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Not long ago I was on the phone with Gary Moon and Dallas Willard. Dallas and I are to speak at a conference in early 2013 that Gary is coordinating. The title of the conference is taken from the last chapter of one of Dallas' books: "Pastors as Teachers of the Nations."

"Part of the feedback we're getting is that the title seems a little presumptuous," Gary said. "What do you think?"

Dallas's response was unapologetic. "That's exactly right," he said. "It is presumptuous. Look at the final instructions Jesus gave to his followers. He told this tiny little group to spread throughout the entire world—uninvited—and help every single human being become a follower of his. They were to teach everybody his teachings. Who else would even dream of saying such a thing, let alone expect it to actually happen? This is the most presumptuous idea in the history of humanity."

I had never thought about Jesus in this light before. Because I "church-ify" him so often, the Great Commission tends to be one more of those put-it-on-a-church-plaque statements. But when I think of Jesus as a real person, making a claim about how important his understanding of reality is, it struck me. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." That would be a lot of authority. Nobody else ever said that. Socrates never said that. Confucius and the Buddha never said that. Dear Abby and Oprah never said that. Jesus did.

This presumptuous side of Jesus has nothing to do with egotism. He was famous for his foot-washing, life-sacrificing, other-serving humility. But his humility was tied to a deeper conviction about the desperate need for his ministry. Jesus knew that he brought to the human race knowledge about true goodness, how it is received, and what sustains a human being through life and death. Jesus was not enslaved to any human being's opinion of him. He did not go home after the Sermon on the Mount and ask the disciples, "How do you think that talk went? Did people like it? Did it need more humor?"

But Jesus also handed the task off. Jesus said that his followers—"unschooled, ordinary" people—were to go into all the world and announce good news. The vision and the task were made cosmic. His followers took this call seriously. "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching." They began a process of education called catechesis.

And who is to bring the knowledge that will answer life's great questions to our world today?

That would be you.

If you are a follower of Jesus—particularly if you are a pastor or a leader in a church or ministry—you have a calling far more important than you may know.

The great danger in ministry is that we think about the task before us in ways that are too small. We are not called to fill buildings or balance budgets or launch successful programs or grow at a 10-percent ...

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John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.

Related Topics:EvangelismPastor's RoleTeachingVision
From Issue:Ministry's Core, Fall 2012 | Posted: October 22, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Rick Dalbey

October 29, 2012  3:48pm

What great comments! Refreshing! "if one reads the Commissions of Matthew, Mark, and John's "feed My sheep", all believers are to teach, preach, heal, deliver, cast out demons, speak in tongues, etc. To me, the commissions are the permission and "ordination" of every born again, baptized believer." Amen. This commission is still in force as are God's miraculous confirmations. And Yay! Mary Darrell, a woman, for responding to the great commission!

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Mary Darrell

October 24, 2012  5:14pm

Can you imagine the look of incredulity on the disciples' faces when Jesus said to them: "No need to send them away; YOU give them something to eat!" With one small boy's lunch of fish-and-chips in hand and 5000+ people needing to be fed, the disciples faced an impossible situation. But, then, Jesus took that small lunch and blessed it. Consequently the 5000 were fed with 12 baskets left over. When God spoke to me--several times in several ways-- to feed His sheep, these words seriously impacted me. God could take my small serving of "food" (the Word), bless it, and it would feed a multitude. Talk about miracles! He could overcome all obstacles--including the facet that I am a woman!

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Larry F.

October 24, 2012  11:35am

So true, "Religion" for so long has doctrinely limited the extent of the believer's stewardship of the Great Commission to just being "door-knocking witnesses". However, if one reads the Commissions of Matthew, Mark, and John's "feed My sheep", all believers are to teach, preach, heal, deliver, cast out demons, speak in tongues, etc. To me, the commissions are the permission and "ordination" of every born again, baptized believer. The diciples seminary was 3 years of following Jesus. He sent them out before His resurrection as a training excercise with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost has never changed, yet the authorative leadership of the Bride of Christ for so long has limited the "ordination" of the believer a long with the power of the Holy Ghost to be Who He is today as He was in the early church. The modern church and its limiting doctrines and teachings on these two issues,in a sense, has relagated sheep to a stepchild status,a mistaken identity and diminished authority.

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Gaz Moses

October 24, 2012  5:44am

For too many years, we the Church have promoted the 'hand-up-confess sin-you're born again - attend Church' type of Ministry. And we wonder why so many people leave The Body; the Church appears weak/inactive; filled with saints who silently suffer with problems/doubts/fears and so many attend theologically 'Puddle-deep' fellowships. Choosing Discipleship requires a determined choice. Being 'Discipled' requires mature, loving, nurturing saints who are determined to disciple others. We need saints who are absolutely compelled to run after Jesus come what may and declare our willingness to become more like Him; that He increases and we (our rights to ourselves) decrease. As Oswald Chambers says, when we become His, we have no rights of our own, no demands, no claims. All we are and all we ought to be, is the desire to be more like Him as we live in our daily lives. Tough? Yes! But disciples impact! John Ortberg is absolutely correct when he says PEOPLE are our BIGGEST/BEST lessons.

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October 23, 2012  3:34pm

So good on all accounts. Thanks!

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