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Fulfilling the Great Commission

A. B. Simpson’s sense of urgency helped spread the good news

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Two years ago my life changed. Each morning for several weeks, my wife would pop awake and ask me, “Do you think this will be the day?” Each time I would perk up out of my sleepy stooper with the response, “I hope so!”

Our first baby was due any day. The doctor repeatedly told us that she would arrive early—he was sure of it. In the end, she was almost a week late! But those days caused me to change the way I lived. I stayed close to the phone. Every day my wife and I walked for miles, hoping to speed things along. We lingered in the nursery, just to make sure that everything was prepared. I even drove more carefully to avoid the chance of an accident. I wanted my life to be “in order” when our baby came. I was ready when I heard the words, “I think it’s time!”

An Urgent Request

We live in glad anticipation of specific life events. We are willing to work hard for a job promotion, save for a vacation or new home or clear our schedule for the Super Bowl. The sad thing is that in our culture, these types of things seem to be viewed as the most important matters in life.

As Christians, we know that God is at work and that He will accomplish His purposes. We also know that our life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). On the most are people, whose lives appear and disappear as quickly as mist. What happens today is of utmost importance, and when it comes to the most crucial issues in life, I want to be ready! When we lose a sense of urgency toward what God is doing, we fail to fulfill all He has called us to be. Alliance founder A. B. Simpson lived with a sense of urgency to God’s will.

Many speak of the “mission and vision” of organizations. In 1887 Simpson began a movement with a clear sense of mission and vision. Simple scriptural mandates radically changed his life. Simpson, along with many others, took the Great Commission of Jesus seriously (Matt. 28:18–20). Simpson seemed to possess a special trait that compelled him to immediately impact the Great Commission.

Yes, Lord, I Will Go

When Simpson was 31, he realized Christ’s return was possible at any moment—and it meant the end of time and the end of any chance for eternal life for those who had not heard of Jesus Christ. Two years later Simpson had a dream in which he saw thousands of Chinese people who did not know of Christ. When he awoke, he responded, Yes, Lord, I will go. He first thought that he was to personally go to China but later realized that he would be an agent to send hundreds of missionaries around the world.

“‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’” (Matt. 24:14). Simpson believed Christ’s return would be wonderful and might be hastened by a great missionary advance to the most neglected regions of the earth. The return of Christ would “take out of life all that is sad and wretched today. It will perfect and consummate all that is glorious and good. It will give back all the treasures of the tomb. It will take the vision of Jesus which we have seen . . . and it will make it so real to us; it will bring us to His arms forevermore, when we shall see Him as He is; the centre and the glory of this Gospel of the Kingdom.”

If Simpson’s mission began as a pressing need to preach the gospel, his vision also encapsulated this urgency, putting feet to his passion. He could have stalled, leaving his vision mere head-knowledge and therefore ineffective. Simpson did not stall or become entangled with possible hang-ups. He responded to God’s mandates with action.

Are You Willing?

Simpson’s vision can be summed up as “establishing a team [an alliance] of workers for the harvest to reach the unreached and unchurched by every possible means with the Fourfold Gospel,” said Christian author and professor Paul King. “Today, the C&MA has necessarily developed into a denomination, but Simpson’s ‘alliance’ was composed of Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Holiness churches and many others. Simpson’s vision spread to any and all who agreed with the necessity of Christ’s mission.”

Perhaps Simpson’s most risky statement was his belief that evangelistic activities would make the Lord’s return possible in his generation. Obviously that didn’t happen, but no one can fault Simpson for trying. He wasn’t alone in his faith, and it was evident that he believed that the evangelism of the world and the return of Christ were within reach. Simpson longed for Christ’s return, and he lived with the pressing knowledge that it could happen at any moment if people would spread the gospel.

What would happen to our lives, to our churches, to the C&MA and to the Kingdom of God if we lived with Simpson’s sense of urgency? Living for Christ’s return has never looked as foolish to the world as it does now, but this is no time for us to get comfortable. Today some people are ready to jump ship if following Christ requires action.

On the other hand, our churches are made up of people ready to act on God’s request. God is not calling everyone to participate in the same role, but He is calling us to be an alliance of people living in a war-time stance, ready to obey and change for the cause as needed. This may require uncomfortable changes, just as I was willing to do during the expectation of our first baby, or as Simpson made for the Kingdom of God. Let us not fall into our culture’s trap of living for our personal comfort and gain. As John Piper said, “To treasure life above Christ is a tragedy.” What is God asking you to do?

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