God gives his followers four mandates in Scripture that compel us to be on mission for him. These are so prominent they are referred to as the GREAT MANDATES. It’s amazing, though, that most Christians have only heard of a few of these mandates. So we fail to understand that these mandates present God’s strategy for bringing the world into relationship with him.
A mandate is an official command or instruction from an authority. If we truly recognize God as our authority, we must follow his mandates. Let’s look at them and discover God’s strategy to reach our communities.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”
Genesis 1:28, HCSB
The first of God’s four missional mandates is known as the “Great Cultural Mandate.” Here mankind is charged to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. God created all human beings with the innate nature to organize the earth regardless of whether they are in relationship with him or not. So the ways in which people subdue and have dominion over their lives lead to many different ways of organizing the world. This is called CULTURE. Because the whole world is being constantly organized and re-organized by people, everything in this world is enculturated. We live our lives in the context of culture by God’s design.
We see those near the ocean live differently from those in mountainous regions. We see people in tropical climates with cultural patterns contrasting those in frigid zones. But cultural variety also extends to local regions. For instance, people in the upstate of South Carolina are different from those in the midlands or low country. Differences abound in the way they relate to life, jobs, friends, church, etc., despite living within 100 miles or so of each other. And within each of those regions are other cultural groupings identified by ethnicity, education, income level, etc.
The cultural mandate helps us understand that God is the author of creative variety, that he created us to express diversity. God’s gift of relationship in Christ is offered to all people of all cultures. Christians must realize that culture is a tool from God through which we communicate his gift of relationship. In Christ we find unity with God, but our cultural expressions of that unity are not uniform. God created it that way. He affirms our cultural diversity in the cultural mandate.
The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram went as the Lord told him”.
Genesis 12:1-4b (HCSB)
The second missional mandate from God is known as the “Great Covenant.” God established this covenant with his chosen servant Abram, soon to be renamed Abraham, meaning “father of a great multitude.” Abraham was a man whose faith in God empowered his life of obedience. Through him, God established the blood line from which Jesus came. God moved Abraham out of his comfort zone to forge a strong FAITH in him. God calls us, too, to move out of the comfort zone of church-ianity. Through Abraham’s lineage of faith, God blessed the world with Jesus. Through our faith, God wants to bless our world.
God stands ready to make us a blessing to the world if we follow him in faith. The process of faith-building is not easy to endure. Like a weightlifting program, God will push us as far as we can go so our faith will endure a life of discipleship and mission. A lifestyle of worship-discipleship-mission builds faithful dependence on God in every situation. That’s the level of faith that will empower us to maximum impact on mission. And, like Abraham, it begins by moving us out of our comfort zone.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
God’s third missional mandate to us is commonly known as the “Great Commandment.” Here Jesus gave us his discipleship methodology in a nutshell. We are to set our highest priority on knowing and loving God. God wants us to love him with every fiber of our being. But this mandate is a two-part command. The second half of the mandate tells us to love others as much as we love ourselves. Loving others is a tall order for all of us, especially to love them as much as we love ourselves. But that’s how Jesus tells us to live.
Why is showing LOVE for God and others of such importance as we go on mission? Because the world can easily detect whether we are real or faking it. If we don’t have God at the center of our lives and reflect his love in our relationships, they will see right through it. Nothing will discount our witness to the world quicker than trying to fake love for God or for people. We will be challenged at every turn as we work with people. Godly love must be the overriding characteristic of all we are and do.
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.”
Matthew 28:18–20, NIV
The fourth missional mandate is the Great Commission. We have looked at the Great Commission from several perspectives in previous blogs. When you get right down to it, this mandate simply means what it says. Here Jesus commanded us to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. It cannot be much clearer.
What are God’s missional mandates to us? Express the Gospel in the CULTURAL LANGUAGE of the culture to which you are sent. This will require you to move out of your comfort zone with total FAITH in God. Embody the Gospel as you LOVE God and people supremely. Then GO… make disciples who make disciples for Christ! — Mark Powers