EDITOR’S NOTE: Danny Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
WAKE FORST, N.C. (BP) — Last words are meant to be lasting words, words that make an impact — and Christ’s Great Commission of Matthew 28:18–20 certainly does that!
As a Southern Baptist, I am committed with my brothers and sisters in our convention to obeying the Lord Jesus’ last words. As a Great Commission people, we rightly focus on the “outer edges” of lostness, the underserved and unreached people groups of the world.
We are told that there are 7.3 billion people on planet Earth, with 11,489 distinct people groups. Of these, 6,832 are “unreached people groups” totaling a shocking 3.78 billion persons who have either inadequate access or no access to the Gospel. Such people will likely be born, live, die and spend eternity separated from God without ever hearing a clear presentation of the Gospel.
It is right, even imperative, for us to focus on and give serious attention to these people.
I am convinced, however, that one of the most biblical and strategic ways to impact the world’s lostness is to look closer to home, much closer. For mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, obeying the Great Commission should begin in the home, though it should certainly not end there.
We should begin our obedience to the Great Commission in the home, first, because it is biblical.
Jesus informs us in Matthew 22:37 that the Greatest Commandment is, “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He is, of course, quoting the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. Bracketing the Shema is the instruction that this commandment is to be taught to children by their parents and their grandparents. Jesus then notes that the second Great Commandment is like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). “All the Law and the prophets,” He tells us, “hang on the two commandments.” Teaching our children all that He has commanded would certainly be grounded in the two great commandments. The close relationship of the Great Commission to the Great Commandments is clear. They are interconnected and must not be separated. They are mutually reinforcing.
We should begin our obedience to the Great Commission in the home, second, because it is strategic.
I am confident most pastors and seminary professors would agree that good theology and good missiology are more caught than taught, though both are necessary. Therefore, the vital role a father and mother (and grandparents!) play in conveying and modeling a missional life for their children cannot be overemphasized. It is crucial and in many instances decisive.
Most children look up to, admire and follow in their parents’ footsteps. When teenagers are asked to name their number one role model, parents generally top the list. In January 2015, stageoflife.com surveyed teenagers on the topic of “unsung heroes.” Parents ranked number one. In 1998, Newsweek magazine reported the same thing. The fact is, our children do care what we think, they do listen to what we say, and they pay a whole lot of attention to what we do!
So, in the context of the Great Commission, what do they hear you saying? What do they see you doing?
Parents who model and talk about giving their lives for the sake of the lost around the world will likely, by God’s grace and for His glory, see their children grow up to follow in their footsteps. Parents, what you love, they will love. What you value, they will value. What you have a passion for, they will have a passion for. After all, you are their heroes!
The question before us as parents and grandparents is clear: What will we do to embed the Great Commission into the DNA of our children and grandchildren so that they may have a lifelong passion for making disciples of all nations — the very passion of King Jesus?
I believe there are concrete and even simple steps for accomplishing this weighty task — reading missionary biographies as a family, bringing actual missionaries into your home and praying for missionaries, just to name a few. However, I am convinced of this: It will not happen accidentally. It will require thoughtful and purposeful effort to live out this submission to Christ in our lives and homes.
Will you join me in thinking and working intentionally to build Great Commission families at home so we can walk faithfully in Christ’s last and lasting words: “make disciples of all nations”? It is biblical. It is strategic. Let’s get to work!