Just prior to His ascension back to heaven, Jesus told His disciples (and us), “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). We refer to this Scripture as the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Similar passages occur in the other three Gospels and Acts. Those who commit themselves to obey the Great Commission become World Christians. Not every Christian is a World Christian, either because of not understanding Scripture and our responsibility or because of choosing not to obey.
The term “World Christian,” used as early as 1920, is not a reference to “worldly Christians,” who claim to know Christ, but live like those in the world who don’t know Him. We have enough of those already, as David Bryant points out. However, he says, “every Christian is meant to be a World Christian, whether you physically ‘go,’ or ‘stay at home’ to provide the sacrificial love, prayer, training, money, and quality of corporate life that backs the witness of those who ‘go’.”1 Monroe Brewer (whose ideas in the quoted source inspired this article) says world Christians are those “so in love with Jesus Christ and so committed to His word that [they] cannot help but look at the world from God’s perspective….” They are “beginning to hear and to see and to think and to feel the way God does about the world because [they are] beginning to develop God’s heart for the world.”2
People with God’s heart for the world are the ones He has used most effectively through history. These are people like Abraham, who knew that God would bless all the world through him; David, whose psalms over and over reflect his understanding of God’s desire for all nations to worship Him; the Apostle Paul, whose vision and ministry for reaching the world that “God so loved” with the gospel of Christ is unequaled. There are others too numerous to mention in more modern times, like David Brainerd, William Carey, George Mueller, Ida Scudder, Jim and Elizabeth Elliott, multitudes of missionaries and missions-minded Christians desiring to evangelize the world.
World Christians encourage and build up fellow Christians in this negative and critical world. We need to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to keep on in ministry, not to give in to the feeling of hopelessness in the task of reaching the world for Christ. We need especially to encourage missionaries. We can send cards and letters and almost all missionaries have email addresses. Call a missionary by phone or Skype. Take your vacation or part of it to visit a missionary on the field. Without exception, the missionaries we have visited told us what an encouragement it was for us to come (but make it a planned visit, when it won’t hinder their ministry). How many missionaries do you know?
World Christians give to the work of the Church and its ministry across the street and around the world. Martyred missionary Jim Elliot said that if you are unwilling to give away your possessions, you don’t own them. They own you. We will never be able to keep them; better to invest them in what will last eternally. The physical and spiritual needs of the world are overwhelming. How much is a soul worth? If we were all World Christians, our sacrificial giving would be more than enough to supply the needs of missions outreach. We would no longer spend 95% of what we put in the offering plate on ourselves, because we would see that reaching the world for Christ at home and around the world is the purpose of the Church, the fulfillment of the last command Jesus gave us before His ascension.
World Christians know that God can transform anyone in the world through the power of the Gospel of Christ. Do you believe God can save Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran or Jared Loughner, who shot Gabrielle Giffords and others? World Christians are concerned about reaching the unreached all over the world because they know that salvation is possible for anyone through the Gospel of Christ, the one and only Savior.
World Christians continually pray for the unsaved world and are always ready to “go” wherever God may call them to take the Gospel of Christ.
We need to call on Holy Spirit to show us the world as God sees it, love the world as God loves it, knowing that His Word reveals His plan for the world. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Lord gave John a vision of “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Helping to amass that “great multitude” is the goal of World Christians.
H. Milton Wilder
Missionary Pastoral Care
1. David Bryant, In The Gap (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1985), 93
2. Monroe Brewer, “What Does it Mean to be a World Christian?” in The Local Church: Seedbed for Missions, ed. John Bennett (Wheaton: The Association of Church Missions Committees, 1984), 14-15.