Three times in so many words at the end of John’s gospel we see Jesus calling out and commanding only Peter—who was but one out of the eleven disciples—to feed his sheep.
But to all of his disciples Jesus gave the Great Commission.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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 28:16-20)
…and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:47-49)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15)
Today the Church understands that since Jesus repeated the command “feed my sheep” to Peter three times, that we are to take very seriously the task of shepherding God’s people. Unfortunately the Church has, relatively speaking, focused on this nearly to the exclusion of the Great Commission.
Let us make some comparisons…
Even though it was repeated three times, the command to “feed on my lambs” was given to only one disciple. The Great Commission, found in various forms in all three synoptic gospels, was given to all the disciples.
Yet today, the great majority of a typical church’s resources, both in terms of manpower and finances, are spent on the needs of the congregation. A small fraction of a typical church’s budget is spent on missions. Church calendars also reflect this extreme disparity. Only one or two Sundays out of fifty-two Sundays in a year will be designated as “Mission Sunday.”
It is estimated that over 80% of the average church’s budget is spend on just personnel, buildings and administration expenses alone. “…What do churches spend on personnel, buildings and administration expenses? Those items consume 82 percent of the average church’s budget, according a study from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union.”
What is the reason for this serious imbalance for which we may have to account when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ where each disciple’s eternal reward is determined?
Could it have anything to do with the definition of success in American culture—which has to do with size, numbers, and celebrity? Sadly, this is the very model of church (for the glory of God of course) which is being imported to much of the rest of the world by the very influential Church in America.
One final consideration, if we may…
Born-again believers, even if they are not yet fully discipled and sanctified, already have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. But those who never heard the gospel have zero chance of entering life. Where then should our priorities lie? On which group should we focus more attention and resources—or for the sake of argument, at least one-half of our resources? The answer is clear. But due to our self-serving nature we have chosen quite naturally to focus on ourselves and our own needs, albeit “spiritual” needs. We servants of God may have to account for this at the Judgement Seat of Christ.