The previous chapters discussed the scriptural foundations for the Great Commission and the Cultural Commission. The next two will take a look at the consequences of emphasizing one commission to the exclusion or diminishment of the other.
What happens if Christians pursue the Cultural Commission but not the Great Commission?
One of the very real fears among evangelicals is that recognizing the importance of the Cultural Commission will mean the diminishment or even the abandonment of the Great Commission. There is justification for this fear. The story of that abandonment started with the early church. In Revelation 2:1-7, John writes,
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
This is an example of a church which fell away from that first love, fell away from that enthusiasm that marked their ardor for the Lord. They continued in works and toil and patient endurance, but their dedication to good works alone was not sufficient to win Christ’s praise. The same is evident today. We have seen many of the mainline denominations forsake the teaching of the foolishness of the Cross for the rationality of Good Works. And it does not work—at least, not for very long! We must continue to start the story with a resurrected Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Without Christ as our foundation and the Holy Spirit as the source of our power, we will soon exhaust ourselves physically and spiritually. It is very interesting that those segments of the church that have been most prominent in concentrating strictly on the Cultural Commission are those denominations which are suffering from the greatest decline in membership. People finally get so hungry and thirsty for the Living Word that they have to go elsewhere to be nourished spiritually.
Jesus asked of His followers a question we must still ask ourselves today: “"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet” (Matt 5:13). That which restores or continues the “saltiness” is indeed the foolishness of the Cross. Our saltiness can only be effective if we are working through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Cultural Commission does not relieve us from the mandate to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”