KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Speaking to students of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary midway through the fall semester on Oct. 19, Tennessee pastor Jerry Sutton directed their attention to the Great Commission of Matthew 28. “There’s a tendency for all of us, when it comes to crunch time in school, to forget why we’re here,” Sutton said, warning that the pressure of tests, books and papers can cause students to forget the big picture.
“I want to remind you of God’s agenda, what’s the purpose, and why God has brought you to Midwestern Seminary at this time in your life,” Sutton said.
Sutton is pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville and author of “The Baptist Reformation,” a Broadman & Holman release that Midwestern’s interim president, Michael Whitehead, called “the very best history of the Southern Baptist controversy.”
In delivering the Great Commission, Sutton said, Jesus first gave an affirmation of his own authority. “He says, ‘Guys, I have the final say-so in everything there is — whether it’s in heaven or earth.’ The one with all authority gives us the great assignment,” Sutton said.
For all who name the name of Christ, Sutton said God wants them to bring as many people as possible into a right relationship with the Son of God, his church and his Word. Recalling a song from his childhood missions education class, Sutton quoted, “Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in His sight.”
“The gospel’s for the whole world and not just those of us who grew up in the good old U.S.,” Sutton said. Every ethnic group has the right to hear the gospel, he insisted. And while convinced that “it’s glorious to have somebody saved,” Sutton said, “It’s imperative they be assimilated into the body of Christ by leading them into a right relationship with the church.”
The assignment of teaching new believers includes bringing people “to a place where they understand what Christ has commanded and then go and practice it,” Sutton continued.
Jesus also offers “the great assurance,” Sutton said, extending comfort until the end of the age. “If you’re in a struggle, if it’s tough, if you’re facing an uphill battle, Jesus said, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m still with you.'”
Sutton told students they should learn to personalize the Great Commission. “Wherever God places you, he puts you there for a certain time and certain place to make an impact on people.” In order to practice the Great Commission, students must give it priority, he added.
“We get so wrapped up in the cluster of the community of the faithful that we don’t even know lost people,” Sutton warned, asking students to pray for the lost by name.
He further urged them to be willing to pay for the Great Commission to be accomplished. In introducing Sutton, Whitehead noted that the Nashville church contributes $3 million to the Cooperative Program and an additional $2 million to mission causes.
“When you’re in seminary, you’re living hand to mouth,” Sutton acknowledged. “But right now in the crunch time God’s going to be asking you if you’re faithful now. A lot of times we’re not faithful in those preparation times and then we get called to a church and say, ‘You all ought to be faithful.’ You ought to never ask anybody to do something you’re not doing.”
Sutton also spoke of the need for students to be passionate in fulfilling the Great Commission and to plan for it to be accomplished. “God could have chosen to send the message through angels or write it in the stars or skies, but his method is to use people like you and me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the intention of seeing lost people converted to him.
“God is still calling, equipping, empowering and glorifying himself through us. Don’t lose sight of the agenda,” Sutton said.