Renowned pastor Rick Warren urged Christians to become allies and mobilize every member to complete the Great Commission given by Jesus about 2,000 years ago.
“Why hasn’t the Great Commission already been accomplished? With all of the great Christian leaders of the past generations, why has it still not been done?” asked Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the Purpose Driven Life, at the virtual Chinese Mission Convention Global 2021 on December 29, 2021.
In the workshop session entitled “Strategic Global Relationships for Finishing The Task AD 2033”, Warren encouraged more Christians and churches to be allies in completing the Great Commission as the Allied forces won the World War II together.
As the director of the Finishing the Task which was launched by himself in 2000 to convene and to catalyze the global body of Christ towards the goal of ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to a Bible, Believer and Body of Christ (“3B goals”), Warren claimed that we had to do seven things to reach the goal.
Warren spoke on the second day of the Chinese Mission Convention, a ministry established in 1983 dedicated to the vision of “multiplying healthy churches locally and globally” by mobilizing Chinese and non-Chinese Christians to live as ambassadors for Christ and to reach the unreached people groups. Other speakers at this year's two-day event included David Platt, Brian Fikkert, Reggie Mcneal, and David Doong, general secretary of CCCOWE.
“Number one, we have to mobilize all the allies and let them fly their own flags… God made us unique. God gave us our differences, but we do have the same Bible, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. We have one Holy Spirit, we have one Word of God, we have one heaven we’re all going to. That’s what matters. But we’re going to mobilize all the allies and let them fly their own flags together,” said the 68-year-old pastor who has retired as the lead pastor of the fast-growing Saddleback Church that has several locations on four continents.
“Number two, we need a simple and clear target,” he said. “We want a Bible, a believer, and a body of Christ in every unreached, unengaged people group, and a Bible, a believer, and a body of Christ in every unengaged, unreached place.”
“The third thing we need is that we need a deadline,” he continued. “A dream without the deadline is just a dream, but a goal with a target and a deadline creates a sense of urgency.”
“If the Christian calendar’s accurate, if this is really 2021, it means that Jesus gave the Great Commission in AD 33… That means 2033, which is 12 years away, is the 2000th anniversary of the Great Commission… I can’t think of a better target for us to just say this is going to be our generation’s target to complete the work and finish the task that Jesus gave us to do,” he added.
Warren emphasized, “There is no reason it cannot be done. We have the technology, we have the resources, we have the people, it can be done!”
“Now, there’s no eschatological significance to AD 2033. In fact, that year, if we weren’t able to complete the Great Commission, there will be new babies born in that year and on until Jesus decides to come back, but it just gives us a date.”
Mentioning the Nehemiah strategy in Chapter 4 of the Book of Nehemiah, the Israelites became discouraged halfway through the project of building the Jerusalem wall. However, the leader Nehemiah reorganized and restructured the strategy: half of the people were protecting them from the attack of the enemies while the rest were building then they switched. Ultimately, they finished it in 52 days.
The story demonstrated that the vision had to be restated and reemphasized every 26 days, basically once a month. “We are gonna have the continual motivation for the next 12 years between now and 2033. We’re gonna have a series of training events, ‘Lausanne style’ conferences online, so that rather than having 3,000 we can have three million people get the training, get the vision, get the Nehemiah strategy, continue to go, go, and go so that over a period of time we don’t lose heart,” he stressed.
“Number four, we have to increase the number of allies.” He said that it reminded him of a professional football game where “you’ve got 22 people on the field desperately in need of rest”. “They’re overworked. 22,000 in the stands desperately in need of exercise. You’ve got a few people doing all the work and what we’re going to do in the next 12 years is engage the spheres. Businessmen, athletes, musicians, educators, politicians, all kinds of different spheres in group, engage them all.”
“This is my goal: a new generation, more gender, more international, more diverse. That I have met the greatest leaders around the world who have not been brought to the table. We are going to correct that… You got to give them ownership.”
Warren said the fifth thing to do was that the strategy for the Great Commission has to be decentralized.
“One of the great lessons of the 20th century is that decentralized always beats centralized. And so we’re going to decentralize, we’re going to give power and give enablement to people at the lowest level, not trying to control it all.”
“I had to decide whether I wanted control or whether I wanted growth, you can’t have both… If you look at the Book of Acts, you don’t see a highly controlled church, you see a church out of control!”
“Number six, we need to focus on people in pain the most,” he said.
“I believe that one of the keys to the Great Commission is the parable of the Four Soils. That parable gives us the evangelism strategy for Finishing the Task. What it first says is that in any country, or in any culture, at any given time, only one out of four people is open to the Gospel and receptive; three out of four, it’s not going to bear fruit.”
“So, what I need to do is find the good soil. Here is the question: how does God turn hard, baked, resistant soil into soft, good soil? He sends a storm and he floods it. And the waters come down and they beat on that hard soil and it softens it until finally, it becomes good. People are most likely to come to Christ when they’re in pain.”
“Transition and intention soften our hearts. I have been telling pastors now for years that you can grow a church, if you’ll just focus on people in pain. You can pretty much ignore the other people right now and just focus on the people in pain. Why? Because at least one out of every four people out there are in some kind of pain right now... Nobody goes through life pain free. So my job is to just look for people in pain and share the good news with them, and realize that the people who are resistant right now, their days are coming. This is why the easiest people to reach are refugees. Why? They’re uprooted, they’re in pain.”
“Number seven, we have to emphasize a sense of urgency.” The pastor said, “Because nothing happens if we just get, ‘we’ve got all day.’ ‘We’ve got all the time in the world.’ No, we don’t. Right now, millions of people are dying without Christ and going into Christless eternity. About two every second go into eternity without Christ and without hope.”
“It’s time to really make this a true movement of the whole body of Christ.”
“Yet the work remains unfinished. Why? You can now go anywhere in the world within 24 hours. You know, when God told the apostles to go to the whole world, it was physically impossible! …But today, you can go anywhere in 24 hours.”
“Not to finish the task before us, we need 100% participation. There are no spectators in the army of God, in the mission of God. We have to mobilize every member for ministry in every church. Everybody can have a role. Everybody can use their gift.”
Lastly, the pastor urged creating “church networks and denominations onboard to create meaningful, accessible opportunities for every church” and using every kind of channel to reach different kinds of people at every possible time.