Rev. Donald Patterson

December 11, 2023

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

The following excerpt is taken from a message delivered by Rev. Donald Patterson during the first General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in America in December 1973.

Since the beginning of the Christian Church, it has been at its best when it is militantly evangelistic. Refined by violent opposition, a fierce dedication to take the Gospel to every man at any cost characterized our predecessors.

Unfortunately, the Church has not been able to maintain its most dedicated missionary enthusiasm for very long, and having failed to polarize public opinion about Jesus Christ it has retreated from the arena of open evangelism. The Church has hidden behind symbols of strength and power – protected by its theological positions – while whole generations of unimpressed. uncommitted and unevangelized people go by outside.

I may have misunderstood the Scripture, but my impression of the Church was that it was never meant to be some kind of a fortress out of reach of the people. The Church was to be an outgoing, proclaiming, evangelistic body of believers dedicated to the passion for the world-wide evangelization of people.

As I understand the command of Jesus, we are to preach the Gospel to every person, but no generation of Christians has ever come close to fulfilling the Great Commission in its own times. The likelihood of our evangelizing the world seems so remote that few of us even think about it – much less pray about it.

Facing the command of our Saviour and with some knowledge of the work of various mission organizations down through the years, it is my opinion that our fledgling denomination must search for a workable plan for world-wide evangelization. We must go back to the New Testament and base our global ministry on apostolic patterns and standards. Listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy: “I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (I Timothy 1:16)

The success of world missions is not to be measured against past accomplishments or present gains, but by the realistic proggress toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the response of the Church to pursue its task with faith and vision.

What will you do about it? As you stand at the crossroads, what will your decision be? I promise you difficulties and dangers. Messengers of the cross have been hunted and hounded, whipped and flogged. Some have given their lives. But the mandate has not been rescinded.

Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and the Lord of history. Leaders come and go, nations rise and fall, civilizations wax and wane, but the worldwide mission of the Church will continue to the end of the age.

Mr. Patterson was Chairman of the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church and pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.