Identity Determines Mission
By: Nick Harsh
“Sound theological understanding underlies distinctively Christian ministry. Servants who understand their masters purposes have a clearer sense of mission. Theological perception of God’s program in the world helps formulate long-range goals in life for those who do his will on earth. Servants who know who they are can function more freely with a sense of identity.”
— Integrative Theology, pp. 47-48.
Most of us have experienced it before, the uncomfortable feeling of the first day on the job. Each situation is different but often the first day (or even the first few months) at a job is uncomfortable because we aren’t completely sure what we are supposed to be doing. Early on we rely heavily on our job description because it records our responsibilities in propositional form. Our job description clearly defines our identity with the company or business we are a part of. The job description tells us who we are, what we are responsible to do, and the authority that we have to carry out those tasks. In other words, our identity determines our responsibility.
While this is certainly true in the workplace, it is also true in every other aspect of life. If you are a mother, that identity carries with it a certain set of responsibilities. If you are a father the same is true. If you are a student, then your responsibilities are often accompanied by a deadline. This is equally true when it comes to our walk with God. Identity determines mission. If I don’t know my job, I am not going to be able to do it well. So as believers, what is our job? What should we accomplish? We find the answer in Matthew 28:18-20.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
While it might seem like there are four commands in these verses, it’s important to realize that there is really only one command — make disciples. The other phrases, which look like commands (e.g. Go therefore, baptizing, and teaching) are called adverbial participles. That’s just a fancy name we give to words formed from verbs that function like adjectives. In other words they describe the action of the main verb, which is “make disciples.”
Whoa…that’s a lot of grammar! But it’s this vital information that helps us better understand our job description as believers.
One would think that a mission which extends to all nations would require a complex strategy. Yet this is not what we find in Matthew. Instead, we find three simple, yet life-consuming methods for making disciples. Specifically, we are to “Go, Baptize, and Teach.” That’s our job description. We are to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. This is a very sobering, but freeing reality. It is sobering because of the scope of our mission. We are not trying to make mere church-goers; the goal is to make disciples of all nations. That is a massive task! Yet this singular mission enables us to be faithful and to grow where God has planted us, which then frees us from the desire of always having to chase the next big thing. We don’t have to perpetually grasp for the next big ministry opportunity. If you want to do God’s work, find a local church and start serving. Build friendships with unbelievers that can support gospel conversations.
But, what gives us the confidence to complete such a lifelong task? The answer is really quite amazing. We have been given the stewardship of Jesus’ authority and the promise of God’s presence. Notice how the command in these verses is sandwiched between two promises.
The clarity of a job description and the backing of an employer enables and empowers us to work with focus and diligence. In the same way, the clarity of a singular mission – to make disciples – and the promise of God’s authority and presence should motivate us to work toward the mission with diligence.
1 Integrative Theology, pp. 47-48.