“7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:7-8
Start in Jerusalem. Start with where you are. Reach this city…then God will send you elsewhere…even to the ends of the earth!
The mission of churches in the U.S. has largely gotten this backwards. Look at the missions budget and see where the money goes. See where the missionaries go. We start with the ends of the earth rather than right at home. I am speaking in broad generalities here…there are exceptions, of course.
What complicates things even further is even with things out of order…we never work backwards to our city.
It would make sense that we started in a church placed so we put our effort elsewhere…but as the West becomes more unchurched it would also make sense that we would take all we learned from the foreign mission field and apply those lessons here.
What does being faithful on mission look like for the local church? What happens if you start at the ends of the earth with foreign mission work but make little impact at home? What if you send missionaries all over the world but don’t know your neighbors…don’t know your community…move your church to a nicer part of town because the demographics changed. Was there an effort to reach the new demographic…the new neighbors? To get to know them?
I hope this doesn’t sound too heavy handed, arm twisty or guilt trippy…but I think we need to take a close look at the mission of the local church and get back to the order of Acts 1:8 – start at home and go from there. Be faithful to your neighborhood and community and see where God takes you from there.
In politics we talk about “flyover country” – places in the middle of America some people never visit – they only see from the air. We have that in the religious landscape and mission of the church.
We fly over the lost to reach the lost.
It isn’t either/or. It is both/and…and we need to start where we are…pay attention to who God has put us in proximity with and go from there. I am not saying cut your foreign mission budget and start over. I am saying…let’s make sure we don’t miss who is right next door!