What does it take to fulfill the Great Commission?
It’s a big question – one that our President at New Generations, Harry Brown, is very passionate about. In a recorded Zoom call, we were able to hear from him on “5 things he wishes he would have known at the age of 35” in regard to completing the Great Commission.
His insight into each point is so rich, and so integral to the heart of New Generations, we decided to break it up into a 5-part blog series! Here’s what Harry had to say on point one of what he wishes he would have known at 35:
Get Serious About Strategy.
Let’s begin with some context. The scope of New Generations right now is 55 countries, 601 distinct people groups, including another 50 urban engagements (or population segments). Population segments refer to street kids, prostitutes, prisoners, gang members – people who truly have an identity through their affinity, but they’re not a people group in the sense of language, ethnicity, etc.
Currently, by God’s grace in the last 15 years, we’ve seen 78,000 churches, 1.8 million new followers of Jesus, and 128 Movements. We define a Movement as at least 100 new churches that have multiplied to at least 4 generations of churches planting churches. Right now, six of those 128 have north of 30 generations of churches planting churches. That becomes a big deal, not because it’s an impressive number, but it’s a big deal because, as I tell many people, you are not having a Great Commission conversation unless you can talk about what is continuing with quality without you.
You are not having a Great Commission conversation unless you can talk about what is continuing with quality without you.
So, when you get past four or five generations, the people are not going to know your name or what your organization is, and that’s a good thing. The goal is for the chain reaction to keep going and keep its quality without you.
All this sets the stage for me to tell you five things I wish I knew when I was 35. Each of these comes from the life experience of what God has been distilling over time. They are a combination of life insights and ministry insights. The life insights for knowing who I am as someone who follows Jesus, and the ministry guidelines for knowing how to get the job done.
- Get serious about strategy.
There was a season of my life when my family was ministering in a particular area, with the goal of transforming the entire community. I know I could not have been more sincere in my evangelism. I endured criticism and threats on account of sharing the Gospel, but the truth is, I still didn’t achieve the goal I set out to do. While several handfuls of kids were transformed, which is a good thing, I realized I did not have overall clarity on a strategy to know how to get the job done.
The bottom line is, our actions, with all the effort, all the intentionality, all the sincerity, all the sacrifice, could not replace the strategy that was fatally flawed in achieving the goal.
So that was a life lesson for me – that God is serious about strategy.
He has distilled some things in His Word that guide how we should go about the Great Commission, and in that previous context, I was flat out ignoring Him. I was thinking that, in running around 24/7, trying to do everything for everybody, there were somehow enough brownie points in that to get the job done. And the reality is, God in His gracious state, made some good things happen, but we did not achieve the goal.
The same problem is something I observe in the missionary enterprise. God has allowed me to be in 85 different countries, some of them a dozen times, so I have a fair bit of exposure. When I look around, I don’t see the strategy that’s going to allow us to complete the goal. And that doesn’t mean things are bad or people aren’t trying－I’m not trying to say that. But, I learned in my own failure that the strategy, the clarity of what it takes to get the job done, is super important on the front end.
The reality is, you could take everything right now that all Christians are doing everywhere and times it by 20, and you’re not even getting in the zip code of the Great Commission. It’s just not even close. It is not something that has the ability in its current state or configuration to get the job done.
And at some point, we have to start asking each other, “What’s it going to take?” I don’t mean in any sense to be judgmental or condemning. What I do mean is, within the family of God, it is ok to be politely provocative, and to be able to probe deeper and say, “Ok, if everything went right, would you get to your goal?”
Within the family of God, it is ok to be politely provocative.
And of course, everything is not going to go right. So it’s the soul searching, shaping, sharpening, iron upon iron, with the kind of clarity that says, “Is that going to get us to the goal?”
The headline for this is one of the verses that is kind of a beacon on the horizon for me. It’s 1 Corinthians 9:24.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
Run to win. There is no equivocation, and it’s difficult not to understand that.
The Great Commission isn’t something where we get a participation trophy for showing up with a good attitude. That’s not how God approaches it. He is saying, “Run to win. Get after it.”
That drives me.
Be sure to stay tuned for next week, as we continue this conversation with point number 2: Ordinary people are the only option.