Even though I presently serve as a missionary, there is a pastor’s heart that beats within my chest with a strong desire to see the local church walk in victory with the Lord. Therefore, my thought processes are not only missiological, but ecclesiological and pastoral. It is my privilege to help mobilize local churches for global missions and develop a comprehensive mission strategy.A comprehensive mission strategy takes into account all 4 geographic regions outlined by Christ in Acts 1:8; namely, our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and uttermost parts of the earth. We have been traditionally taught to think of our Jerusalem as our home city, our Judea as our State, our Samaria as our nation or region and the uttermost parts is self-explanatory. I certainly agree that the local church must be simultaneously involved in conscious efforts to evangelize all 4 regions. However, I do want to challenge our understanding of this passage to lift one area out as a priority.
As conservative evangelicals, we endorse a hermeneutic or method of interpreting the bible that takes into account the culture, language and context in which the passage was originally written. We do this in an effort to find “authorial intent”. That is, what the author of the passage intended us to understand by his words. Let’s use this message to try to understand Acts 1:8.
When Christ spoke these words, the church was non-existent in Jerusalem, not to mention the other 3 regions He highlights. So, was He saying that the disciples were to take the gospel and therefore the church to places where it was not? You bet he was! He still is. Therefore, the priority in missions is those places where there is no access to the gospel because there is no church. That was and is Christ’s inherent focus in the Great Commission.
Today in missions, we speak of unreached people groups. What does it mean to be unreached or even worse, unengaged? An unreached people group is defined as those groups where less than 2% of the population is Christian. Unengaged people groups have no gospel witness present within their culture. So, I ask you, where should the priority in missions lie today?
I agree with the principle that lies behind the 2% threshold that defines a reached or unreached people group. Once 2% of a population becomes Christian, the 2% can theoretically reach their culture and people with the gospel without “foreign” assistance. Therefore, let’s hold to our hermeneutic and missiology and stop spending the majority of our time and resources on “reached” nations and people groups. Let’s embrace the intent of Acts 1:8 – Getting the church to where no gospel witness exists and finally fulfilling the Great Commission.
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