The Great Commission: The Mission of The Navigators

by Lorne Sanny (former President of The Navigators), reprinted from “The Compass”, September 1981

Just before Jesus left earth and ascended into heaven He gave some last instructions. These were in the form of a commission, which we call the “Great Commission” . . . words to be obeyed by all Christians for all time to follow.

He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . .” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Often young people ask me, “Mr Sanny, what motivates you?” I say, “There are lots of things that I wish would motivate me, but don’t. But one thing that does for sure is obedience to Jesus Christ.

The Lord has told us as Christians to do certain things. Some day we will stand before Him and He will ask what we did about what He told us to do. He will ask us about our response to His marching orders which we call the “Great Commission.” We must be prepared to answer.

I feel the commission is in two parts: to preach and to teach. To preach the Gospel to those who are not Christians and then to teach, or build up, those who are already Christians.

Unless non-Christians are being reached and Christians are being built up in the faith, we are off the track.

One of Abraham Lincoln’s generals was obsessed with the idea of capturing Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the confederacy. The only problem with this was that the Confederate Army was not in Richmond.

Had he captured Richmond, what would he have? Only Richmond, Virginia. Only real estate. That’s all. And the objective of war is not to capture real estate— it is to engage the enemy in combat and to defeat them.

I feel that many of us in the Christian life are simply occupying real estate. The question is, Are we engaging the enemy in combat? Is anyone being won to Christ’s side? Is anyone being built up in the faith? That is our job. And Jesus said we are to do it in all the world. Matthew 28 says, “all nations”, Mark 16 says, “all the world”; Luke 24 says, “all nations”; and Acts 1 says, “to the end of the earth.”

This is something Christ has told us— commanded us— to do. We must be obedient to this.

How can you tell if a Christian is really on target? If he is concerned about Christ’s “Great Commission.” If he is really concerned about being in the battle and building up the saints.

Listen to what Christians talk about, to the problems that concern them. Do they discuss front line problems or rear echelon problems?

If you ask a soldier on the front line how things are going, he may say, “Well, its pretty rough up here. We’re attacking that hill. We sent a few men up and some have been hit . . . I think one is my buddy. But we can’t get to him. Listen, when you get back there tell them to send up more ammunition, we’re running short.” Front line problems.

You go back to the rear. “How are things going, men?”

“Terrible. My tent leaks. I had sand crab in my boot this morning. The guy next to me snores.” Rear echelon problems.

What are your concerns? What we talk about most displays whether or not we are concerned about the last marching orders of Jesus Christ . . . His “Great Commission.”

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