For me, there is no greater joy than living where the commitments of my life intersect with the truth of the biblical text. This is particularly true when it comes to the mandate of Acts 1:8. In this moving departure scene, the living, resurrected Christ commands His disciples to remain in Jerusalem where He promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Jesus went on to say that this power would enable them to be His witnesses concentrically, beginning in Jerusalem, and ultimately all the way to the ends of the earth.
In reading these parting words of Jesus, it is clear that those who follow Christ are to be global in their thinking. This message goes to the heart of what I believe is one of our greatest struggles, namely, we are wired to forget the world…not remember it. Paul Borthwick illustrates my point in his book Six Dangerous Questions To Transform Your View of the World. In this challenging work, Borthwick referenced a National Geographic advertisement which stated that “24 million Americans can’t find our country on a map of the world.” Borthwick continued, “As a follower of Jesus Christ, I find that geographic knowledge follows my beliefs. My Christian commitment demands that I be concerned about the world for which Jesus died. Yet I find that quite a few Christians are no different from the population surveyed for….the National Geographic Society.” (InterVarsity Press: Downer’s Grove, Illinois, 1996, p. 9) We can be so fixated on ourselves and the maintaining of our Jerusalem ministries that we forget about the sea of lostness that Jesus Christ has called us to impact with the gospel.
I have been a local church pastor for the last 21 years, sixteen of those years in the same church. My primary pastoral labor is in my “Jerusalem” which is Gonzales, Louisiana.
This is where I spend the preponderance of my time and energy. My pastoral journey to embrace global missions has been an incredible story of how God can use a small, ordinary congregation to make global impact. We took our first mission trip as a church in 1999. Since that time we have sent out over 45 teams on short term mission projects. We have rejoiced to see God call His people out of our congregation to champion the Gospel in far away places. In 2001, we adopted an unreached people. We have experienced as a congregation the purifying power of missions. We have celebrated many times as our teams have returned with incredible testimonies of divine appointments.
Perhaps I am writing to a pastor or church leader who is wondering, “How do I get started with Acts 1:8 obedience?” “How can I lead our congregation to view the world through the lens of Acts 1:8?” Several things come to my mind that I hope will be helpful to you in answering those questions.
The Priority of Prayer
I would mention of first importance the priority of prayer. (I Timothy 2:1) This is a critical reminder for us because we are spring-loaded to go and do and plan and print materials and strategize, each having their place, but the top priority is to pray. The noted Methodist preacher Samuel Chadwick once said, “The one concern of the Devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
How often the Bible brings us back to prayer for every ministry endeavor! The context of Acts 1:8, and the entire book of Acts for that matter, is a clinic on prayer. The disciples were told to assemble, to wait and to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 13, we witness the church at Antioch engaged in missionary praying and fasting. Through this season of prayer, the Lord spoke, and they sent out Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for the work. It is incredible to think of the impact of that prayer meeting upon the missionary labor of Paul and Barnabas.
Coming to terms with Acts 1:8 begins with the priority of prayer. I would urge you to call your congregation to prayer for global missions.
The Export of a Healthy Local Ministry
In addition to prayer, the health of the local church is critical to Acts 1:8 obedience. Again to the early church, we read in Acts 2 that they were functioning as a body of believers in such a way that the Gospel spread rapidly and the needs in the body were met abundantly. Worship, teaching, fellowship, prayer and evangelism were the commitments of their ministry. Early in our missions development, we began using the term “export” to describe our missions sending. In a real sense, we believe that by sending out teams we are “exporting” our local ministry, and because of that we feel a heightened sense of commitment to the spiritual health of Body life in our Jerusalem.
We are by no means perfect, and I am certainly not saying that a church needs to have everything in order before they begin obeying Acts 1:8. We are most definitely in process, and we need God’s ongoing sanctifying work in our lives. My point is that we want to export a healthy ministry: Christ-exalting, Kingdom-seeking, Bible-centered, Church-planting, Missions-mobilizing and Family-building. This is the mission ministry we long to export to the nations.
Learn From Others Who Are Doing It
Another important lesson for us was that we did not have the “re-invent the wheel” with regard to doing missions. Resources and opportunities abound to help you and your church get started with a global focus. Our first mission trip was by invitation from another church that had a developed ministry. We “piggy-backed” on their labor as they imparted valuable “how-to” information. We, in turn, took our own mission trip the next year and have returned on a yearly basis ever since. I am encouraged by churches helping other churches mobilize for Gospel ministry.
Let me close with an action of list of ideas that may be helpful to you as you seek to obey Acts 1:8 in your church:
*Ask another local church if you could go with them on their next mission trip. The LBC has just developed a new ministry to facilitate such partnerships. Call and ask for Wayne Shepherd to help put you in contact with a church already engaged in missions.
*Check out the IMB and NAMB websites. These websites are an endless resource of ideas.
*Consider making a missions corner in your church with pictures and resources.
*Pray about adopting an unreached people group. Ask the Lord to lead you to a group of people who have no church, no Bible and no Gospel. Find out who the missionaries are who work with these people. Consider taking a trip to visit them. Have them in your church when they are stateside.
*Organize some type of systematic prayer for the nations. Patrick Johnstone’s book Operation World is an invaluable resource for informed praying for the nations.
*Consider having international students in your church and home.
The strategies and ideas are endless. I have discovered that missions begats missions. If steps of obedience are taken, the Lord will open door after door of opportunity as His word spreads rapidly to needy hearts. Friendships and partnerships will be forged in a common labor. This is the most exciting adventure a Christian can know---To make Christ known from his neighbors to the nations. For that is how we who follow Him are to view the world.