Telling the World

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Felix Baumgartner had a big assignment. Jump out of a balloon 24 miles above the earth and be the first man to break the sound barrier free falling to 2500m above ground, then open his parachute and land safely. He did it – reaching 834 miles per hour, and landing securely on his feet. It was an impressive sight – though I feel for his mother, who had to watch it all live.

It was not nearly as big or as significant an assignment as is given to every one of us who is a follower of Christ. That assignment is to tell the whole world about Jesus.

My title this evening is ‘Telling the World’. That’s a phrase from our Mission Statement. We’re committed to Godly Living, Church Growth and Changing Britain – all to the glory of God. Church Growth involves two discipleship activities: telling the world and serving the church.

My focus is on Matthew 28.16-20, in which the risen Jesus gives his Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations.


The Great Commission comes hard on the heels of the resurrection of the crucified Christ. And the resurrection both proclaims and proves the gospel – the good news about Jesus. He didn’t just come through a 24 mile fall. He came through death itself – raised to a new physical and spiritual life. So the resurrection is certainly a unique event. But it is an event. It is hard historical fact.

And the death and resurrection of Jesus are at the heart of the gospel. Come back next week to our evening service with the gospel choir to hear more about that, because Ian will be speaking on ‘What is the Gospel?’ The resurrection proclaims and proves that gospel.

Another important thing to note about the context of the giving of the Great Commission is that even then some were denying the reality of this gospel-proving resurrection; some were doubting it; and others were believing and consequently worshipping their risen Lord. You can see all that in Matthew 28.11-17.

11-15 tells how the religious authorities deliberately and systematically spread lies about the disappearance of the body of Jesus from the tomb. Then, verses 16-17:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. (v16-17)

So let’s not kid ourselves that faith would have been more straightforward if only we’d been there at the time. There were deniers, doubters and believers even then, as there now.

The deniers are not so likely to be here this evening. But if that is you, then please at least be open to the possibility that your denial is based on a lie that’s been fed to you – and look again.

If you’re a doubter, then your priority should be to resolve that. And the only way is to meet Jesus in the pages of the Bible. There’s an ideal opportunity to do that, which is the Christianity Explored courses that are just getting under way. It’s not too late to join one. That’ll give you a chance to take a good close look at Mark’s Gospel and get clear. Pick up a leaflet for details. I’m aware that there’s no point in asking you to play your part in carrying out the Great Commission until you’re no longer a doubter.

If you believe and worship, then that gift of faith that you’ve been given brings a great and glorious responsibility. You’re called to be a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit to a world that needs Jesus, “who rescues us from the coming wrath”, as Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 1v10.

So that’s the context.


This is so obvious that we might miss it – like losing your glasses when they’re sitting on top of your head. But it’s crucial. Take a look at the beginning of verse 18:

Then Jesus came to them and said… (v18)

Jesus commands the apostles to tell the world and make disciples. And he commands them to teach those disciples to do what they’ve been commanded to do. So that includes telling the world. Fulfilling this Commission is part of what the apostles have to teach all nations to do. So it’s not just for the apostles, as some have taught in justifying neglect of worldwide mission. It’s for every disciple. And it’s not optional, like having pepper on your pizza. It’s core.

It’s a command that’s given direct from the mouth of Jesus. It’s not like some distant dusty regulation. For the apostles this was a face to face encounter with Jesus. And it’s still a personal command for us. Jesus is present by his Spirit, and makes his words spoken 2000 years ago live as if we’d been there on the mountain that day. It’s a word from Jesus directly in your ear.


This is what Jesus begins with – verse 18:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (v18)

“All authority has been given to me,” says Jesus. By whom? By his Father – by God himself. The resurrection is not only the victory of Jesus over death. It is his accession to the throne of heaven. So Jesus has the full authority of God. He rules not just on earth but in heaven as well.

But why does Jesus spell this out right at this moment? We need to know that Jesus rules precisely because a lot of the time it doesn’t look like it. We need to know that there is no individual and no people beyond his reach. There is nowhere that his writ does not run. Then in the light of that:


This where the rubber hits the road. Verse 19 and the first part of verse 20:

“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.” (v19-20)

This is both a collective and an individual call and responsibility. It is a call for the church, and a call for the disciple. We are not alone in this – we’re alongside one another. We mustn’t forget that – but neither must we off-load our personal responsibility on to others.

And it’s clear that making disciples will involve four things: going, telling, baptising and teaching.

Going – whether they’re near or far, we have to cross the bridges of God into the hearts and minds of men and women who don’t yet know Jesus.

Telling – there can be no avoiding actually talking about Jesus. Without that, no one will learn the first thing about him.

Baptising – that’s the symbol of leading people into an experience of living faith and of the family of God, the body of Christ. Baptism is the outward sign of the beginning of the Christian life. And let me say, if you’re a disciple of Christ and you’re not yet baptised, then it’s high time that you were. There’s an opportunity coming up on Sunday evening 11th November, just 3 weeks from now. See the yellow notice sheet, and contact me as soon as possible about that if that’s for you.

Going, telling, baptising – and then teaching. We are to teach people not to know only, but to obey. Discipleship is not about the mind only (though it is that), but about the whole of life, both our thinking and our behaviour.

We are to teach people a trinitarian knowledge and experience of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Creator, the Redeemer and the Life-giver. Discipleship relates to the life of the individual (that’s the focus of Godly Living in our mission statement). It relates to the life of the church (that’s Church Growth). And it relates to the whole life of the world (for us, that’s Changing Britain).

This teaching to obey is a continuous process. A disciple is one who is learning – not one who learnt a thing or two in the past. Life-long learning is something of a buzz word in educational circles nowadays. But that’s exactly what a disciple of Jesus needs to be doing and we mustn’t just pay lip service to it. The process of making disciples that Jesus commands us to engage in is a process of learners teaching learners.

That’s the heart of the Great Commission. We are to work together to make disciples of all people everywhere. And we are to do it in the sure knowledge that:


It is with that reassurance that Jesus ends. Verse 20:

“And surely I am with you always, to the end of the very end of the age.” (v20)

Just as the rule and authority of Jesus are often hidden from view, so is his presence. But our knowledge of his presence with us doesn’t depend on the experience of his presence. Rather, it depends on the experience of faith, that is, believing his promise that he is always there amongst us and beside us and going ahead of us wherever or to whomever we go. The process of telling the world is one we do hand in hand with the Holy Spirit.

That’s challenging – because there’s no let up. We must constantly push on with the task ‘to the very end of the age’. It’s not going to be easy. Taking up our cross precedes resurrection. Suffering comes before glory. So the presence of Jesus at our shoulder is a challenge.

But it’s also profoundly empowering and comforting. When we’re in the thick of that tricky conversation, we’re not alone. When we’re out of our comfort zone running an evangelistic event, we’re not alone. When we’re leading a small group Bible study with those who are not yet believers, we’re not alone. When we’re struggling with our witness to our children, desperate for them to learn from us what it means to follow Jesus, we’re not alone.

We have to do the talking, but we’re never required to change anyone’s heart and mind. We can’t. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. And as we’re talking, that’s what he’s working at. We’re not alone. And we never will be. Jesus is and always will be with us. That’s a promise.

So, to my final heading:


What’s this all going to mean for us in our day to day lives? I’ve itemised there on my outline a number of approaches that we can work to build into our lives. If we do these things, we’ll be Great Commission disciples. We’ll be playing our part in spreading the good news of our Lord and Saviour Jesus to the ends of the earth and to all peoples. Here they are.

Commit yourself to being a learner. We can only pass on what we have learned and are learning ourselves. Learn to understand your faith. Learn to obey everything Jesus has commanded you. Drip feed the Bible into your mental and spiritual blood stream and let it fuel the way you live your life. Commit yourself to being a disciple – a learner.

Let it be known that you’re a Christian – a disciple of Christ – in all of the different social networks of which you are a part – at work, at school, at university or college, in your sports teams, among your friends and extended family, among those you meet during leisure activities. If you’re not coy about your involvement in church, that will happen naturally and quickly enough. Then the fact is that because you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, your life is different. And that gets noticed. And the power of the witness of your different life must not be underestimated, once people know the root of it – that you have spent time with Jesus.

Then as issues come up in conversation – whether or not they’re explicitly related to faith – be ready to respond as a Christian. Let your convictions show when they’re relevant, naturally and without forcing it. And be ready to answer the direct questions about faith that do sometimes crop up, sometimes unexpectedly and from unexpected people. When they ask, tell people why you are they way you are and why you behave the way you do. Be ready to do that, so you’re not taken by surprise and miss the opportunity. And when we do miss the opportunity, as we will, then we should just say sorry to God, confident of his grace and forgiveness, and wait for the next one.

Then use the resources of the church and invite people to hear the gospel – whether that’s to normal church (so to speak), or an invitation event, or a small group format like Christianity Explored. Pick an event that’s suitable for the person concerned, and go for it. Invite them. And leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.

As opportunity arises, ask someone if they’d like to find out more and read the Bible with you. That’s a step further down the line, and such opportunities might be few. But be on the look out for those you encounter who might just welcome such an offer. And get what help you need if, scarily, they say ‘yes’! That might mean bringing them along with you to a Christianity Explored group. Or getting some advice from someone who’s done more of that kind of thing than you have. Or finding some suitable Bible study materials that you could use with them as a framework for reading the Bible and learning from it together.

Be ready to be a missionary anywhere. That might well be right where God has put you. Certainly that’s where you are to be a missionary at least for now. It might be the other side of the world. It might be somewhere like Marsabit in Kenya, as it has been for Bishop Robert. It might even be the south of England! But make yourself available to God to go wherever he sends you. How else is the gospel going to reach all nations? And remember that if you’re a disciple, then you’re a missionary – wherever you find yourself, and whatever your day job. It goes with the territory. We’re all called to the task of making disciples of all nations.

Finally, be ready to consider full-time ‘harvesting’ work. Jesus said (this is Matthew 9.37-38):

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9.37-38)

Maybe God’s plan is that you should be one of the full-time workers. It’s not for everyone. But be ready to think long and hard about whether it’s for you. If you think it might be, then start talking about it to those you trust, to get advice. Think about going on one of the conferences run by 9:38, of which Ian Garrett is a leader. There’s one in November for those post-student age, and one in December that Ian runs for students. Pick up a leaflet from the Welcome Desk.

Whether or not we’re called to that kind of full-time ministry, we’re all full-time disciple-making disciples. We’re all called to play our part in making disciples of all nations. Telling the world is a daunting task. Maybe it makes you feel like you imagine Felix Baumgartner must have felt standing at the edge of his balloon 24 miles up, waiting to step off into space. In fact it’s a much bigger thing we’re called to do. But we go in the name of Jesus who is Lord of all. And wherever we go, he is there with us.

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