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Douglas Wilson on the Great Commission

As a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, I like to stay involved in the active online communities available. One that I particularly find interesting, mainly for their wealth of classy Calvinists is SBCVoices. Recently one of their writers discussed his opinion on a video in which Douglas Wilson (a Reformed individual) answered questions pertaining to the Great Commission. This is a subject I am greatly interested in because the postmillennial perspective on the Great Commission is often very different from the standard understanding. Doug Wilson is a Reformed postmillennial voice and I wanted to measure my thoughts against his.

This certainly is a topic on which I could say a whole lot. I'd prefer however to let you enjoy and intake a balanced diet. You'll find the full length video of Doug's answer below. You can find the original critical and affirming article that sparked my interest here. You can find a fuller and fully Biblical evaluation of "universal evangelism" (from the Orthodox Presbyterian perspective) here. And here is a recent full sermon of Doug Wilson titled "The Fire of Evangelism"

Let me give you a running commentary of my opinion of Doug's video....

@0:20: Some many not notice this but Doug's statement that in a general sense all Christian's a stewards of the mysteries of God is important. One of the few areas I disagree strongly with the Reformed position is in who is able to minister the sacraments. I believe all called believers are permitted to baptize and administer the Lord's Supper but this is rejected in the Westminster Confession and other Reformed documents. That's a side note that shows I don't agree with everything Doug says. :-)

@0:32: This really is the crux of the whole video. From here on out Doug begins to speak concerning the over emphasis of individualistic evangelism that he sees in the Evangelical community. The call to the church is not the same as the call to the people. The distinction of a group's goal and personal goals is important. There unquestionably is a sense in which goals "trickle down" but the way in which this is satisfied becomes different.

@3:48: I believe the motherly example is important. I appreciate the blind acceptance that she most certainly is involved in the Great Commission even when we do not see the full way in which she fulfills it. Doug takes it to the general principle of general connection to the service of the whole body within her family unit. This can be applied to many individuals within the church who many night have the chance to vocally communicate their faith to new people every day. In fact many people are "stuck" with the same people in our lives...thought another way, all those people are stuck with us! So in a fashion, the church must move forward in developing mature Christians and "pushing out" the specific evangelists within their congregation.

@7:53: This really cuts to the heart of the matter. This really is the source of the problem that universal evangelism tries to fix. The church doesn't live an evangelical messages in their average life. I am a staunch critic of "life style evangelism" but the truth is that people eventually will know you are a Christian and your life will do the talking. If we lived faithful lives, we might find that the need to push the gift of evangelism upon everyone is relented. This may not result in more converts. But I think we'd find America a very different place to live and work within.

@10:48: Doug really hits the nail on the head here. Far too often we recognize the deficiency of our gifts in the lives of others. The goal then is to present our gifts to the congregation and provide the discipleship required to help others develop the same gift. With respect to the topic of the Great Commission and evangelism, this doesn't exclude everyone from being able to share the Gospel. Doug makes it very clear that everyone who is truly saved must be able to communicate the Gospel clearly. But the communication of the Gospel is not only Evangelism (I will touch on this briefly).

That is some very sparse commentary. I will close with a few general ideas. The rise in Evangelical groups truly coincided with the dissolving of distinction between "salvation" and "justification". When the two words became synonymous the church saw an increase in conversions and baptisms that resulted in no fruit. And many of these fruitless trees (unsaved people) pollute the church now. When the gospel is reduced to simply the forgiveness of sins it is easy to become overly "evangelical" in one's spiritual focus. It is easy to emphasizes the "repent" portion of the Gospel without speaking like John and Jesus that the "kingdom of God is near". And guess what? The Gospel is repenting and living faithfully in God's kingdom.

Thought about in another theological sense, justification is a one time event and sanctification is a life time event. Where then would we expect to need more workers? For everything successful person with the gift of evangelism, the church likely needs 2-3 teachers. If our churches are going to be healthy and productive they must learn more than God has forgiven them their sins. It will be in the faithful and mature church that we will find that we have more people gifted evangelism than we can handle. And they will bring in more converts than the church can naturally minister to and God will gift faithful members with the ability to disciple these new people. And the cycle continues.

In the most simple terms, let's not focus on symptoms. Let's not say "we need more converts" and instruct everyone to go into evangelist mode. Let's raise mature believers who God will gift for the serving of His church. This will include evangelists and the teachers we need to revive a rotting church.

Here, I'll even provide you with an encouraging sermon. This is the Doug Wilson's sermon linked above embedded here for your viewing pleasure.

"The world will catch fire when the church catches fire"

Ligonier National Conference: Q & A from 1997

A Survey of The Days of Vengeance: Preface and Introduction (Part 1)