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Why the Great Commission is at the heart of Christmas

Photo: Unsplash/Juliana Kozoski
Photo: Unsplash/Juliana Kozoski | Photo: Unsplash/Juliana Kozoski

We don’t formally launch the fourth annual International Day for the Unreached campaign until the New Year, but there is no better time to invite you to be part of it than during this holiday season.

For, strange as it may sound, the event to be held on Sunday, June 9, 2019, that calls the global church to a greater commitment to fulfilling what is known as the Great Commission is, ultimately, all about Christmas.

That’s because the missionary movement wasn’t born when Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

It was born with Jesus, when He came to earth as a baby.

He was the first missionary.  He left His home and came to those who needed Him and did not know Him. He lived among them, cared for them, and opened God’s Word to them that they might understand and receive His love.

Two thousand years later, those of us who have had the opportunity to learn about Jesus would do well in following in His footsteps. Some of us need to go and live among those who still do not know Him, to care for them, and open God’s Word to them, that they might understand and receive His love. And some of us need to support those who go.

Sadly, only a small percentage of contemporary churchgoers recognize that Jesus didn’t just model this calling through His coming, but also spelled it out in His Great Commission command.

More than half those questioned for a Barna Research study last year said they were not familiar with the term, while for 25 percent it rang some sort of a bell, though they could not be too specific. Only 17 percent knew that it referred to Jesus’ directions recorded in Matthew 28:19 --“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...”-- according to Barna’s Translating the Great Commission report.

Given the lack of awareness of the importance Jesus gave to spreading His message, perhaps it is no wonder that more than two billion people in the world yet wait to learn anything about Him. For the most part, the worldwide church has no great sense of urgency about the task that He left us.

Most missionary activity currently takes place in parts of the world and among people groups where there is already some significant Christian presence of one kind or another. The places where there are few or no known Christians are more difficult to reach because they may be geographically remote, physically dangerous, religiously or politically resistant.

Because these are the most challenging places to which to take the gospel, some Christians feel that it’s a task for only a special kind of person. But the Christmas story tells us otherwise. For the shepherds were the least likely group to be entrusted with the message of God’s peace and joy for the world.

They were pretty much at the bottom of the social totem pole of their times—considered so fringe that their word was not accepted as evidence in a court of law. And it was to them that God entrusted His message. They simply went and shared what they had experienced. In the same way, completing the Great Commission is a task given to all followers of Jesus, not an elite few.

The Christmas story also reminds us that the gospel is not for a select few. When the heavenly hosts broke out into song over shepherds in a field outside Bethlehem, the angel declared, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added).

All the people—everywhere. That is what drives those of us who are part of the Alliance for the Unreached (, an assortment of organizations seeking to help fulfill Jesus’ command to go into all the world. We are involved in a  wide range of different activities—from radio broadcasting to health care and children’s ministry—that each expresses some aspect of the manifold heart of God for His world.

We’ll be celebrating this responsibility and privilege--which is given to all Christians--on the fourth annual International Day for the Unreached on June 19. 2019—Pentecost Sunday. We choose this day each year because it marks when the Holy Spirit fell on the first disciples, empowering them to pursue the Great Commission.

Thousands of individuals and churches around the world will participate in a global live event, a celebration—of what has been achieved—and challenge—of what remains to be done. They will hear news about what is happening in missions to the unreached, and how they can get more involved.

Christmas, the incarnation, is good news of great joy for all the people—including the world’s two-billion-plus unreached.

On behalf of all those of us who are working to see the Great Commission realized, I wish you a Happy  Christmas—and invite you to celebrate the true meaning of the season by joining us in our efforts. We want to see Jesus born again, as it were, in the hearts of all those who still have yet to hear.

Well-known for his years of broadcasting leadership, Wayne Pederson currently serves as global ambassador for The International Day for the Unreached (, an alliance of ministries dedicated to reaching unreached people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Pederson served as chairman and president of the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) and currently is liaison to the president of international broadcaster FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company).

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