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What if Jesus had given a different “great commission”?
Imagine the scene. The eleven disciples are likely still reeling from the dizzying effects of the last few weeks: betrayal, murder, failure, suicide, disillusionment, doubt, and now appearances of hope. Perhaps because they have no where else to turn, they find their way to “Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go”, and there he is. They see him and do all they know how to do–they worship and doubt.
Unwilling to let them merely look on him from a distance, Jesus “came to them” and issues perhaps the most compelling command in history– “Go and make disciples of all nations…”– and though impossible to believe at the time, their actions set in motion a movement that will one day fulfill that command.
But what if Jesus had followed conventional wisdom and given a different command?
Consider what Jesus could have said. Instead of “go and make disciples of every nation”, could he not have said, “Go back to the 120 disciples in Jerusalem and focus on them…”
If I’m honest, that’s likely what I would have said–focusing attention on what was already and attempting to build on that.
But Jesus was (and is) an apostolic genius, and here we see that brilliance on full display. Rather than focusing his disciples on what was (the 120 disciples in Jerusalem), he unswervingly commands them make disciples of all nations, and in a moment reframes our starting place for apostolic mission–not what is, but what isn’t yet. Fundamentally, it’s a question of “what are we responsible for?”, and Jesus’ answer is a resounding “all of it!”
Own The Whole Field
In the Central Region of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, we’ve been trying to apply this principle and “own the whole field” that God has entrusted to us, and it’s changing the way we do ministry.
Four years ago, our region was nearly barren. We had work on only twelve campuses in our four state region (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska); staff morale was low, and momentum on campus was lower.
But in 2008, we launched a new planting vision:
“to see a movement of missional communities planted in our ‘Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth’”
And God started to bring renewal. Four years later, we’ve almost doubled in size and now have work on almost 30 campuses across our region–the harvest has been plentiful, and our staff team has rejoiced at the fruit God has brought.
But there are 220 campuses in our region, and that reality has been messing with us in some very good ways.
It would be reasonable for us to focus our energies merely on the thirty chapters we have already–there’s no shortage of students to be reached and discipled right where we are, but in an attempt to obey the “all nations” mandate of Jesus’ commission, our regional staff team has committed to explore and pray on 70 new campuses this year in the hopes of recognizing Jesus at work on campuses we never even knew existed.
What we are learning
Owning the whole field is still new to us (it wasn’t until this year that we even knew for sure how many campuses were in our region!), but it is reshaping how we think about our mission. Here’s some of what we’re learning about owning the whole field:
- It demands presence and proximity. We simply can’t know what God is up to in the far reaches of our territory until we’re there with our feet on the ground. Jesus’ command to his disciples was to “GO!”, and our first step is the same–we simply start showing up in new places and looking for Jesus at work.
- It requires scalable multiplication–addition simply won’t cut it. Merely planting new things isn’t enough, we need to plant things that plant things that plant things. When every community in our network is a planting agent, reaching every campus in our region becomes a real possibility.
- It releases creative collaboration. Part of what we’ve found as we’ve set foot in new places is that often, God has been at work giving vision to local volunteers long before we arrive–our presence merely catalyzes something God has already been doing and our task is to empower and equip them to pursue the vision God has given them!
- It produces humble dependence. When we take the whole field mandate seriously, it almost immediately leads us beyond our ability to control and manage every detail where we are dependent on Holy Spirit to help us “surf the edge of chaos”.
So, what about you? Has you “owned the whole field” that God has entrusted to you? Maybe it’s every campus in a region, or every neighborhood in a city, but one of the key steps in catalyzing an apostolic movement is taking responsibility for every corner of the territory God has given you. Here’s some quick next steps:
- Survey your territory and compile your “every nation” list–be specific!
- Start showing up in new corners and look for Jesus at work.
- Use your networks to look for local partners who want to help start something new!
PS…The map above is a real map of every campus in our region–if any of you have contacts on campuses where we don’t currently have work who might be interested in starting something new, please contact me via comments, twitter (@jonhietbrink), or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
[You can also learn more about me as an A.P.E. leader by reading my introductory post]