“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)
At Renewal 2027 – Transformed by the Word: Reading Scripture in Anabaptist Perspectives in Augsburg, Germany 12 February 2017, the YABs committee (Young AnaBaptists) reflected on Matthew 28:19–20 from their local perspectives. The columns in this section have been adapted from their presentations.
As we are approaching 500 years of Anabaptism, it seems fitting that we should address the Great Commission with renewed vision and zeal. After all, this commission was central to the life and mission of the early Anabaptists during the Reformation. From the beginning, evangelistic preaching was a strength of Anabaptism, along with practical and applicable discipleship and a strong emphasis on community.
In the USA, Christianity has fallen asleep in Christ’s call to “make disciples of all nations.” Christians from the Global South are coming to evangelize the West, white Christians are no longer the majority and people who have never heard the gospel are coming to areas that are regarded as “Christian” instead of missionaries going to the unreached.
Today, without leaving their own cities, all believers can love and serve immigrants and international students who may have never heard the gospel.
Threats to faith
Two of the biggest threats to American Christianity, in my opinion, are pluralism and materialism. Is Jesus the only way? Is Jesus more valuable than anything in this world? Living in a comparatively wealthy, comfortable, individualistic and materialistic society, I have struggled with my answers. But I think the more our hearts say “yes,” the more we will be drawn to mission with joy.
In a pluralist, multicultural and secular society, we have become more sensitive to proselytization, and tend to regard faith as personal and private. People think that individual beliefs can be simultaneously correct and different – as long as they don’t infringe on the well being of others. “Missions” has become taboo for my generation, almost synonymous with imperialism and Western colonization.
All of us have limited beliefs about God and about how to live a holy life. My Mennonite upbringing has been challenged and stretched over the years as I have interacted with Christians from other backgrounds, and also with Muslims, Hindus and atheists. There are some things that people from other cultures understand better about God than we do. Yet despite our differences, Jesus’ message remains the same: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
How can we claim to know absolute truth? The answer to this question lies in our relationship with a person, and not in a system of thought or morality. We must present Jesus humbly without reducing his message to our own cultural traditions and baggage.
Together on the journey
What has encouraged me most is Jesus’ promise to be with us on the journey. We are not able to fulfill his call on our own. “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me,” Jesus said (John 6:44). Sharing the gospel with others in word and in deed comes down to the reality of whether we believe Jesus is who he says he is. Do we believe that he is the Son of God, the fullness of life on earth and for eternity? Do we believe that the gift of knowing him is greater than anything else?
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to move in people’s hearts and convict them, drawing them to the Father. Our job, as ambassadors of Christ, is to be faithful to his calling. We may have grown complacent in our faith, but our sovereign God continues to draw people to himself. Will we heed Paul’s reminder: “…But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?...” (Romans 10:13–15)
God continues to reveal himself to those who are truly seeking (Jeremiah 29:13). God doesn’t need us, but works through us if we are willing. Our choice is to allow him to use us to bring people into his glorious kingdom.
—Larissa Swartz is a member of the YABs committee (Young AnaBaptists). She is from London Christian Fellowship, a Conservative Mennonite Conference church in Ohio, USA.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2017