“Muraho.” We all echoed tentatively, “Muraho.” It was our first lesson in Kinyarwandan, one of the primary languages spoken in Rwanda. The Harkleroad family are members of our church, but currently live in Kigali and work with Rwandan Christians, training and mobilizing them for mission. A group from our church will be joining the Harkleroads in Rwanda next summer for a short-term mission experience.
I deeply believe that God desires a church animated by missional engagement. While faith is intensely personal, it should not be relegated to the private recesses of one’s heart. Rather, our faith should motivate us to live differently in the world and to make it a better place as we seek to follow and embody the way of Jesus.
At the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ final message to the disciples included this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Bible scholars have often referred to this statement as “The Great Commission” and it has been the impetus for countless missionary endeavors (both good and bad) in the centuries that followed. Missionaries like the Harkleroads have followed this call to some of the most remote places in the world in order to share the Gospel message. However, there is also word for the rest of us who haven’t discerned a call to move our families halfway around the world.
To understand that call, however, requires a brief lesson in biblical Greek. As we know, the Bible was not originally written in English. The verb translated as “go” in the Great Commission is what is known in Greek grammar as an aorist verb. The aorist tense refers to something that has happened in the past but has no clear completion. In other words, it keeps going.
As a result, many modern translators have suggested that a better translation of this passage might be “Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations…” The assumption here is that it isn’t only those special families living in a foreign land that are missionaries. We are all called to make disciples and be “on mission” with God “as we go” about our everyday lives. We are all called, not to only to preach the Good News, but to BE the Good News.
The church God desires is a missional church — a church on the move. It is not merely a building of brick and mortar, but a collection of people, filled by the Spirit, taking the Good News with them “as they go.”