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Our Obligation to the Nations: The Gospel and the Great Commission

David Platt

David Platt, president, International Mission Board. Image courtesy of IMB.

Imagine over six thousand people groups—spanning billions of individual people—who have yet to even hear that God loves them. Some of them have never even heard the name of Jesus.

Meanwhile, Jesus has given us, as His followers, a clear command: 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, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19–20).

We call this command the “Great Commission” and the Gospel the “Good News” of what God has done in Christ. We owe this Gospel to the world. As Paul said in Romans 1:14, we are “obligated” to tell the nations this Good News. Believers this side of heaven owe the Gospel to lost men and women this side of hell.

But do we really believe Jesus was serious in His commission to us? And do our actions, our decisions, our use of resources, and our lives show that we are serious about getting the Gospel to people who have never heard it?

“The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time,” Christian theologian Carl Henry said.

In order to get the Gospel to people all over the planet on time, the IMB is focused on exalting Christ, mobilizing Christians, serving the church, and completing the Great Commission.

Exalting Christ

More than anything else, we want to exalt Jesus Christ in everything we say, think, and do. Jesus must be at the center of any mission strategy. After all, the beauty of the Great Commission is that Christ promises to be the One who will accomplish this mission through us. Remember, He said, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

We exalt Christ when we trust His Word. God’s Word is the authority for what we believe and how we operate. Our aim in missions is not to come up with plans and ask God to bless them, but to align with the plan He has already promised to bless. That plan is to make disciples and multiply churches in all nations, and we exalt Christ when we obey His plan.

More than we want our own lives, we want the glory of Christ among all nations. We’re captivated by a vision of Him high and lifted up, receiving the praise He is due from all the peoples of the earth. His exaltation is what drives us in our mission.

David Platt

David Platt addresses IMB trustees in Richmond, Virginia, for the first time as IMB president. Image courtesy of IMB.

Mobilizing Christians

In order to exalt Christ, we must see our lives as uniquely designed and ultimately blessed for this purpose. The reason why we have breath, and the reason why we have the Gospel, is to make His grace and His glory known to the ends of the earth. That means that global mission is not a compartmentalized program in the church for a select few who are called to that. Instead, global mission is the purpose for which each one of us was created.

Throughout the history of IMB, twenty thousand missionaries have been sent out—and we praise God for that! But we need twenty thousand right now. And our task is too great not to be thinking like that. Such thinking is not idealistic. It’s imperative.

IMB desires to help followers of Christ with different skills and gifts, in different locations, with different jobs, all realizing that we have a role to play in the global mission of God.

Serving the Church

Biblically, the local church is the agent that God is going to use to accomplish the Great Commission. Therefore, our role at the IMB is to come alongside local churches to equip, encourage, and empower local churches to complete this global task. We believe pastors are the primary global missions strategists—pastors who know they are created for this global mission and who will lead their church for the sake of global missions. IMB exists to help pastors fan a flame for God’s global glory in every local church.

Throughout the New Testament, we see churches sending missionaries, and we want to come alongside churches in order that they might do the same. Then, as churches send missionaries, the IMB exists to help the local church shepherd these brothers and sisters who are serving on the global mission field. We want to help churches care for their missionaries spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically.

The force of over forty thousand churches working together specifically to take the Gospel to unreached peoples is a powerful picture, to say the least! As churches send and shepherd missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches around the world, we begin to realize God’s plan for making His glory known among the nations.

Completing the Great Commission

All of the above means that the goal of the IMB is clear: we want to be a part of the accomplishment of the Great Commission. With tens of thousands of churches, we can play a significant part of reaching every single unreached people group with the Gospel. I long to see this reality. I live to see this reality. I would love to be part of the generation that ultimately sees all nations reached with the Gospel. Yet if I don’t see that day in my lifetime, I want to die trying.

As breathtaking as Southern Baptists’ mission work has been through the ages, I’m convinced that God has so much more for us. This is a critical time for the SBC and for the IMB. But let’s be clear. We are not fighting for the survival of our Convention or our missions agencies. No, we’re fighting for the day when the IMB is needed no more because disciples have been made and churches have been multiplied in every nation.

Together in Praying, Giving

The force of Southern Baptist churches working together on mission is evident in innumerable ways, and one of the ways it is most clear is through our concerted prayers and gifts. During the Week of Prayer for International Missions (November 30–December 7), a force of nearly sixteen million Baptists has the opportunity to petition the throne of God for requests related to specific missionaries around the world.

Further, through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, churches from all over North America and around the world give sacrificially, generously, and purposefully, and the result is that missionaries are able to go. And the simple truth is that the more we give, the more will go.

Our cooperation is not simply for the sake of cooperation. Our cooperation is for a goal: we want to see the peoples reached with the Gospel. Our aim is to see disciples made and churches multiplied all over the earth. When you pray for specific missionaries, you’re pleading to God for people who have yet to be reached. And when you give to the Lottie Moon offering, you’re fueling and sustaining a missions movement with eternal ramifications. This is a mission worth praying for, and this is a mission worth giving to.

So let’s do whatever it takes. Let’s pray, give, and go for the sake of those who have never heard the Gospel. Let’s come together to exalt Christ and mobilize one another in the church all toward the end of completing the Great Commission.


David Platt is president of the International Mission Board and is a member of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.

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December 2014 Edition
Volume 23, Issue 2
December 2014