Have you ever been made to feel guilty for not sharing your faith with total strangers? Most of the appeals that I have heard for evangelism and missions in the forty years that I have been a believer have been based on the common translation of Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples…” When we translate the Great Commission as “Go!” we create an atmosphere in the church of pressure to leave our current situation and cross geographical and cultural barriers to witness for Christ instead of the more natural relationships developed where we are. We expect people who make commitments to Christ to become professional ministers, missionaries, etc. instead of encouraging people to penetrate their circles of influence where witnessing is a more natural part of their lives.
Since Matthew 28:19 should be translated as “Therefore, as you go, make disciples…,” our emphasis in witnessing for Christ should be to share our faith in the common everyday relationships we all have in life. In the New Testament, the most effective evangelism was within a person’s household, the people we relate to regularly. When God sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10), Cornelius called together his friends and relatives and everyone in his household heard the Gospel and came to salvation. When Lydia met Paul and Silas in Philippi, she and her household came to faith. When Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi, through God’s intervention, the jailer and all his household were saved.
When we look at Jesus’ instructions in Acts 1:8, we see that His plan was for people to witness where they were first of all. We move out from there into our Judeas and Samarias, and finally to the ends of the earth. If we are looking to the ends of the earth and ignoring our neighbors, we are missing God’s heart and we are failing to truly fulfill the Great Commission.