Growing up, I attended a week of church camp every year. Every year there was an iteration of the evening service focusing on responding to God’s calling to full time ministry. There would be an exciting missions message from an international worker, with pictures of lost people flashing up on the screen behind them. Scores of students would stream to the front to meet with God and to respond to this calling. It was during a service much like one of these that I responded to God’s calling on my life to serve internationally. I felt God touch my heart and ask me if I was willing to leave the comfortable, going out into the unknown for His glory. I answered yes and was so excited to be used by God! I was proud that I was part of the special group of people who God wanted to use in the Great Commission! After the service and throughout the years to come, I was given many resources to help me successfully pursue this calling.
I went to college with this international calling at the forefront of my mind. I specifically filled my schedule with extra classes and activities that would make my “ministry resume” look good and prepare me to live cross-culturally. After graduation I applied to join the Envision Taipei team and was accepted. I was so excited! I had finally made it to the missions field. God was finally going to be able to use me for His kingdom!
When I arrived in Taiwan, I began to realize that I had it all backwards. While I love Taiwan and I have seen God move in so many amazing ways since I’ve arrived, I know now that I had fixated my entire calling on the act of going.
The Great Commission often gets boiled down to options you must choose between: pray, give, or go. If you don’t have the financial resources to support missionaries, you must be a pray-er. If you have a good job with a nice paycheck, but haven’t felt called, you must be a giver and your role is boiled down to giving the church a monthly check. And if you’re one of the “lucky few”, you get to be a go-er and directly partner with what God is doing on the field.
Being one of God’s go-ers had become my identity. But when I got to the field, things didn’t look like I expected them to. I had finally “achieved” the goal God put before me, hadn’t I? I was called to be a go-er and had made it to the field. But for some reason, the field felt a lot like normal life, except for the fact that everyone was speaking Chinese and I had no clue how to do anything. It was at this moment that I realized that the Great Commission is more than pray, give, or go. Participating in the Great Commission does not mean taking on one of these three identities. The Great Commission is rather a way of life. A worldview. A set of lenses through which you see your everyday life. And out of this identity, our response will be to partner with God, which could include praying, going, giving, but also many other expressions of faith.
While I had dedicated my college career to getting on the missions field, I had not been living the Great Commission. How different would have my college campus looked if I would have been viewing it with Great Commission lenses? How many international students had I walked past thinking I was too busy pursuing “missions work” to change my schedule to meet with them? How many individuals did I not speak to about Christ because I assumed most Americans in Central Pennsylvania had already heard about Jesus? How much more could I have been used by God over my life if I would have lived the Great Commission, rather than chasing becoming a go-er?
Contrary to Western Christian culture, the title “missionary” does not exist in the Bible. The Bible mentions teachers, preachers, healers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and shepherds, but no missionaries. This is because all truly committed followers of Christ are missionaries. In Matthew 28, we see that the Great Commission was not given to particular individuals, but was given to all. Our identity and our commitment to the Great Commission is not found in our job description. Our identity is found in being children of the Almighty God. And it is out of this Holy identity that we naturally respond by engaging in whole-life mission, wherever we find ourselves.
I’ve never been to a church camp that invited aspiring business people, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, and stay-at-home moms to respond to the Great Commission in their desired field of study and work. How many students sat in their pew at church camp watching God’s chosen people go up to the front and get special attention from the staff? I can only assume that they must be thinking that God must value those people more, and if they would want to play a part in God’s mission they must relegate themselves to just giving money or saying prayers. Or, that they must go somewhere if they really loved the Father and lost people. How many more devoted lay-leaders and missions professionals would we have in the secular work environment if the church clearly demonstrated that everyone is called to the Great Commission? What would the art, educational, political, business, and medical industries look like if the church was actively commissioning artists, teachers, statesmen and women, business workers, and doctors and nurses to share the redemptive work of Christ in their various fields? The message should be, perhaps God hasn’t called you abroad, but He has called you to live out the Great Commission in the place He has placed you. How will you steward this calling?
Yes, some people GO, some PRAY, and some GIVE, but all of those roles (and more) are simply ways to partner in Kingdom work. God has so much more for us beyond this limited view of the Great Commission. You are a called one! Put on your Great Commission lenses and change the world around you (where you are, right now) for His Glory!
Nathan Conklin is serving with Envision as a two-year resident in Taipei, Taiwan. Nathan is passionate about Business as Mission and empowering people to use their positions and interests for the Glory of God. Nathan is originally from Spring Grove, Pennsylvania and in his free time enjoys playing music, exploring the beautiful country of Taiwan, and spending time with good friends.