Slogans that awakened the Church: Option or Command?

Howard Culbertson
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Image"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed" -- J. Hudson Taylor
 
In the mid-19th Century, Hudson Taylor said something obvious: Matthew 28:19-20 is not simply one item on a list of suggested activities. Those verses are the “Great Commission”--a label popularized by Taylor himself--and they are a clear command: Make disciples among all nations!
 
Taylor’s declaration reflects his missionary experience in China. Not long after arriving in Shanghai, he realized that while foreign missionaries were becoming common in China’s coastal cities, most places further inland remained untouched by the Gospel. 
 
Taylor was passionate about obeying the Great Commission and thus seeing that all of China was evangelized. He eventually had to start his own missionary-sending agency in order to get missionaries deployed in the unreached inland areas of China.
 
We live in an age of options.  We have a a choice of denominations. We have options for Bible cover colors. We have options as to which Bible translation we use. We can choose Bibles with or without study notes. We do not, however, have an option when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission through our praying, giving, mobilizing, sending and going. Obedient blievers cannot consider evangelizing all the people groups of the world to be optional. When we make Jesus Lord, we sign on to obey His every command.
 
No obedient believer can say, “World evangelism? That is not my thing.” Grammatically, the Great Commission -- whether it be Matthew 28:19-20 or Mark 16:15 or Acts 1:8 -- is an imperative. It is an order from our Lord.
 
How well the Church responds to the Great Commission will be a significant measure of how truly yielded it is to Jesus as Lord.
 
-- Howard Culbertson was professor of missions and world evangelism at Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma, U.S for 25 years. Culbertson, who formerly served as a missionary in Italy and Haiti, has published numerous articles, books, and chapters in books on missions.