The Great Commission is a difficult topic to talk about, and even more difficult to carry out in our lives. There can be a temptation to sweep it under the carpet for any Christian.
And being an introvert brings unique challenges to this command. As an introvert myself, I’ve had a lot of confusion over the Great Commission.
That’s why I decided to interview three introverts about their approaches to the Great Commission. Over the next three weeks, I hope to put a little light on this subject. An introverted stay-at-home mother (my own mom, actually) will share her perspective on the blog, as well as an introverted member of my church who has gone on short-term mission trips.
But first up, we have one of the pastors at my home church who also happens to be on the introvert side of the scale. Meet Pastor Tim.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? When and how did you become a Christian?
I was raised by Christian parents who were members of a gospel-preaching church, and who themselves taught me of Christ from diapers. From a very young age, I was responsive to invitations to believe in Jesus, though it took me a while to understand what it meant to be a sinner and trust in Christ. By the time of my baptism at age eight, I am pretty sure I genuinely understood the gospel and trusted Jesus.
How do you fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28?
I understand the Great Commission to be Christ’s basic marching orders for his church: in all nations, make disciples—people who trust and follow Jesus—and teach them to obey him with their whole lives. In our minds, we tend to connect the Great Commission exclusively to missions. It certainly is about missions, since Jesus tells us to do this among all people-groups of the world, and many have yet to be penetrated with the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save sinners who would turn to believe in him alone. Yet we are “the nations” too, and our continuing local ministry is just as much an act of obedience to Christ’s call as international missions are.
Making disciples, whether locally or internationally, consists broadly of two tasks.
First, we help non-disciples newly follow Jesus (indicated by “baptism” in v. 19, which is our response to conversion). This is also called “evangelism.”
How do I evangelize? When I worked in a secular job, I had extended contact with several non-believing co-workers. I sought to share the truth of Christ with them without abusing work time. One good solution was when we’d be on the road together for trips to do field work (we were environmental consultants). I would sometimes get a whole day with one other co-worker, including a couple hours of driving—these afforded really good opportunities to talk about Christ and the gospel freely in a conversational way.
My wife and I have had some good opportunities to evangelize neighbors, including bringing one to church for a while. By the way, the local church is an amazing and underrated tool for evangelism. Bringing a non-believer to church can beautifully complement private conversations with interested non-Christians. Finally, I evangelize publicly each time I preach at church. On any given week inevitably some non-Christians will be listening, and I try to make sure to address them somehow with their need for Christ.
The other task of disciple-making is helping Christians trust and obey Christ more fully.
I do this first at home, encouraging my wife in her walk with Christ. She regularly encourages my faith as well! In the local church, all public teaching ministry is a form of disciple-making: it drives at the goal of helping believers more deeply know, trust, and obey Jesus. On a more private level, I help people follow Jesus by counseling people struggling with sin, using informal interactions with brothers and sisters to point them to Christ, and praying regularly for all the members of our church. There are a few key individuals I invest in more heavily, seeking to teach and model for them what it means to follow Christ as a mature Christian.
I also disciple by helping other teachers in the church develop their gift to benefit the whole body. All of these things I do with deep weaknesses and flaws and need of maturation myself. But by God’s grace, as I battle sin in my own life, I can say with integrity to fellow believers, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
Finally, I aspire to one day serve as a missionary in another land where fewer people know Christ and theological training is more scarce. I want to somehow help train and develop local leaders who can pastor churches faithfully according to Scripture.
Do you believe that every Christian is called to fulfill the Great Commission? Why or why not?
Yes, Christ gave these marching orders to all believers. I say that because one of his commands to teach other disciples (v. 20) is . . . the Great Commission! In other words, as we make disciples and train them to obey Jesus, part of that course of obedience is his call to make disciples. You also see this in the Gospel of John, where John is clearly envisioning a chain reaction of people encountering Jesus’ glory, believing in him, and then testifying to others so they can have a similar encounter (1:45–49; 12:17; 17:20–23).
What obstacles have made this harder for you?
Internally, my selfishness and fear get in the way. Why selfishness? This might be where introversion creates a struggle. The pastor’s work consists of both extended, quiet, private study of Scripture and theology (2 Tim 2:15), and extended interaction with people to serve them with the truth (Acts 20:20). I usually find the first half of that equation easier than the second. This inclination does not excuse me from any of my responsibilities, but it does help me understand which ones require more of a prayerful fight to kill my selfish desires. Why fear? Especially in personal evangelism, it is frightening to step out and tell people they must believe in Jesus. I know people will find this call awkward and offensive. So I constantly have to overcome my fear of people’s disapproval.
Externally, becoming a full-time pastor about 15 months ago has made personal evangelism more difficult because I have less regular contact with non-Christians.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
I fight the internal battle by saturating in the truth and praying for a heart that wants to obey. I especially focus on Christ’s servant-hearted humility when battling selfishness (Mark 10:45)—he came to serve other people, not to be served. Similarly, against the fear of man I love praying according to Isaiah 11:3 which talks about Jesus delighting in the fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit drove him to love people fearlessly because he was secure in his Father. I need a big dose of that for myself, so I plead with God for it and he faithfully meets me with help.
On the issue of contact with non-Christians, my wife and I have been trying to make repeated contacts and build a relationship with some neighbors and our gardener so we can love them and tell them about Christ.
What is your advice to other introverts who want to obey this command?
Know your strengths and use them, but don’t use your weaknesses as an excuse for disobedience. You don’t have to be gregarious to help others follow Jesus. You don’t have to be the life of the party. But you do have to love people. You do have to move toward people rather than away from them. I think extroverts can be very good at making quick contact with many people, while introverts may be better at extended private interaction with one person. The church needs both!
Any other thoughts you would like to share?
I’ve already written far too much. Thanks for the good questions!
Thank you for your insightful answers, Pastor Tim!
What do you think?
What did you think of the interview? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What are your thoughts on the Great Commission?