A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

What Would Paul Do?

Reflecting on Paul’s mission brings clarity to ours. An evangelical leader claims the first followers of Jesus witnessed the fulfillment of the Great Commission in their generation. 

What Would Paul Do?Hi, I’m Jay Gary. I’m 41-years old and I am still trying to decide what I am going to be when I grow up!” That is how I used to introduce myself in small groups.

Everyone would laugh. I would laugh too, in part because I’ve had so many different careers. Now at mid-life it can be a real challenge to come up with a proper business card.

I’ve thought about using that clever foursquare retirement card, listing “no work, no phone, no money and no worry.” But at this point in my life, the truth is I have all these things, especially worries, in the form of two teenagers heading off to college!

So I’ve decided to create a business card with W.W.P.D. emblazoned in the middle.

You thought I was talking about W.W.J.D. — “What would Jesus do?” That’s a great card too. For me it also would mean, “What would Jay do?” But I’ve decided to keep my lowly W.W.P.D.

The “P” stands for Paul. Paul once wrote, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

There is a reason why people sport their W.W.J.D. bracelets these days, rather than a W.W.P.D. Jesus is in — Paul is out.

People think of Jesus as a wise sage. They consider Paul to be an obsessed, short bald guy, who carried a grudge against women and gays.

I am learning to look past these modern stereotypes. No I’m not trading in my Paul card. So if Paul were here, what would he do to shape the 21st century?

Thirty years ago as a college freshman I “decided to follow Jesus.” Within a month I received a form letter from Dr. Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Above his signature were the words, “Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission in this Generation.” Something about those words filled my heart with promise, as if our generation could finish what the apostolic generation began. Moved by Jesus’ last command to “preach the gospel to all creation,” I began to share the gospel with others.

Rather than waning as the years passed, for me the “Great Commission” increased as a yardstick. Against it I charted my life’s work, whether as an evangelist, educator, world missions leader or author. And like the North Star, Paul was always there, beckoning me to stand “firm in one spirit” and strive “side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27).

I thanked God I was focused like Paul, not like those other Christians who collected “Precious Moment” memorabilia.

Others could give themselves to personal fulfillment; I reasoned, I had a higher calling — to fulfill the Great Commission.

Back then I never imagined Paul’s nurturing his innerself.

In one sense this “zealousness beyond my years” bore great fruit. I helped launch the “Perspectives” mission study program and the “AD 2000” movement. Both now are considered key innovations for 20th century world Christians.

But my W.W.P.D. quest began afresh some three years ago, when through comparative Bible study, I began to consider how various “Great Commission” passages in the Gospels might be mirrored in the Epistles by “Great Fulfillment” passages.

For example, Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28 to disciple all nations was matched by Paul’s fulfillment clause in Romans 16:26 that the gospel “has been made known to all the nations.” Or Jesus’ command in Mark 16:15 to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” was matched by Paul’s claim that the gospel “has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23).

I found out in order to ask, What would Paul do? I must first answer the question, What did Paul see for his generation some 2,000 years ago?

So I set out to read the New Testament as if it were my first time. My goal was to own the Bible, as much as Paul owned his.

In the process I discovered that Paul’s mind-map was filled with constellation-like fulfillment themes. In short, I’ve come to believe his world revolved around at least six notions:
That he had been called and commissioned as much as any of the apostles who received the Great Commission.

  • That he and his generation were living in the Last Days
  • That he and his apostolic bands were gathering a full and Great Harvest
  • That once this offering was complete, a great changing of the guard would take place, at the dismantling of the Old Tent
  • That a New Temple would bind both Jew and Gentile into One New Humanity
  • That Christ, as humanity’s Second Adam, would overturn the effects of sin through a New Covenant age, world without end.
  • Despite Paul’s claim that he was about to “finish the course,” conventional thinking claims he did not gather an End-time harvest and the world did not end.

The deciding factor, however, often ignored in Paul’s cosmos, was that he saw the end of Old Covenant world, right where Jesus placed it, at the fall of Jerusalem, forty years after the Cross (cf. Matt. 24:14; Matt 5:17; 2 Cor 5:1-5).

The church today can say with complete biblical assurance that Paul witnessed the fulfillment of the Great Commission in his generation. Rather than a horizon set at the end of the world, Paul’s horizon for transformation was the end of the Old Covenant world.

Paul’s world was 1/30th the size of ours. His claim of universal proclamation of the Gospel should not be discounted.

But if we place the Great Commission back into the first-century context, what does that say about our mission in the twenty-first century?

Paul lived in the age of promise. We live in the age of fulfillment. Paul counted down to the end. We count up from the beginning.

The story of God on planet is far from ending, it is only just beginning in you!

Instead of “fulfilling the Great Commission,” today Paul would be about ‘fostering the Great Conversation’ among various nations with respect to God and the highest good. He would build on the foundation of world evangelization to call these cultures to world reconciliation.

The end of the Bible puts it this way: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come” (Rev. 22:17).

How then should we live? What should guide our life’s work and the great work of our times?

After all the career changes and mid-life curves, I’m going to keep my W.W.P.D. card. Despite Paul’s intense mission focus, I believe he would say to us today, “Come!”

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

Share Button

Comments are closed.