It is good to be home. It has been an incredible three weeks for our family. The big event was our son’s wedding in the great state of Pennsylvania! It has been a crazy three weeks in our culture with racially related issues. One the one hand my heart was filled with joy and on the other hand it was burdened with the shooting over the last couple weeks. Both of these events remind us of how the message of Jesus Christ changes individuals, changes families and changes nations. Yet I wonder if many Christians have inadvertently twisted this Great Commission Emphasis.
I recently enjoyed the privilege of listening to a presentation on ministry focus. What hit me was how easy it is for existing followers of Jesus to reverse, or twist, the order of Jesus instructions to his followers in Matthew 28:18-20. What I heard was an emphasis on ministering to existing Christians with a casual add-on of the need to reach out to others. The presentation left me pondering the question, “Do the order of tasks given in the Great Commission matter?” Does it really matter if building up existing believers comes before reaching people for Christ? Now let me clarify that I believe that both evangelism and edification need to be happen. But, is there a Biblical priority? I believe that the order of the tasks does matter.
Let me share a couple of events from our trip that remind me of the importance of sharing the message of Jesus with those around us. I was reminded of the importance of the Gospel as we witnessed the union of our son and our new daughter-in-law. Part of the emotion we experienced as parents was reviewing all the memories. One that stood out to me was how the message of Jesus has radically changed our son for the better and our new daughter-in-law too. We also know that the Gospel will impact their marriage if it is the foundation. There are many wonderful experiences and opportunities that we can provide for our children, yet none is more important than them becoming a follower of Jesus.
While I was gone, I received a call from a friend, who is a deacon of a church outside the group of churches that I belong to. He called to ask me to pray for them because their small church was facing teetering under financial struggles. I learned of a local church that had stopped reaching their community with the message of Jesus. The attrition of existing members, due to death, relocation and even church problems had an impact on the church’s financial situation. A church that stops intentionally reaching people will eventually decline. I was reminded once again that the order of the Great Commission matters.
I had the privilege of attending a racially mixed congregation in Detroit this past weekend. I know that just about everyone attending was impacted by the shooting in the past weeks and how things have gotten out of hand. I was reminded of the priority of the Gospel when the African-American Pastor addressed the issues Biblically and reminded the large racially diverse congregation that the only answer is Jesus.
I am energized as we head into a week of community outreach through our Annual CLEAT Soccer Camp that the message of Jesus changes individuals, family and nations. I think the Jesus, the Prince of Peace stated it best, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson