One of the most clear Bible verses that talks about this thing we call “missions work” or “missions” is Acts 1:8 when Jesus says, “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.” This was a response to the disciples who, after Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to them, were asking if he was going to set up his kingdom now. His response was not the answer they expected – he didn’t answer their question, but told them they would be his witnesses.
I think many times we take this verse to say that world or international missions are the most important thing. International missions work is important for sure. But we may put too much weight on the idea that the only “missions work” that counts is that done by missionaries who go outside their home country and witness in foreign lands. Don’t get me wrong - sending people, or going ourselves, is definitely important. But I don’t think that’s all Jesus meant when he said the disciples, and by extension all believers, are to be his witnesses.
When we look at the verse in its entirety, we see that all witnessing is important. Jerusalem was the city they were in so he was saying to be his witness in your home city; Judea and Samaria were the surrounding communities so he was saying to be his witness in the communities near you; and, of course, “to the ends of the earth” was the rest of the world. I think the more important question we should gain from this is a personal one. How can I, in my city, in my church, in the communities around me, and in the rest of the world, be a witness? If I write a check to support an international missionary, is that enough? Probably not – I think Jesus had higher expectations. If I take a 1 week trip to somewhere outside my community to serve on a short-term mission trip, is that doing what Jesus said? Partially. But I think the challenge is how do I witness right where I’m at – in my home, my neighborhood, my workplace, my school AND how do I help spread the Gospel wider than that at the same time? I think it’s a classic BOTH/AND scenario that is both personal and a responsibility for the church to balance.
We recently shared the exciting news about a new partnership Hope Church is beginning with a church in Panama. This partnership is exciting because it is an opportunity for us as a church family to participate in what God is doing outside our community. It’s an opportunity to pray with, pray for, serve and get to know people in a different country who are just as valuable and loved by Jesus as anyone else. Through the missionary arm of our EFCA denomination, Reach Global, we’ll have an opportunity sponsor children through what the EFCA calls Global Fingerprints. These sponsorships help to meet tangible needs of children in Panama, but just as important, they also provide an opportunity to build relationships and spread the Gospel through these relationships and the local church there. We also hope to have opportunities to send teams in the coming months to serve locally in Panama, and we will continue to connect and build a relationship with the church we are partnering with. This is definitely exciting stuff!
Having said that, we shouldn’t lose sight of the opportunities we have to serve locally and be witnesses for Jesus. Over the past few years, we’ve partnered with a local school, St. Mark’s Youth Enrichment, and the Tim Tebow Foundation for Night to Shine. All of these opportunities are also “missions work”. We’ve had people give their time as volunteer mentors, landscapers, book readers, note writers, and many other things. This is “missions work”.
Closer to home, every week, we have people on stage, serving coffee, opening doors, running tech for the service, holding babies, teaching kids, making sure the building is secure, and on and on. This is “missions work”.
Beyond the walls of the church, many people are ambassadors for Jesus in their home, workplace, school, or neighborhood. You see, “missions work” is incredibly personal and something Jesus meant for all of us to do. He included witnessing “to the ends of the earth,” but he also included Jerusalem (Dubuque) and Judea and Samaria (Iowa and the US) when he charged his disciples just before he ascended to Heaven.
So, what do you see as your “missions work”? What can you do today, this week, this coming year to be a witness for Jesus, whether that’s right here at home, internationally or both?
Check out this related article: https://firmisrael.org/learn/why-jerusalem-judea-and-samaria/