Did you know only 17% of church goers have heard of the Great Commission and know what it means? Join co-hosts Johnny Hunt and Kevin Ezell as they discuss the latest Barna Research statistics and emphasize the importance of knowing and sharing the gospel. Tune in for you and your church’s next steps on defining, understanding and modeling the Great Commission.
Announcer: You’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from The North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the Gospel. Now, here are your hosts.
Kevin Ezell: Well thanks for joining us for this episode of Evangelism with Johnny Hunt. I’m Kevin Ezell, and with me is Brother Johnny. According to Barna Research, more than half of all churchgoers say that they have not heard of the great commission. 6% say they are not sure, and 25% say they have heard of it, but cannot recall the exact meaning. This means that only 17% of churchgoers have heard of the great commission and they know what it means. Well Johnny, I know that’s not the case at Woodstock, but can you just express, what do these statistics say to you or surprise you?
Johnny Hunt: Well, they don’t surprise me in the sense when we take a look at our people sharing the Gospel, and even the number of people. They’re even inviting a friend into a Gospel environment, but they certainly burden me that we’ve gotten to the place that we cannot even define the great commission, which means like never before this is a year to put evangelism back on the front burner. Recently someone said to me, “When did we take it off the front burner?” And truth is, I believe they were trying to be a little sarcastic. But when you read statistics like this and realize that facts are our friends, that should surprise all of us. The question is what do we plan to do about it?
Kevin Ezell: At the North American Mission Board, everything we do here is about the Gospel. We say that over and over and over again. Everything is about the Gospel. The fact is, in the church the same thing is true. Everything they do should be about the Gospel and bringing a sense of clarity, making sure their people understand that. If 51% of churchgoers say they have never heard of the great commission, where would you say that pastors need to begin in an attempt to see this change?
Johnny Hunt: Well, I believe number one we’ve got to define what the great commission is, but secondly, we’ve got to model it. I mean, bottom line is we need to lead the way. We don’t need just to show the way. We need to go the way. So basically the average church, when a pastor’s considering becoming its pastor, it’s not unusual to hear the pastor say, “They do nothing in the way of outreach. They have no understanding of the great commission,” to which I’ve always responded, “Pastor, that’s why they need you.” So, the truth is we’re going to have to begin at the top. That’s why I think we’ve married evangelism and leadership. We’ve got to attempt to help our pastors to see that you have got to model what you want to see magnified in the lives of the people.
Johnny Hunt: So if I was going to the average church today, and I certainly have done nothing but pastor the average churches for the last 40 plus years, I would go in not only teaching strong the last words of our Lord Jesus and the great commission, and then I would model it. I would use every opportunity to illustrate it in my life and in my message.
Kevin Ezell: But Johnny, don’t you think sometimes pastors just assume too much? They assume when they say missions or when they say outreach or they say great commission even, that their people just know what that means, instead of constantly going back and defining all of the terms we so often use in sermons?
Johnny Hunt: I know we’ve heard it over and over again. They say that you need to make your message clear and you need to do it so often that the people are actually beginning to become tired of hearing it. I think we need to do that with the great commission. This ought to be a wake up call for us. This surprise should so surprise us that we would stand before the congregation on Sunday and say, “Here’s what I found out about the great commission and how many people are unaware of what it is.” So today, I want to define in. I’m going to begin to try to model this before you and challenge you to join me in being on mission in the great commission that Christ left for us.
Kevin Ezell: Well Johnny, can you really be fulfilling or fully living the Christian life without living the great commission?
Johnny Hunt: I don’t see how. Jesus basically said if you’ll follow me. The apostle Paul on three different occasions said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” And yet he was constantly sharing the Gospel. When he stood before the rulers, the kings, the governors, eventually he turned it into a Gospel conversation. He’d begin to always move back to his Damascus Road experience. So, the entire New Testament is replete, and even the Old Testament, God was glorified through working in the life of the Israelites, and they, had they been obedient even as we need to be obedient, they would have taken the Gospel to the nations that have never heard of their great God Jehovah.
Kevin Ezell: What are some of the most effective approaches that a pastor can take in teaching the great commission? I mean, you did that at Woodstock. What would you say to a pastor of any church at any size?
Johnny Hunt: I would say there is no better teaching than modeling. The disciples, the Bible teaches, they were with Jesus. They were with him. They were able to observe what was important in his life. We can teach that the great commission is a priority, but if it’s not a priority in the leader’s life, it’s probably never going to become a priority in the life of the people. So, I would model. I would be able to share that in the message it becomes part of your DNA. It becomes very organic. I constantly share with the people a story. I would just say, “This week I had a gentleman pick me up and we talked about this and this. And I want you to listen carefully. Press in to hear this. I begin the share the Gospel with this dear man, and he gave me an answer I’ve never heard before.” I really believe I just drew the people in. They want to what answer has he never heard.
Johnny Hunt: Then I begin to proceed with how I made the Gospel known in a very simple conversation and how the conversation ended. Then how I’m praying for this person. And in this context, I can even begin to say, “And he’s my one, and I prayed for him this morning, and I’m going to stay behind him and trust that God would use me to see him come to faith in Christ. Who’s your one? Or to turn it around and say, “Who is it that you’re praying about? How is the great commission becoming a reality?” Or even ask the questions. How can the great commission become a priority and a reality in your life?
Kevin Ezell: We typically have to hear something over and over again before we fully comprehend it. I know I used to watch a particular pastor on TV. Not a southern Baptist pastor, but he would start every sermon with, “This is my Bible,” and have his people repeat it. “This is my Bible. I believe what it says.” Every time, I learned that and just naturally became a part of, as I listened to him, it helped to … I could tell what he was doing. Trying to instill in his people an appreciation for God’s word. You have to over-communicate. What are some things that you would suggest to pastors that they need to do to help mobilize their members to live on mission and incorporate the commission into their weekly gatherings?
Johnny Hunt: We need not only to inspire people, an inspirational message on what we need to do in evangelism, but after I preached a message or a series, I would probably have a time that was very conducive to their schedule where they’d just say, “Honestly I only want one hour from you this Saturday morning. I want you to meet me at a certain time here at the church. I’m going to provide breakfast for everyone that comes, and I’m going to take simply 30, 40 minutes, and I’m going to outline for you how you can be on mission. The difference you can make in sharing the Gospel with your family and friends.” And begin to equip them. We must equip them. We’re really challenging people to respond to a message, but there’s really not a platform there to accommodate them to go forward. So, we model it for them at Woodstock, honestly.
Johnny Hunt: Even to this day, about every six weeks we model the Gospel on Saturdays. It’s the day that just seems to work best for us. We do some Wednesday nights. Whatever is best. Sunday night. That doesn’t really matter. Find out the best time, or even different times you can catch the most of your people, and model what you’re messaging to them on Sunday.
Kevin Ezell: One of the things that I’ve seen, your church that you modeled the best was you gave people permission to be on mission. Sometimes pastors want to control everything, and anything that goes on it has to be in the list of the ministries of the church, and the church has to somehow control it. But you empower people and have them have a sense of ownership. You didn’t have a sense of having to control it.
Johnny Hunt: Well, it becomes exciting when you stand up on a Sunday and instead of sharing your story, you share someone else’s story. The truth is how encouraging that is for that person that’s sitting out there and you just say, “Hey in my discipleship group this morning, in my Bible study group, boy my teacher shared this with us.” Or, “One of our members shared how it worked this week. Listen to how creative they were. Soon I’m probably going to do a video and put it up here where you can hear them. By the way, and he was at our meeting that we had a couple of weeks ago, and all he did is went into his community and emulated what he heard us say.”
Johnny Hunt: Recently I was listening to a pastor friend teach, and he made this statement. He said, “Most people are really into formal theology.” He defined it. The things you say you believe. He said, “We need to move from formal theology to function theology, the way that you live.” So it’s not the truth we know, it’s the truth we obey. So, we have the great commission. Yes, they need to know it, but better than know the great commission, if things are going to change, we must obey it.
Kevin Ezell: The great commission really is foundational to living on mission. If you have any questions, email us at Evangelism@NAM.net. Thanks for joining Pastor Johnny today.