For the first time since Jesus gave His parting message and ascended to the Father’s right hand, conditions that limited and delayed fulfillment previously have either been removed or are being adapted to in ways that allow the penetration of the Gospel transformatively throughout the world.
Let’s consider here what some of our previous barriors and hindrances were and how they are being overcome before our eyes:
- Physical barriers such as long distances with very long travel times with primitive transportation. Consider here Paul’s long boat journeys. Now we can be anywhere on the planet by travel within 24 hours.
- Slow communication through couriers, resulting in time lags. All distance communication was slowed down. Now we have real-time communication and technology for this is in almost everyone’s hands.
- Cultural barriors, and linguistic differences, aggravated by lack of literacy and written language in many places, prevented cimmunication of the Gospel, or significantly delayed the work of the kingdom. International literacy, language training, and Bible translation, along with oral training, are bridging these gaps.
- Combined church and political state structures had the effect of slowing down true spiritual faith and mission outreach, while at the same time facilitating travel with Christian missionaries who were in league with the state. Church/state structures were often corrupt, and did not result in vibrant evangelism and disciplemaking.
- Mass religious systems developed, such as Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, which developed cultural identity with people groups. Examples: most Thais, Laos, and Burmese consider themselves to be Buddhist as part of their personal and cultural identity. These religious blocs have actively obstructed the Christian Gospel in ways that the previous folk and animist religions did not.
The good news is that now, for the first time, movements to Christ in these blocs are beginning and increasing, so that the great commission influences are increasing in ways far surpassing all previous centuries, and will probably continue to increase, in spite of moderate to severe persecution in many places.
- Politically based systems “-isms” such as socialism tried to stop Christian faith and practice. Many of these now are in a state of collapsing or are at least weaker in their political persecution strategies against Christians. The Church of Jesus Christ is advancing in many places where Gospel witnessing was suppressed strongly.
- Christian groups that were self-protective, with strong doctrinal issues and territorial denominational policies have held back the combined resources and strategies for finishing the great commission. Now, new collaborative unity movements are increasingly working together and mobilizing workers into the harvest. Hopefully these coalition movements will continue to gain strength.
- Lack of good reproducible training held back discipling. Leaders often received theological training that equipped them for vocational church roles, but slowed down the simple discipling patterns employed by Jesus and in the early church movements. Now many parts of the Church all over the world are multiplying disciples, often in ways that are outpacing world population growth. This trend is changing the trajectory of world Christianity by mobilizing workers in every community.
Now we have lost our excuses for the relatively slow progress in fulfilling the Great Commission, finally, after 2000 years from when the promises, strategies, and tools were originally put in the hands of the followers of Christ. We now have everything we need, along with Christ’s assurances to us that He will continue to be with us until the end of the age as depicted in Matthew 28:20.
Like the children of Israel entering the Land of Promise, our main hindrances left to overcome are ignorance, unbelief, and fear. The Great Commission can be fulfilled in our generation.