Jesus' followers can share their faith in many ways. Some of the approaches are more of the “come and see” variety—we invite them to church, we talk to them about Jesus when they broach the subject of our faith. We welcome folks who walk in the doors of our churches and do all we can to make sure they encounter Jesus during the worship service.
Scripture also calls us to “go and tell.” In the Great Commission, which is highlighted in all four Gospels and in the book of Acts, the Lord send his people out to make disciples, to intentionally reach people with the good news of salvation through Jesus.
As an Old Testament prof, I’ve often heard people say, “In the Old Testament, mission was more “come and see;” in the New Testament, mission is more “go and tell.” I confess that at one point in my life, I believed it, too. In general, I saw the Old Testament people of God as a people positioned at a strategic land bridge between three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—and as people passed through Israel, they would encounter people who worshiped the one true God, and their presence would allow Israelites to share their faith.
In recent years, I’ve become suspicious of this view. What if—as Walter Kaiser suggests in his Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations—the Great Commission was just as much a commission to Israel as to the Church?
The more I read the Psalms and the Prophets, the more I’m convinced that mission is, in fact, just as much a part of God’s call to Israel as it is God’s call to the Church today. These books herald the call for the nations to hear and know the greatness of Israel’s God—who is their God, too. Perhaps we miss it because we haven’t read the prophets enough. Perhaps God’s ideal, God’s desire, sounded forth in the Psalms and Prophets, while what actually happened was described in the historical books.
Ironically, the same question might be raised to the church today. We may agree the New Testament is a missionary document, but what story does church history—or even our own church budgets—say about the priority of mission? Would outsiders survey your church budget and conclude, “This church is a ‘come and see’ church,” or would they see the clear priority of the Great Commission? Is more money spent reaching the lost or keeping the sheep comfortable? These are important questions as we seek to follow Jesus faithfully.