After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the early disciples and gave them an assignment that still belongs to all followers of our Lord in every generation, until He comes again. So, we are still working on Acts 1:8. Jesus framed His Great Commission with these words, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).
We often draw the distinction between the four areas of mission Jesus listed: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the “end of the earth.” Some like to point out the high value of reaching one of those four groups above the other three. But that’s just not in this text. In fact, there are three other items that are not in Acts 1:8.
First, I do not see where any believer is excluded from reaching certain geographical areas. The regions are simply listed by our Lord, and we are commanded to be witnesses to all of them. We can do that. None of us can physically travel everywhere, but through prayer and channels of giving like the Cooperative Program (CP), we can go everywhere.
We should notice that “the mission field” is all four, not just the last one, as we often erroneously and habitually say. Lostness is everywhere. The witness of the gospel is desperately needed in all four fields.
Second, I do not see a priority list here. Jesus described the mission field in geographical sequence with no judgment on the value of each area. So, this scripture text offers no basis to say our resources must be devoted to one area at the expense of another.
I realize wisdom demands that we make the best use of our time and material resources in order to impact lostness everywhere. Mission strategists underscore the value of investing our Great Commission energies in places of receptivity and need. I have no problem with that. Score another point for Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and special mission offerings. These giving channels facilitate all mission fields. The location is not the priority; the gospel is.
Third, I do not read where Jesus told us what percentage of our time, energy and resources must be given to each of the four regions. Some like to focus on those discussions. I’m a “bottom line” kind of guy, so I see the bottom line of Jesus’ assignment is not to prompt arguments on what percentage we invest in each area. The goal is to get on with reaching all people everywhere.
The autonomy of local churches and our voluntary partnership through the Cooperative Program allows every church the freedom to determine the percentage that matches its biblical convictions.
It is problematic that many of our church members do not know how CP works. Two steps could remedy that. First, provide them with the Biblical Recorder so they can regularly read personal stories from the mission field – the Jerusalem mission field, the Judea mission field, the Samaria mission field and the end of the earth (international) mission field.
Next, show them this CP pie chart. This graphic shows how and where CP gifts are being regularly invested in all mission fields and how our six excellent seminaries are training our people to go to every mission field.
We illustrate how $1,000 is distributed when North Carolina Baptist churches support missions through CP. I believe you will find this helpful to everyone in your church family.
October has several important themes in Baptist life. It is Cooperative Program Month and we want our readers to know the great value of the giving plan that has allowed Southern Baptists to make a profound impact on lostness worldwide.
Also, this is the month we give special offerings to global hunger. The front cover of the Sept. 24 issue of the Biblical Recorder featured this great need. (See here.) Many of our mission agencies use your global hunger gifts to share the gospel. This is a significant offering.
Please remember October is also Pastor Appreciation Month. Honor your pastor and all of the ministers who serve the Lord as they faithfully shepherd the flock of God.
This month features a concentrated focus on prayer for our convention, our nation and much more. We gave our readers information about “Pray for 30 Days” of the Sept. 24 issue. (See here.) Pray!
Finally, Franklin Graham will close his 50-state Decision America Tour with a rally in Raleigh on Oct. 13 at noon. I hope many North Carolina Baptists will attend the rally and unite with other believers to make a profound statement about our convictions. Graham will challenge us and call us to prayer. Please come to the Raleigh event on the Capitol South Side at 1 East Morgan Street.