Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission has always been a monumental moment in the scriptures, not just for Baptists, but for the universal church as well. The Great Commission is the vision and mission statement of the church and should saturate all we do. This includes how we think through our preaching and corporate worship gathering.
Preach Under the Authority of the Triune God
The Great Commission very clearly communicates to the church who has the authority in the church. The pastor is not a man preaching from his authority, or his power, and never for his name! The preacher is a man commissioned to preach under the authority of God, by His power, and for His name. This is why how we preach is of theological significance. Preaching is a theological endeavor where what we believe about God, the scriptures, humanity, and the church all come together. Each week the church is either declaring praise and worship to God or to an idol. This idol could be the pride of a communicator, it could be seeking self-empowered correction (how to sermons for the better life), and the idol could sadly just be a person’s personal preference where worshipping as one of a larger part of the body is sadly nowhere in sight.
The Great Commission reminds us who our God is, and that preaching is a trinitarian task. Each week our preaching should seek to glorify the Father by preaching the Word of God with the power of the Spirit of God! We don’t simply preach in the name of the Trinity but with the Trinity. This is why it is important for our sermons whether it’s the doctrinal series, book series, or holiday message we let the text of God the holy and trustworthy inspired scripture be the star of the sermon. This is why the preacher and the congregation must seek to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and convict us of the text.
Preach to Reach and Teach
The Great Commission should remind the preacher that each week we are to both reach and teach people. Each sermon is an opportunity for someone to hear the good news of the gospel. Each message we are to preach to “the whole world.” This means both lost and saved, men and women, poor and rich, to each political party, to each race. We preach to all of humanity because each of us shares the curse of sin and need to respond to the Word of God. Practically, this may mean someone coming to the faith or it may mean someone being sanctified to better reflect the image of Christ.
When we are preparing our sermons, we must ask how does this text point to the gospel, and what does this text teach His people about Him? Sermons are not how to messages or TED Talks. No, they are an act of corporate worship in which we come to know our Creator better. Teaching is a fundamental function of the sermon. An illustration is only useful if it helps the congregation learn what the text is teaching. If people leave the church and think how great a pastor’s stories or jokes are but fail to have learned the message being communicated, then ultimately those tools weren’t helpful.
Preach to Grow and Go
Great Commission preaching that is serious about reaching and teaching will naturally grow people to go! Each sermon should give a person an opportunity to be reached by the Word of God and convicted by His Spirit to respond. No matter if someone is coming to the faith or has been a believer for forty years, each sermon should challenge them and give them the opportunity to respond to the message that’s been delivered. Our conclusions on Sunday morning are not just opportunities for the lost to be found but also an opportunity for those who’ve been found to respond by growing to look like the one who sought them. Preaching to the whole room means seeking the lost and growing the found.
Great Commission preaching grows the church so that they can go out into their communities to share and live the gospel. As we are being sanctified by the Word and Spirit our lives should be growing to reflect the will of the Father. Each week part of responding is taking what we’ve been taught and living it out. Those who live by the Word of God can’t help but be different from the rest of the world. Great Commission preaching ends by reminding those who’ve been found that there are still people lost around them. It ends by reminding them that they are their community’s missionaries, that they are evangelists, that they are the church. This means each member is commission after each sermon to go out into the community taking the Word to the world. It means showing and living out love. Our churches need to be reminded of each message that the worship doesn’t stop as they go out these doors, but it continues in the lives they live out each day. No matter if they have been a believer forty years or forty minutes, they should be reminded to take the gospel to the lost!
This is our task each message that we preach to cultivate a community of believers that’s on fire for the Lord! Every church should have a culture of missions and evangelism it’s who we are its part of the mission we’ve been called to. It’s in this one event each where we see a beautiful portrait of the community of God gathering as one body seeking to reflect and be the image of God we were always meant to be. Part of this reflecting is going into this dying world with the love of our Creator’s creation. Great Commission preaching doesn’t pray and seek to see what God will do in the sanctuary. No, instead Great Commission preaching prays and is seeking what God will do through the people in the room throughout the week. Great Commission preach has an eye on the people who’ve not made it to the sanctuary yet.
Jim DiLavore is the Assistant to the Director of The Southwestern Center for Text-Driven Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.