Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week of Prayer for North American Missions: Acts 1:8 - The Commission To Where To Begin

As today marks the kick off for prayer for North American missions, I want us to begin by going to Scripture. Most of us are familiar with the Great Commission passages. Each Gospel contains such a passage following the resurrection. Now that the power of sin and death had been conquered, on account of Christ's substitutionary death, believers have been commissioned by Christ to spread the gospel to the whole world.

The most famous of these Great Commission passages is Matthew 28:19-20: Go, therefore, and preach the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age."

So we got the message, right? Go, baptize the converted, and train disciples (so that they might go, baptize the converted, and train disciples, and so forth). But, where do I begin?

Luke wrote both the Gospel that bears his name and Acts. Both books describe the final words and ascension of Christ. One of the last things he said was, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Here, too, is a Great Commission passage, but this one is different. The previous Commissions tells us what to do, Acts tells what how to do it. Acts 1:8 serves as both an outline of the book of Acts and as a model for missions today.

Most of us whenever we think of missions, we think of foreign missionaries. I think of the missionaries and evangelists I have met overseas in Niger, Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. Here were men, women, and families, dedicated to the spreading the gospel to unreached people groups. I had the pleasure of evangelizing in a village in Africa that had never heard the gospel. The International Mission Board had just gained accessed to that village a few weeks prior to our arrival and by God's grace, people continue to come to faith there!

But missions includes more than foreign missionaries. We oftentimes think of evangelists. There is no better known evangelist in the world than Billy Graham who has preached the gospel virtually to the whole world. He is more than just the "Nation's Pastor," but primarily God's ambassador to the nations. None of us are Billy Graham and few of us are called and dedicated to vocational evangelism.

But we are all missionaries and evangelists in some way. Knowing that God is both Sovereign and Provident reminds us that it is not by accident we are where we are right now. It is not by accident that you are reading these words, have the job you have, have the family you have, and have experienced the things you have. God has been with you all along, even if you are new to the faith.

If your like me, I look at Billy Graham and foreign missionaries and think, "I'll never be like that. That's not me. God will never use me." But that is in effect saying to God, "you made a mistake. You overlooked me." That is not true. God has placed you where you are right now for a purpose. Think for a moment the numerous opportunities we have everyday to fulfill the Great Commission.

When I was a youth pastor, I present the youth a way to reach 50 people a day with the gospel for an entire semester. All they had to do was sit in a certain seat in each class room in which they surround themselves with someone who is unconverted and unchurched. Imagine, 50 people a day. And those are youth! How many does God place in your lifetime?

Maybe you should begin in Jerusalem and stop thinking about Samaria. God may not have called you to foreign missions. He has rather, perhaps, called you to local missions: evangelism to your family, friends, coworkers, boss, and wherever else He has you.

Imagine, God has entrusted the gospel with you. Are you going? Or are you sitting?

No comments: