THE WHOLE CHURCH, THE WHOLE GOSPEL, THE WHOLE WORLD
“The whole Church, taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.”
This was a rallying cry that came out of a pivotal conference for the global church in 2010 through a movement called Lausanne. This organization exists to connect church leaders from around the world around the topic of how the last commands Jesus left with the church can be accomplished. In Matthew 28:18-20 it says, And Jesus came and said to them, ‘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.’
Any military person knows that when in doubt, go with the last command. Jesus left us with a command that ALL nations, ALL ethnicities, ALL languages, ALL tribes should be taken the message of his life, death, and resurrection. This last command gave us the mandate behind what Jesus had spent his last three years demonstrating--that God’s heart is for ALL people. This last command gave us a mandate behind what all of Scripture in the Old Testament pointed to--that God’s heart is for ALL people. That is the thrust behind this rallying cry: “The whole Church taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.”
Based on Jesus’ last command, as well as the rest of Scripture, it is easy to see why “the whole gospel is to go to the whole world.” It is only through the “whole gospel” that we see the “whole” story of Jesus. Without his life, death, and resurrection--all of it--we have nothing. This “whole gospel” must make its way to the “whole world.”
Over and over and over again, throughout Scripture, we see the importance of the whole world, every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, worshipping Jesus. It’s in the purpose of creation (Genesis 1:28-29). It’s in the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). It’s throughout the story of the exile, law, and establishment of Israel (Exodus 9:16, Deuteronomy 4:6-7, 1 Samuel 17:45-47). It’s in the Psalms of David (46:10, 67:1-7). It’s in the prophets (Isaiah 49:6, Habakkuk 2:10). It’s throughout the life of Christ, summarized in his last commands (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 1:8), and it’s in the promise of the victory to come (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). It’s clear that God intends the “whole gospel to go to the whole world.”
But what about the “whole church?” Is that just a way of saying that the church in the world is supposed to bring the “whole gospel to the whole world?” Or is it a way to say that the every part of the church--every member of every church--is supposed to take the “whole gospel to the whole world?” I believe it is the latter.
If it is clear that God’s goal is that the “whole gospel would go to the whole world,” then it must follow that his goal for his people, his church, is to accomplish his goal. When Jesus commanded the eleven disciples on that mountain to “make disciples of all nations,” it was something he expected to get done. It is something He expects “the whole church” to be a part of. Often people ask about God’s will and purpose for their lives is in order to get direction. A better way to find that direction may be to find out what he has already revealed through Scripture about his will and his purpose and line up their lives with that.
Some may wonder, “I’ve never left the country, and I may never leave the country. I’m not a missionary and I don’t feel called to missions, so how can this possibly apply to me?” Somewhere along the way, “missions” became a specific ministry option. We came to think that just some people are called into mission. Some people have a “heart” for missions. Some people cry when they see commercials about starving children overseas. Some people love foods from other cultures. These people, of course, are “called” into missions, and, the rest of us are “called” into other areas of ministry, or so the thinking goes.
But what if “missions” was not a specific ministry outcome, but rather the means of accomplishing what God set out to accomplish from the beginning of time--that ALL people would experience his grace and worship him forever? What if no one is “called” into missions, but instead, all are “commanded” into missions? What if the variable on the table is not “am I called into missions,” but rather “where will I live out my command into missions?” The fact remains that many will not move to another country, but the purpose of God, and by extension “the whole church,” still stands: make disciples of all nations.
That is why, as a church, we are so excited about Welcoming. In God’s grace, He has utilized the movement of people throughout history to extend his glory to the far corners of the world. Sometimes those with the gospel have gone out, either as missionaries or people traveling for business. Sometimes, as was the case with Israel in the Old Testament, people with the message of the one true God were actually taken into captivity, but they bring their message with them. Sometimes, as is the case in America today, God brings people without the message of God to those who have it.
As a church in Baton Rouge in 2016, we have an unprecedented opportunity to welcome those nations God has brought from a place without the gospel to a place that has it. As a part of “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” we can rejoice that God has brought much of the world to us.
As a church, we must not miss the opportunity we have before us. The sad fact is that 80-90% of people who come from another country to our city will never be invited into an American home. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must embrace this opportunity to the fullest. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must each ask ourselves, and God, how we are to take part in his heart for these people. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must recognize the incredible strategic potential of reaching people from the “whole world” here with the “whole gospel” and send them back to their own people to continue to expand the “whole church.”
At The Chapel, we are praying every single person who comes into Baton Rouge from another country will leave having been loved by a follower of Jesus and having had the message of Jesus explained. Baton Rouge has almost 20,000 foreign residents, and almost 2,000 international students. The task is daunting, but we have a Savior who not only commanded us to “make disciples of all nations,” but one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and one who said he will “be with us, even to the end of the age.” Through his authority and because of his presence, we can be obedient to his commands.
“The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” How will you be a part of God’s desire to see every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshipping Jesus forever? As a first step, reach out in love, in Jesus’ name, to Welcome someone from another country at your work, in your neighborhood, or at your child’s school. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is! And I hope you are encouraged to know how strategic it is. For some easy opportunities to be a part of what God is doing among the nations in our city this fall, check out our website.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine on us, that your ways may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1-2