Matthew 28:19a
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

For the Twelve, “Go” became the manifesto governing their lives. They all had jobs, interests, and hobbies, but at Jesus’ command every concern yielded to “Go”.

The directive is the marching orders for all believers, the defining edict of our lives. We are not afforded the luxury of influencing only those who happen to come our way.

“Go” means we believers must leave our ruts to find prechristians. We have to quit moving only in our daily routines. Jesus said lost sheep are scattered. Hence, we have to scatter to find them.

Frederick Sampson spent a summer on his uncle’s farm. The first morning, his uncle woke him at 4 a.m. and set him to work around the barn. He cleaned stalls, fed horses, and carried water. He finished four hours later, was exhausted, and started climbing back up to his bed in the hayloft. His uncle asked, “Where are you going?” “To bed.” “Why?” “I’ve finished my work.” Frederick never forgot what happened next. His uncle leaned over, put his finger in his nephew’s face, and said, “Son, I’m going to tell you something I don’t want you ever to forget. What you do around the barn is chores, what you do in the fields is work.”

Churches excel in chores. We do well inside our spiritual barns, our church houses. We know how to take care of ourselves. Church members do not hesitate to clamor for their rights and privileges. Who in your church is assigned to speak for the lost?

“Go” applies to work in harvest fields. In chores we minister to each other as believers, in work we perform an unselfish act of worship by trying to reach the lost for God.

We must go out among prechristians in our local communities, and try to win them. To sit idly by and wait for them to come to us is a strange way to go, an odd notion of how to seek lost sheep.

Few hunters sit in their kitchen and wait for ducks to fly through. Fishermen don(t sit on their back porch and hope a fish will swim by.

Farmers don’t stand at the fence-row and summon a crop to come in. My dad, a cotton farmer, once picked 2290 pounds in one week (514 in one day) to buy Mom a 21-jewel Bulova watch. Dad did not stand inside the barn and beckon, “Here, cotton; this way, cotton; come jump into my sack, cotton.” He had to go out among the cotton stalks. We too have to move, overcome inertia, and draw near sinners.

The Gospel is carried not by come or osmosis, but by go. It has to be picked up, carried, and delivered, not only locally, but also globally. The Christian pilgrimage is never a journey to one location. The Acts 1:8 challenge requires us to accept responsibility for many places.

The Twelve, first buck out of the shoot, learned they were to be itinerants. The road was their platform, every human being their audience.

To Christians, geography has to matter. True spirituality entails keeping next to our Bibles not only street guides, but also road atlases and globes. If we’re not praying over our cities and our world, then pray tell, who are we praying for? Without a systematic method of intercession, we will end up praying for “me, my four, and no more.”

“Go” brings us face to face with one of Southern Baptists’ worst misinterpretations of Scripture. We have historically interpreted the command to go as meaning go and stay, but they are not the same. Very few believers have the special, specific call to go and stay, but all Christians are to go.

Many have used, and still use, this grievous misinterpretation, equating go with go and stay, as a loophole to not have to go on short-term mission trips. Jesus’ intent is clear. He expects all believers to spend their lives going to their state, nation, and world.

The Great Commission is not given to mission boards, conventions, associations, local churches, or Sunday School classes. These are all support groups, existing to help individuals, including pastors, the ones to whom the Great Commission is given.

For me, going has become the noble cause. I’m glad I lived long enough to find it. Too few discover it.

The missions revival at Second has become the epic event in the 119-year history of our church. The adventure has unveiled many surprises for us, one of the most notable being, the life you’ve always dreamed of lies hidden in the mission you’ve always dreaded.

Before the Damascus Road experience, Paul would have scorned any notion of becoming a Christian. Peter never dreamed of eating an unclean animal or mingling with Gentiles.

The reason we create our own personal taboos is, the devil knows us well and plays on our fears. He leads us to build impenetrable walls that keep us from what would be our best effort for Jesus.

Being on mission requires a new and profoundly different way of thinking. We must face and overcome our self-created hurdles and barriers.

Most believers, taking their cue from unbelievers, think superficially, believing they want comfort and ease. Much discontent in our lives is due to considering life shallowly. From our deepest, innermost essence a more meaningful voice cries out, trying to be heard.

The Holy Spirit, in each believer, ever calls us to undertake the gallant challenge of go. He may be forced to appeal from a depth of being where we have buried Him too deep to be heard, but He calls nonetheless. A Christian’s heart can be satisfied only by heeding the summons to heroism in going to prechristians.

We asked one of our most gifted laymen to oversee our first Gospel Impact Celebration. He said no, but as he left our church, he recalled an incident from when he was about ten years old. His mom took him to a WMU meeting where a foreign missionary spoke. The boy was so moved that he had to run outside into the woods to cry at the foot of a tree. As the man drove from our church, after telling us no, he said God seemed to say, “Milton, what happened to the boy under the tree?” He was so overcome that he had to pull to the side of the road while he wept. Once he composed himself, he called our office and said he had changed his mind. He would gladly take charge of our Global Impact Celebration.

Many others could tell a similar story. What happened to the softhearted person that used to live in your skin?

I can remember when Southern Baptists were sad, rather than mad, about lostness. We have been in a thirty-year temper tantrum over lostness, mad at lost people for acting like lost people.

I recall wailful praying for unbelievers. It’s time we care more, and prove our concern by going more.

How are you and I doing in going to our state, nation, and world? For years I believed if I stayed in Springfield and focused on church growth, God would be pleased. I had blinders on, which kept me from seeing the obvious in the Bible.

We claim we want to be like Jesus. If this is true, we will go on many short-term mission trips.

His whole ministry was spent in going on short-term mission trips from home base in Capernaum. Later, He gave the Great Commission five times. It is impossible to follow Jesus’ example or obey His commands without going.

To have God’s heart, we must go. In the incarnation, God showed what should be done for sinners far away. God had only one Son. He had Him go. Can we do less? (Oswald Smith).

Jesus emptied Himself and left His Heavenly home to win the lost. Let(s fill a suitcase and leave our earthly homes to do the same. As long as people remain in darkness, we must all go carry light to them.

We all have to go, joining God’s bucket-brigade to convey living water. I was surprised when I first saw an antique water bucket used in fire-bucket brigades. Its bottom was round, not flat. Each time I sat it down, it fell over, it wouldn’t stand up.

I got the message. When a fire’s going on, you don’t put your water bucket down. Folks, an everlasting fire’s going on. We need to be in God’s fire-bucket brigade.

By praying we draw power from God’s well of anointing. By giving we pass water buckets hand to hand, in support of missions.

After we pray and give, we all still have to go to the end of the line to throw water on the fire. There aren’t enough missionaries to get the job done.

Few believers are called to go and stay, to do missions long term. All are called to go short-term to their city, state, nation, and world. There has to be contact with people we seek to save. We all need to deliver living water in person.

Elbert Smith, IMB missionary in Mexico City, says a new believer, a young lady named Reina, asked what happens after we die. Elbert spoke of Heaven, but Reina interrupted, “What happens when people who don’t know Jesus die?” Elbert gently explained there’s no purgatory, no second chance after death. He could tell the conversation was turning toward Reina’s ancestors. In cultures where ancestors are revered, this is a huge, somber matter for new believers. Reina pressed the point, “What happened to my grandmother who died before she heard about Jesus?” Elbert replied as softly as he could, “I’m sorry, Reina, Jesus is the only way.” Reina took a moment to take it all in, and to collect herself, and then asked, “Who was supposed to come and tell my grandmother?” Elbert says he mumbled something, but didn’t have an answer.

I too don’t have an answer. A possible thought haunts me. Maybe it was supposed to be me. What if the missions revival had started sooner? Maybe it was supposed to be you. You cannot alter the past, but can commit to re-direct your future.

For today’s missions challenge, USA churches have been honed. We are in a state of decline, but like a beautiful flower, our USA churches’ last glorious act could be to cast Gospel seed to all the earth. This may be the one last great cause left for USA churches to do. Let’s heroically give ourselves to missions.