Some of you have grown up in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as I have. The CLB is where we are comfortable and where many of our friends are found. We enjoy the style of worship service and revel in our understanding of law and gospel. We believe God has called us to the “least reached” people rather than to places where many others have already brought the gospel. There is so much good about the CLB that we could start believing that other denominations “just have it wrong” and unintentionally think less of them than God does.
But it can get even worse than that. Many of us have become so attached to our local congregation and its local mission that we don’t even give the shared ministries of the CLB much thought or attention. Perhaps those ministries are not something we regularly pray about and support financially. We can think and act as though the Great Commission as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew goes something like this: “Stay where you are and enjoy the love and fellowship of like-minded believers in your hometown.”
As in many areas of life where we can get sidetracked, what we gravitate toward is not “bad” in a moral sense, but rather something that, while good, is not all that God has intended and commissioned us to do. The word commission is an interesting word, but it has lost its meaning for most of us. Just looking at the word, we can see that it starts with co, which means “together, mutually.” The second part of the word is mission. That word could be defined as “purpose” or “calling” or “assignment.” We have denigrated the word to mean something that other people do in other countries to bring the gospel. What it really means is the calling or assignment that we all share in together. In the Great Commission, Jesus speaks to Christians everywhere and throughout history.
So listen with new ears to what Jesus actually said to his disciples (including us):
“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 28:18-20).
Are we going to our neighbors to disciple them in the communities where we live? Are we faithfully giving to the joint ministries of the CLB so that those whom we have sent can go to other nations to make disciples? If we are only enjoying our local congregation as a place to fellowship and be spiritually fed, rather than a place where we are equipped to make disciples, we are missing our calling. If we are actively involved in making disciples where we live but not supporting those who are taking the gospel to all the nations, then we are not fully hearing what Jesus said.
Jesus said he would build his Church upon the testimony of who he is, the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-19). It is good to remember that we are part of his Church and have been brought into fellowship through those who took his commission seriously. With God’s help, we can all take the Great Commission seriously.
I urge each of us to make disciples where we live, and support those who are doing the same around the world on our behalf.
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.