Still to Reach the World?

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a new interest to push into foreign, mostly unknown cultures in order to spread the gospel message.  This resulted in all kinds of missionary movements, some of which have even become denominations.

But in recent years, there seems to be a draw back inward, into the church.  Fantastic Sunday services are, at times, the focus.  Communities of like-minded people who, for the most part, are already believers are cropping up everywhere.  Some of these efforts are driven by the realization that even in the US, Canada, and England, there are large numbers of people that are not believers.  Countries that have traditionally sent missionaries and church planters are now in need of them at home.  But as the pendulum swings back, it's important that American Christians do not lose the mindset of a gospel message to the whole world.   

Why?  Why shouldn't we just focus on our local communities and let the locals in those other areas deal with their local communities?  Because the Bible dictates that the gospel is for the whole world and the disciples are to go to the whole world. There's a large list of passages, but for this blog, I'll stick to a short selection. 

To exclude Matthew 28:19-20 from the top of the list of passages on world evangelism would be a travesty. The passage, often called 'The Great Commission' reads,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (ESV, emphasis added). 
All though the translation of the Greek word ethnos could suggest foreigners in the land rather than other geographical areas (especially considering the Peter's vision to take the gospel to the gentiles had yet to happen), there is strong reason this command to "go" and "make disciples" is in reference to the whole world both ethnically and geographically. However, to be sure there is no doubt, Acts 1:8 records Jesus' detailed instructions, stating,
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (ESV, emphasis added). 
The very construction of this instruction from Christ suggests that the disciples will be witnesses in a geographic area, not just to various ethnic people that happen to be in Jerusalem like the event recorded in Acts 2.  Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, and then the Greek word heos, that is "as far as" the end of the earth.   Clearly the expectation is to evangelize the world.

To be sure this is correct, we can look to Revelation 5:9-10 where John hears in a vision four creatures and 24 elders singing that Jesus, "ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (ESV). And in Revelation 7:9, John sees a "great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" worshiping God (ESV). And if we turn back to Matthew 24:14, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the end of the last days. Here he says that before the end, "the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (ESV). There is little doubt, even looking at only the passages presented here, that Christians are fully expected to take the gospel message to the ends of the earth.  It would seem from reading our Bible, that we can't just stick to our comfortable communities, we must support missions and church planting throughout the whole world.

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