I am starting to see a parallel between the last 100+ years of evangelism and Acts 1:8. In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his disciples that they will be witnesses in Jerusalem – Judea – Samaria – and the ends of the earth. The last 100 or so years of church growth has been a lot from conversions from one denomination to another. Many have equated Bible study and evangelism with talking to a Baptist, Mormon, Methodist, etc and trying to get them to become another type of Christian. In other words we are converting people who already believe in Jesus to believe this or that set of doctrines.
When the Gospel first went out there were people who were insiders and had a clue that a messiah was supposed to come (Jews who lived primarily in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria) and those who didn’t have a clue about the messiah, Jehovah God, etc (Gentiles – the “ends of the earth” type people). The apostles were eventually sent to both.
Acts 1-7 Jerusalem and Judea
Acts 8 Samaria
Acts 10+ Ends of the earth
My contention is that we have gotten really good as reaching the Jerusalem’s and Judea’s – those comfortable places where people and culture are a lot like we are. As a whole we have not done as well reaching out to those uncomfortable “ends of the earth” people whose the culture is very different than ours and who don’t really trust us on the front end. We like our insider places because in Christian circles we are comfortable and we find some level of trust and respect and people who think God is real and the Bible has authority. We are not as comfortable among those who hold a different worldview than we do and who don’t come to the discussion with the same conception of God and scripture and church and spirituality as we do.
The solution is not to fix this problem “over there” by sending missionaries. All of a sudden the ends of the earth have come to us. We have to become missionaries to our culture. As Alan Howell said in a previous comment that we have to learn our culture and contextualize the message of Jesus Christ to them. As any good missionaries spends time learning a culture in order to reach it we have to do the same.
The church today is sitting right in the middle of Acts 10. We have spun our wheels in Jerusalem and Judea for a long time bickering about this and that with the insiders. It is time we go outside the walls onto the mission field that is right next door and down the street and in our neighborhoods. Right now we are like Peter who has a vision that there is more to come and that we are going to have to be a little, if not a lot uncomfortable if we are going to reach out to those who are not like us. God has already sent Cornelius’ men and they are knocking at the door. Will we answer? Will we move from Acts 1-9 to Acts 10-28? You cannot reach the ends of the earth by sitting at home in your easy chair. It takes action and an acceptance of responsibility in the mission of God. Will you answer the call?