If you've been a believer for any length of time, this is a Scripture that will probably be quite familiar to you, and rightly so; these are the final words of Christ during his time walking the earth. Last words are typically famous for a reason, particularly when you know they're your last words. If you only had one last chance to share a message, what would it be? Christ's last words whilst with us in the flesh were 'GO'. Spread out, spread the message, share this incredible gift! And share it all; repentance, the new life, share my promise that I'll send my presence with you and those who listen to you, now and always. What a message! What a clear, concise, life changing, far reaching, terrifying, reassuring, inspiring message.
We (the McB's), obviously went (to Asia... and stayed). But somehow it increasingly seems like we're part of an old breed, old version of Christianity. Fewer and fewer people physically 'go' places with the purpose of ensuring that every person and tongue get the chance to hear these famous last words. I've recently been pondering why and - whilst I'm sure this barely scratches the surface - I came up with two possible answers.
1. It feels wrong: In today's world, a world that's post-truth and where there's no right and wrong answers, going somewhere to explicitly tell someone what to think or not think is not a popular concept. In one sense, neither should it be. As Brits, we should take seriously the damage done by colonialism. We need to be aware of the 'white saviour' mentality, and be super careful of not falling into the trap of pride. Yes, we might have the great privilege of sharing this truth and message but that doesn't mean we have all the answers. If God is the creator of all and is omnipresent, we need to be open to discovering Him in the non-Western spaces that maybe don't sit neatly in our box of Western Christianity.
2. I can fulfil the tenants of the Great Commission without physically going anywhere: Never has this been more true than today when the world is literally on our doorsteps. If we weren't aware of that before, Brexit made us acutely aware of it. And it's so, so true - maybe the 'go' is to go outside of our comfort zone, not outside of our postcode area. This is so true AND possible but it takes an extra level of accountability to actually follow Jesus' commands where we are. Are we seeing people make that life-changing decision? Seeing baptisms? Are you meeting and learning and teaching?
Whilst the who, where and how we 'go' can take on many different forms, the history of and the why we should doesn't. Throughout the Bible, the Old and New Testament, the words 'mission' and 'missionary' never appears. And yet, there's an undeniably clear pattern of going, of being sent, of physically moving across locations. Consider Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Nehemiah (to name but a few). Consider the spread of the early church following the Great Commission, and the subsequent persecution. And consider this passage from Psalms 84:5-6 "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools."
I won't pretend to understand God's ways or why. I can't honestly say I fully know why there's this strong theme of 'going' running through Scripture, but from personal experience I can suggest two consequences of it.
1. I am NECESSARILY more dependent on God when I've left that which is familiar. For everything! It's one of the most painful, trusting places to be. Dependent for finances, for wisdom, for energy, for affirmation. There is a ton of stuff I don't understand. I'm in a culture and language that I wasn't born into and I look like a fool more often than I want to admit. But HE is my wisdom, it's HIS strength and not mine.
2. This one is harder to articulate, but is very real. When you are already so different from the community you are functioning in, it seems so much easier for people to accept answers different to how they've always done things. Watching local brothers and sisters, it's obvious that they can so easily be labelled 'rebels', 'deviants'. It seems a given that we would have different ideas, stories, wisdoms and experiences... ears seem more open when the messenger as well as the message is from a different place.
Regardless of how you obey the call to 'GO', the call is very real. It's the culmination of Jesus' ministry on earth. It's what makes us His disciples. Let me encourage you to step out, whether that's out of your postcode or your comfort zone. It's both terrifying and uncertain, but I can promise you this: IT'S WORTH IT!