Commission of the Church

I have been wrestling with the topic for this article over several days. I have started writing many times, adding one or two sentences before deleting them to begin again. Do you remember the times when doing so would have meant removing a sheet of paper from the typewriter and inserting a clean sheet?

I almost did it again. I nearly laid my finger on the ←backspace key to start again. Progress. It comes in ways we rarely expect, it is often resisted fervently by some, and it always comes.

My dad tells me a story of his childhood. He was cranking the telephone (yes, he had to do that before using the phone), when a lightning storm rolled in. Lightning struck the telephone line somewhere nearby by, sending a surge toward the house. A ball of lightning rolled out of the phone, across the floor, and up into the stainless steel sink. Talk about a shocking experience.

I am only 21 years younger than my father, but I have never had to crank a phone to be able to use it. I have never seen a ball of lightning roll across the floor. In fact, when I was a teenager, I had my own personal phone in my bedroom. The phone had a clear plastic case that allowed me to view the electronics inside. And while I had to plug the phone into the wall to use it, I never had to turn a crank.

Today, most of us carry a phone in our pocket (or on our waist). The phone does not have a lever to crank and only needs to be plugged in long enough to charge a battery. We can now communicate long distances while on the move. We can even carry on a phone conversation with a friend on the other side of the country while we race down the road at 70 miles per hour.

Many of us even have a smartphone, a powerful computer and phone in one. Remembering the size and cost of computers only 20 years ago, this is truly incredible! The ways in which the telephone has changed over the past 60 years has been amazing! The truly amazing thing is, more than they have changed, phones still work on the same principles.

I speak into small microphone. The microphone captures the vibrations of my voice and uses a magnet to convert those vibrations into electrical signals. A speaker on the other end receives the electrical signals and decodes them into sound waves. The phone still works on the same principle it has worked on since Alexander Graham Bell’s famous first words.

In like manner, the commission of the church has not changed. Jesus great commission to the church is recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and Acts 1. In this commission, Jesus commands the church to preach the Gospel (repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name) to all nations, to baptize those who have repented and believed, and to make disciples. As the principle behind the phone has not changed, the commissions of evangelism and discipleship from Jesus will never change. The Gospel message (repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name) never changes. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit never changes.

The message does not change, the principles do not change, but the “phone” may change.