By Mark Dance
Is the Great Commission really our most important task?
A scribe once asked Jesus, “Which command is the most important of all?”
Jesus quotes the Old Testament commands to love God and love one’s neighbor. He then says, ”There is no command greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).
Matthew likewise records Jesus saying, “This is the greatest and most important command” (Matthew 22:38).
Great Commandment Pastoring
Every Great Commandment pastor I’ve ever met is also a Great Commission preacher, but the converse is not always the case.
We’ve all met Great Commission preachers who lead thriving ministries while their relationships are struggling behind the scenes. I’ve personally been that obnoxious Great Commission preacher.
I cringe when I recall seasons when I was growing my ministry at a pace my soul couldn’t keep up with.
I allowed relational erosion to creep into my church and home while I was simultaneously building up my ministry and resume.
As I look back on 33 years of pastoring churches and pastors, I realize having a Great Commandment life is essential to having a Great Commission ministry.
My face mask moment
God used the Great Commandments to grab my attention in an intensely personal way in 2006 while I was fasting and praying in a mountain cabin in Arkansas.
After almost two decades of pastoring, I was ripe for a “face mask moment” with God. Football coaches used to grab our face masks when they needed to get our undivided attention, and it always worked.
Although God was more gentle than my middle school football coach, I left that Arkansas cabin knowing that God’s game plan for my life and ministry would be first and foremost the Great Commandment.
According to Jesus, the whole Bible hangs on the commands to “love God and our neighbors” (Matthew 22:40).
It follows that our lives and ministries also hang on these commands which clarify who we need to love the most.
Jesus makes it crystal clear that He’s first.
This simply means there’s not a more important thing we can do in our day or our whole life than love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
His preeminence in our lives and ministries is a consistent theme throughout Scripture.
The first pastors in history lost sight of this when they temporarily neglected prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:1-4).
The Great Commandments not only show us how to love best, but also who to love most.
Everyone is equal in God’s sight, but you and I are not God. Pastors must prioritize our relationships so they can be good stewards of their limited time, energy, and resources.
The second command to love our neighbors is about our love for the people God has placed in our lives. The term “neighbor” means “nearest one.”
My wife Janet is my nearest neighbor and is the second love and priority of my life after God. Since a pastor’s family is in his job description (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1), there’s no doubt who deserves the best of our love.
Our Great Commandment neighborhoods will also include our friends—both lost and saved.
Great Commandment pastors will be the best kind of Great Commission preachers because their love for family, church, and community will overflow out of their love for God.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.