The Great Commission is one of the most frequently referred-to passages in the Bible. I’m also convinced that it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. Let’s look at the text:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” --Matthew 28:16-20The common evangelical interpretation of the Commission involves several features. First, the Commission is understood to be the driving missions statement of the church—its placement at the end of Matthew’s gospel, spoken by the post-resurrection Jesus, makes it clear that this is Jesus’ mandate to all who follow him. Second, evangelicals apply the Commission to all believers individually: it is each disciple’s responsibility to live out this mandate in his or her life. Third, the Commission is directed specifically toward reaching the lost—that is, bringing people to saving faith in Jesus. It is generally understood in terms of rescuing people from an eternity in hell. Finally, the Commission is primarily accomplished by personal witnessing—sharing one’s faith with others—in combination with supporting preaching and missionary ministries (or directly engaging in such ministries), sometimes also in combination with such “pre-evangelism” activities as service projects that are intended to gain a receptive hearing for the gospel.