revealed in the Holy Scripture about himself and the world He has created.
The ways it affects our theologizing then include but are not limited to the followings:
- Negligent of Reflection
Reflection, at times, could be seen as an adversary of Gospel proclamation. According to Tite Tienou, this perception is a theological decision; African Christians should refrain from making the Gospel Kerygmatically Universal.
- Denominational and Doctrinal Fragmentation
The various denominations and different theological doctrines upheld by African Christians prevent evangelicals from working together on a standard theological plan to advance the Great Commission.
- Theological Failure
Our theological failures arise from the following:
- The silence in allowing others to formulate African theology without Africans’ contributions. This situation is evident by the lack of evangelical presence in recent publications on African theology.
- Spiritual immaturity: even though Africa is the fastest-growing Church in the world, it could also be said to have the fastest-declining Church due to a lack of Spiritual depth, Education, and Knowledge. This Spiritual immaturity has dramatically impacted the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
- Lack of Spiritual Commitment and
- Lack of contextualization throwing away the African Culture.
The justification of theologizing as an intellectual discipline could be adduced by five reasons, namely:
- Christ’s theological method.
- Christ’s mandate to his Church is to disciple and to teach.
- The apostolic model.
- The apostolically approved example and activity of the New Testament church and
- The nature of the Holy Scriptures.
The Church must remain committed to the theological task for these five reasons. And it can do so with the full assurance that its labors will not be a waste of time and energy. No intellectual pursuit will ultimately prove to be more rewarding than acquiring knowledge of God and his ways and works. Indeed, the scriptural mandate for the theological enterprise is so clear that the Church’s primary question should not be whether it should engage itself in theology; the Lord of the Church and his apostles leave it no other option. The Church must be engaged in theology to be faithful to him. Instead, what should be of more significant concern to the Church is whether, in its engagement in theology, it is listening as intently and submissively as it should to its Lord’s voice speaking to His Church in Holy Scripture. And, most significantly, the command in the Great Commission!
In summary, the Church’s primary concern should not be whether to engage in theology but Is its theology correct? Is it orthodox? Or perhaps better: Is it biblical? How the theological task is described will be determined by the ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the individual theologian, governed by his academic qualifications, socio, economic, historical, learning, and theological situation.
The compact Tasks of Christ’s Church therefore are:
- To relate Christian Values to the Central Values, and
- Obligation to involve in the Political and Social Problems of Contemporary Life.