Pastors and laypeople have dramatically different views about the scope of missions, according to a new Barna survey that probes what Christians believe about Jesus’ commandment in Matthew’s Gospel.
Christ’s words in Matthew 28:19-20 are the core of what is often called the Great Commission. In that passage, Jesus told his followers, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The Barna survey found that 85 percent of pastors but 46 percent of Christians believe “missions is a mandate for all Christians” – a 39-point gap. Among practicing Christians, 42 percent believe it. (Barna defines “practicing Christians” as those who have attended church within the past month and strongly agree their faith is very important to their life.)
“This is a profound difference,” Barna said in an analysis. “... Both leaders and churchgoers must unpack why this gap exists. Pastors could lean in to better understand and shape how congregants interpret missions. Does their participation mean donating money, praying, educating, evangelizing, relocating or something else?”
Among Christians “who can correctly identify” the Great Commission, 61 percent “view missions as a mandate,” Barna said.
Meanwhile, on related questions:
- 77 percent of pastors say it’s more important for missions to spread the gospel than promote justice (15 percent). Among self-identified Christians, 43 percent chose “spread the gospel,” while 37 percent chose “promote justice.”
- 88 percent of pastors say it’s more important for missions to equip indigenous tribes than be “short-termed” (6 percent). Among Christians, 46 percent chose “indigenous tribes,” and 18 percent chose “short-termed.”
- 59 percent of pastors but 47 percent of all Christians say it’s more important for missions to be “globally focused.”
The survey results were posted on Barna’s website on April 20.
Photo courtesy: ©Amanda Bartel/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.