Slogans about world evangelism that stir hearts and move people to action

1. Christ's Great Commission -- An option or a command?

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed" -- J. Hudson Taylor

In the mid-19th Century, Hudson Taylor said something obvious: Matthew 28:19-20 is not simply one item on a list of suggested activities. The words of Jesus are the "Great Commission" -- a label popularized by Taylor himself -- and they are a clear command to make disciples among all nations!

Taylor's declaration reflects his missionary experience in China. Not long after arriving in Shanghai, he realized that while foreign missionaries were becoming common in China's coastal cities, most places further inland remained untouched by the Gospel.

Taylor was passionate about obeying the Great Commission and thus seeing that all of China was evangelized. He eventually had to start his own missionary-sending agency in order to get missionaries deployed in the unreached inland areas of China.

We live in an age of options. We have a a choice of denominations. We have options for Bible cover colors. We have options as to which Bible translation we use. We can choose Bibles with or without study notes. We do not, however, have an option when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission through our praying, giving, mobilizing, sending and going. Obedient believers cannot consider evangelizing all the people groups of the world to be optional. When we make Jesus Lord, we sign on to obey His every command.

No obedient believer can say, "World evangelism? That is not my thing." Grammatically, the Great Commission -- whether it be the woreding in Matthew 28:19-20 or the verses in Mark 16:15 or Acts 1:8 -- is clearly an imperative sentence. It is an order from our Lord.

How well the Church responds to the Great Commission will be a significant measure of how truly yielded it is to Jesus as Lord.

    -- Howard Culbertson

Audio of Matthew 28:18-20

More mini-essays in the "Slogans that awakened the Church" series that appeared in Engage magazine.

The conversion of James Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission out of his zeal to move beyond the coastal cities to vast unreached interior of that Asian country

"For a time in his early teens it seemed that young Taylor might not respond to the family tradition and to his rearing. To be sure, in later years he said that many times he had tried to make himself a Christian but had failed and that when he was about 14 years of age he had given himself to God. However, some months later he began to think that he could not be saved and that he had best take his 'fill of this world.'

"It was in this frame of mind that he worked for a time in the local bank. There, under the influence of associates, he became skeptical and gave to himself as the reason the inconsistencies of Christians, who, professing to believe the Bible, actually lived as though there were no such book. Then, when seventeen, in other words not too far from the age at which Carey and Mills were struggling their way to faith, came a transforming experience.

"One holiday, while alone in his father's library, Taylor picked up a gospel tract hoping for an interesting story before the inevitable moral at the end. As he read, the phrase the finished work of Christ caught his attention. He asked himself: 'What is finished?'

"Reared as he had been, the answer came quickly to him: 'A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin; the debt was paid by the Substitute; Christ died for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.' Then flooded in the joyous conviction that if the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, all that was left for him to do was to accept it. That he did and fell on his knees, praising God.
     "He soon discovered that at that very hour in a distant town his mother, driven by an inner compulsion to pray for him, had had the quiet assurance that her prayer had been granted. A little later he also learned that his sister Amelia had for exactly a month been praying for his conversion. All of this helped to give him a confidence in concrete answers to explicit requests in prayer."
  — from Kenneth Scott Latourette, These Sought a Country, p. 64

Taylor's call to inland China

"On Sunday, June 25th, 1865, unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing from lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual agony; and there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service.

"I told Him that all the responsibility as to issues and consequences must rest with Him; that as His servant, it was mine to obey and to follow Him — His to direct, to care for, and to guide me and those who might labor with me. Need I say that peace at once flowed into my burdened heart?

There and then I asked Him for twenty-four fellow-workers, two for each of eleven inland provinces (of China) which were without a missionary, and two for Mongolia; and writing the petition on the margin of the Bible I had with me, I returned home with a heart enjoying rest such as it had been a stranger to for months, and with an assurance that the Lord would bless His own work and that I should share in the blessing."

   — J. Hudson Taylor, quoted by Kenneth Scott Latourette in These Sought a Country, p. 74

    -- Howard Culbertson


More on the Great Commission: Did the Apostle Paul believe in the Great Commission?    Susan Fitkin's challenge     Jonah and God's missionary heart    Fulfillment in our generation?    Bible passages relevant to Great Commission fulfillment    Historical context
Doing missions well: Biographical sketches     Fiery world evangelism sayings    World missions slogans   Ideas shaping world mission outreach today<

World missions history resources:    Black Americans involvement in world missions     World missions history crossword puzzle    Historic world missions slogans    Brief overview of world mission history     Monastic missionary strategy     Nazarene Missions International history     PowerPoint: Epochs of world mission history     World mission outreach from 1600 to the present    Missions history course syllabus    Year-by-year timeline of world missions outreach happenings     Today in world missions history     Evangelizing the Vikings    William Borden's story