the shape of leadership

Authority, Mission, Presence

Christmas is a Great Commission season

George P Wood on December 8, 2020


The holiday season may not seem like the right time to discuss the Great Commission, but it is, and for two reasons.

First, many churches experience increased worship service attendance and expanded community outreach opportunities during the holidays. This season offers congregations occasions to share the gospel in creative and practical ways. Pastors and other church leaders need to make the most of these moments.

Second, and most importantly, the birth of Jesus Christ is a missional event. The angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream said this regarding Mary: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Decades later, Paul reminded Timothy of this “trustworthy saying”: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Therefore, whether because nonbelievers will come to church or because Christ has come to them, Christmas is a Great Commission season. As we reflect on the Commission, three elements stand out.

1. Authority: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

We live in an age of authenticity, where any authority outside the self is experienced as arbitrary and oppressive. And let’s be honest, the authorities — social, political, and even religious — have let us down far too often and in far too many ways. So, when Christ speaks of being given “all authority,” contemporary hearers get understandably worried.

Jesus has gone across all eternity to reach us.

But Christ’s authority is manger-born. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ’s authority is as one who invites rather than one who imposes. And who can reasonably resist the authority of the One who offers the riches of heaven itself? Surely, His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

2. Mission: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Eddie Aikau, a lifeguard on Hawaii’s North Shore, was famous for braving treacherous waves to save swimmers no others would attempt to rescue. When he died, Hawaiians popularized the phrase “Eddie Would Go” as a tribute to his daring compassion.

At heart, the Great Commission is the imperative of disciple making, but Jesus used three participles to explain how we do this: going, baptizing and teaching. Mission involves bringing people to faith (symbolized by baptism) and growing them in that faith (through teaching). However, neither of those activities can even begin to happen unless we start moving.

Jesus would go. Indeed, He has gone across all eternity to reach us. Will we follow Him and go too?

3. Presence: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

We typically think of God’s presence in terms of comfort. One dictionary offers two primary definitions of that word: “strengthening aid” and “a feeling of relief or encouragement.” Many of us want the latter without the former.

However, Christ offers both forms of comfort to those who follow Him in mission. Jesus strengthens to share His good news and encourages when the world’s bad news gets us low.

This holiday season especially, God is “with us” (Matthew 1:23). Let’s not keep that good news to ourselves!

This is an adapted version of the article that originally appeared in the November/December 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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