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“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 inthe 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” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

These passages are so familiar to most Christ-followers that we have become numb to their significance and relevance. So I’d like to visit these passages with the idea of showing how many (myself included) have become desensitized to Christ’s command to go to all the world. I think you will see along the way why so many have called our reaction to this mandate as “The Great Omission.” 

First, let’s see that this was a personal dictate. Jesus didn’t say, “they will go.” No, Jesus “came near” (HCSB) to them and said, “[You] go!” Can you envision the scene? He huddled with them to lay out them the game plan for the expansion of His church and kingdom. And it was a personal command. They, and us by extension, are summoned to go. This is not to overlook that we are called to go in community and as the church universal, but it’s so easy to just write a check to a local or foreign missions group (and I praise God for them) or consider the church where we give a portion of the money God has generously given us to be a “missions-minded” church. But this does not exempt any of us from personally going and making disciples. We must not let our giving to (or praying for) missions replace the individual “good news journey” that’s to be an integral part of our daily lifestyle (more on that later). 

Second, this command is to be done with His power. It is His authority that makes our going come alive. It is not our own power that we go with. As ambassadors of Christ we go with His Kingly approval and authority. We must not think that there is anything else but His boundless energy that brings life-changing transformation to those who hear His Word. Though often times weary and weak in our calling to go and tell and train, we must be dependant upon Him and rely on His limitless resources to empower our going and sharing. If it is from us or about us, it is ultimately destined to fail. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

Third, we see the purpose of our going. We are to make disciples not just “converts.” Our goal (as is His) is to see people radically transformed by the Gospel. This is not just about counting those that raise their hands during an invitation, pray a scripted prayer, are baptized, or become “church members.” This is about people fully embracing His calling to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) and “take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow (absolutely surrender to) Jesus (Luke 9:23). This is where evangelism and discipleship must merge (as if they were ever designed by God to be different, segregated functions).

Which leads us to the fourth point – the practice that is part of making disciples. This practice is a lifestyle of obedience. Disciples, according to Jesus, are to observe all (not some) of His commands. They see Him not just as Savior but as Master and Lord of all aspects of their lives and being. Discipleship is not just intellectual assent to who Christ is but also capitulation to His Lordship and obedience to His commands. As John Calvin once said, “We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone.” This, in a sense, is an extension of the 3rd point. But, given the cultural landscape (Watchman Nee described American Christianity as “three thousand miles wide but only one inch deep”) we can’t overemphasize that our call is to see people drawn to the light of Christ and live in it. And this synergistically leads to multiplication and exponential growth in going and making other disciples. 

…to be continued in the next post.

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“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:1-11).

The Bible is a narrative and must be read and studied that way. The stories of the Old Testament are not isolated but are critical components in Scripture’s redemptive drama. The account of Babel is but one example of how God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, moved these prophets and writers to share things which, on the surface, seem somewhat trivial. Only by looking forward do we begin to understand why these details are included for our edification.

Yes, the account of Babel is about pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion. But it is also about how God uses the scattering of languages to bring Himself glory. This isn’t some random event – Scripture unfolds how the dispersion of people groups and the introduction of different languages and dialects would point people to the Gospel and to His greatness. We have to look forward and find, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

Let’s now go to Pentecost where we first see the church taking shape by the proclamation of the Gospel. You can read about it in Acts 2. Folks from numerous geographies with various languages had assembled for this celebration. With Holy Spirit power the disciples use this platform to announce the good news to the diverse masses. But there is a barrier to communicating to this disparate gathering – they spoke in various “tongues.” That’s because of the Babel incident that seemed insignificant, but now takes on new meaning. God knew what He was doing in Genesis 11 and the same is true in Acts 2. He now “gifts” these new believers with the supernatural ability to communicate God’s truth in these foreign languages, “tongues” that were unknown to them.

This miraculous event sparked the first revival in the church as thousands embraced the truth of Jesus and His Gospel. This also initiated the first missions campaign – these new converts went back home and indigenously shared their experience in their native tongue. Now the church’s trajectory and momentum took it outside of Jerusalem and to other people groups and lands. How supernaturally God had overcome and used the language barrier He Himself had created shows His sovereignty, and gives us a glimpse into His mysterious methods for pointing all of creation to Himself.

But the amazing narrative that started in Shinar continues. If we go further we see how the idea of scattered languages and people is further connected to the Gospel and God’s glory. You see, He dispersed them so that He could unite them in one voice and as one people, worshippers whose minds and hearts (unlike the rebels of Babel) are now, by the grace of the Gospel, focused solely on Him and His glory. Now let’s go to Revelation 5:9-14:

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

And now we see the rest of the story. God scattered sinful, rebellious humanity and created the confusion of different languages at Babel. But He did so that He could, through the Gospel, unify His redeemed into one glorious place and give them one majestic language of exultation to trumpet His glory and worship in His presence forever. From Babel to Pentecost and then to the glorious vision of the Heavenly throne, God was working out His plan that He might be glorified.


We just returned from a vacation in Rome, Italy. Since then we have often been asked, “What did you do in Rome?” I’ve been sarcastically responding, “We did as the Romans do.” Which begs other questions like: Where did this saying come from and what does it mean? Additionally, what is the spiritual application for us?

This saying is originally attributed to St. Ambrose in 387 A.D. Here’s the story behind it: When St. Augustine arrived in Milan, he observed that the Church did not fast on Saturday as did the Church at Rome. He consulted St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who replied: “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.” The use of the proverb in English isn’t recorded until much later – well into the Middle Ages.  The comment was changed then to “When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done.” Later Robert Burton used a variation of the phrase in his Anatomy of Melancholy. This work was first published in 1621. Burton makes oblique reference to the saying, without using it explicitly when he writes: “…like Mercury, the planet, are good with good, bad with bad. When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done, puritans with puritans, papists with papists.” Eventually it became, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

And its meaning? Essentially, it is polite, and possibly also advantageous, to abide by the customs of a society when one is a visitor. It does not suggest compromise of beliefs or values but implies being flexible to certain ways of doings things that are common or unique in a particular culture. Today missiologists are involved in a practice called ethnographic research which is defined, per Wikipedia, as: “a scientific research strategy often used in the field of social sciences, particularly in anthropology and in some branches of sociology, also known as part of historical science that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture.” For the purposes of evangelism, it is the study of a culture, and its people, so that the presentation of the Gospel can be adapted (not compromised) based upon the societal nuances and customs of a certain people group.

So what is the application? Let’s look at Paul’s thoughts on this in his letter to the church at Corinth:

“For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.  For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1
Corinthians 9:17-23).

Paul here is saying that he is willing to adapt to particular styles and customs, as long as they do not compromise the purity of the Gospel or his being “under the law of Christ,” in order to facilitate the proclamation of the Gospel. With this in mind, let’s take note of some key points that should impact the way we engage those of different backgrounds with the Good News of Jesus:

  • We are stewards of the Gospel. This is of great significance and worthy of our full attention. What a great responsibility this is!
  • Our Gospel commission demands that we have a servant posture towards all. Adapting to cultural differences in deference to our own style preferences amplifies our message.
  • The goal of “doing as the Romans do” is that we might reach (win) some for the glory of the Gospel, not for the sake of adapting alone.
  • Our efforts are for the sake (glory) of the Gospel, and the God of the Gospel, not personal acclaim or gain.
  • The Gospel we proclaim is a message of unfathomable blessings – which gives us an even greater impetus to share and share in the context of our audience’s culture.

So what is your “Rome?” Is it your neighborhood or “the hood” in your city? Is it a foreign land or a co-worker that speaks in broken English? Wherever it is, may we put our prejudices and preferences aside as true servants of Christ. And go with the pure Good News, for the sake of the blessed Gospel, and for the glory of the God of the Gospel.

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