Over half of the churchgoers in America are uncertain of the Great Commission, causing concern for many church and missions leaders.
A study called “Translating the Great Commission” conducted by Barna Research says that 51 percent of churchgoers are unaware of the Great Commission. Many of those who have heard the term do not have a correct distinction of what the Great Commission passage actually is. The phrase ‘the Great Commission’ is not a term found in the Bible, which has caused some confusion in the minds of new Christians.
The research shows that of those who have heard of the Great Commission, only 37 percent actually knew the passage to which it referred. There are five other passages located in the gospels that churchgoers have referred to as the Great Commission.
TaraJane House, a senior psychology major at John Brown University, said, “We all know we’re saved but not all of us know the terminology.”
The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20 which says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Camryn Holley, sophomore family and human services major, said that churches are at fault for not educating their congregations about the Great Commission and discipleship. “If [churchgoers] don’t know that that’s a commandment in the Bible, then how are they supposed to know that they are supposed to go out?”
The focus of many churches has shifted to mission work abroad instead of discipleship within their own communities, which could contribute to the 51 percent statistic. “Just because you don’t stand up and go to Thailand or something doesn’t mean you can’t do what Christ commanded you to do,” said Laura Magallon, freshman history major. She said that some
churches tend to convert people and “save souls” but don’t help the new Christians continue in their growth.
In an interview with Barna, Allen Yeh, associate professor at Biola University, said that the amount of ‘great commissions’ in the Bible could be a contributing factor to the misidentification of the Great Commission.
One of these confused passages is located in Mark 12. The disciples ask Jesus which commandment is the greatest, to which he answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (v 30-31). This passage is known as the Great Commandment, which has caused confusion in the church today due to its similar terminology.
The act of discipleship is another factor that may affect churchgoers today. Both House and Magallon agree that the discipleship of Christians is important and the work of Christians should not stop at baptism. House said, “Discipling is not just something that happens one time… you start where you are and then grow out. Build disciples wherever you are.”
“I wonder if they [the 51 percent] understand the concept of the Great Commission but don’t know the terminology,” House said. “Maybe we just need more theology training…new Christians who I’ve met have that passion and have been taught ‘you are converted, go convert.’”