by Mark Nimo
A study of the life of Jesus Christ in the Gospels would always reveal a link between His vision and His mission.
His vision was to draw all men and women into the Kingdom of God (Mk 1: 15). All that Jesus Christ taught, demonstrated and lived while on earth always centered on accomplishing the vision of the Kingdom of God. Thus, He set out on a mission to establish and advance the Kingdom of God (Lk 4:14-15).
What has been popularly called the "Great Commission" is the task that Jesus Christ entrusted to His apostles, after His resurrection from the dead. This task was expressed in the command He gave to His apostles to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:14-15, Lk 24:46-48). All baptized Christians have received the same command.
It is sad to note that the "Great Commission" has become for many Christians the "Great Omission." Jesus Christs concern 2000 years ago should be our concern today, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hb 13:8). The Church was born through the missionary activity of Jesus Christ and the early apostles. Its survival will depend on the missionary activity of its present-day members. In His encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, section 14, Pope Paul VI sums this up by saying, "The Church exists in order to evangelize." A Christian cannot passively sit on the fence and not be concerned with the Great Commission.
SHARING IN THE LIFE AND MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST
In Acts 1:8 we read: "You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earths remotest end."
The clear mandate that Jesus gave to His Church at the moment of His departure to heaven was that we are not only called to go, we are also not to stop going until we reach the ends of the earth. Each new generation of Christians must look beyond its own limited horizons. Each generation must realize that there is an innate temptation to stay local and thus disobey Jesus.
There is always the challenge for us to move out of our comfort zones to where God will lead us to bring the Good News of Salvation. Go means a change in location.
In section 18 of Evangelii Nuntiandi a definitive Catholic understanding of the nature of evangelization is given. "For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new." Transforming humanity from within and making it new should begin to ring bells of Renewal, Renewal, Renewal in our hearts.
In the Catholic Churchs understanding, evangelization goes beyond simply the proclamation of the Good News and leading people to conversion and a faith experience in Jesus Christ. It would also, if the Christian is faithful, include helping them to grow and sustain this faith in a community. All these have been fruits of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. There is no excuse therefore for us to hesitate going.
THE MANDATE--WHY SHOULD WE GO?
1. Jesus commands us to go. A command is not an option.
2. The Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II, exhorts us to go.
The signs of the times are indicative of what God is doing in our day. God is pouring out His Spirit upon so many people.
RESPONDING TO THE GREAT COMMISSION
The charismatic prayer meeting still remains a very effective evangelistic channel for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Prayer meetings should therefore not miss out their evangelistic character. Adequate preparation should be made through prayer and study to ensure continued life in the various aspects of the meeting, which are: a. Praise and Worship; b. Witness--Sharing of the testimony; c. Sharing of knowledge (Bible study) d. Ministry and service (exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit); e. Fellowship, that is, building relationships in small faith-sharing groups.
The Life in the Spirit Seminars have proved to be one of the most successfully and widely used Christian programs. They are not threatening and full of catechesis, which is a vital dimension of the evangelization process. They are an effective way of being offered for effective witnessing as service.
There is also the need to raise up many intercessory groups to pray for the evangelization of peoples and missions. Pope John Paul II says in Redemptoris Missio that "mission is based not on human abilities but on the power of the Risen Lord."
Offering basic teachings on discipleship and ways of sharing the Good News is helpful to everyone. In prayer group situations, topics could include sharing ones personal testimony (journey of faith), and how to share the core gospel message. Contact the Renewal Office for a list of speakers and their topics.
Another way to learn the core gospel message is through the Seminars of Spiritual Enlightenment. They are being offered on Saturday mornings starting January 17 at St. Cecilias Church, San Francisco. They are sponsored by the Renewal and the School of Pastoral Leadership. Registration forms are available through the Renewal Office.
Also starting this month are the Renew 2000 training programs to prepare lay people for leadership in small faith-sharing communities. Small faith-sharing communities are the hallmark of the Renew 2000 personal evangelization programs, which will be offered in all parishes starting in the fall of 1998. See your parish bulletin or ask your pastor about joining the Renew 2000 team.
"Go and make disciples of all nations," Jesus says to his disciples. Are we ready to evangelize and obey his command? To do so, we must be prepared. We can lead people only to the extent that we have gone. Our process of evangelization then will be an expression of living out the Great Commission.
Mark Nimo graduated from the University of Cape Coast in 1989 with a Major in Economics and a Diploma in Education. He is the Director of the Know and Tell the Gospel Catholic school of evangelization in Ghana. He represents Anglophone, Africa on the ICCRS Council. Adapted from the ICCRS Newsletter. Used with permission.
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