“Taking the Gospel to the Country”
Series: An Acts 1:8 Church:
Every Member a Missionary
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Henderson, KY
- Take Bibles turn to Acts, chapter 8.
We are continuing to unveil our church theme for this year and the ensuing years. We’re talking about being an “Acts 1:8” church, a church where every member is a missionary and every member is involved missionally, taking the Gospel to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
Slide 1: “An Acts 1:8 Church,” Every Member a Missionary; 4C Logo
I want to be sure everyone has one of these bookmarks. If you need a bookmark, please raise your hand. If someone were to ask you, “What kind of a church is First Baptist?” You could say, “We’re an “Acts 1:8” church, a church where every member is a missionary, fulfilling the great commission found in the Book of Acts, chapter 1, verse 8.
Let’s read Acts 1:8 from the bookmark together. Jesus says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you are My witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”
As you look at that verse, remember that Jesus is not speaking of our reaching these four areas sequentially. He is not saying, “Go to Jerusalem first, then Judea,” etc. He is speaking of our advancing the Gospel in these four areas simultaneously.
Turn the bookmark over. You see there it says, “Simultaneously taking the Gospel to these areas; our Jerusalem, which is the community, our Judea, which is the commonwealth of Kentucky, our Samaria, which is the country, and to the ends of the earth, the continents.”
We want to ask you to begin thinking about specific and concrete ways that you can be involved missionally in taking the Gospel to these 4Cs of community, commonwealth, country, and continents. Maybe you cannot go on an overseas mission trip this year, but you can give to a specific missional endeavor, or “adopt” a missionary family by praying for them and encouraging them. We hope that every member will “map out” a Missional Action Plan (MAP) for the coming year, a plan that very simply and succinctly says, “Here’s how I plan to be involved missionally this year in the 4Cs of Acts 1:8, my community, commonwealth, country, and continents.
We’ve been using this term “missional.” I shared with you last Sunday that a “missional” church is different from being merely a “missions-minded” church. Here are a couple of definitions (appropriated from Ed Stetzer) that I think will prove helpful. Let me encourage you to write these down:
“Missions Minded” Church
A “Missions Minded” church is a church whose members care about missions around the world. Members give to missions, go to mission contexts, and are involved in cross-cultural missions.
This definition is good. It describes good churches such as ours, churches that have been for years, very missions minded. But a weakness of this definition is that it suggests a church need only support missionary work, supporting the work through giving and selective going of only certain people. It does not adequately express what Jesus expects of every disciple in Acts 1:8.
A “Missional” church is a church whose members realize they need to not only support missions, but also be missionaries right now where they are. Members see themselves as missionaries and act missionally by taking the Gospel to the four areas of the Great Commission.
When the members of a church understand what it means to think missionally and to act missionally, then every member thinks of himself and herself as a missionary, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So every member can affirm these two statements, let’s say them together:
“My church is responsible for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
“I am responsible for taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
So we are talking about being an “Acts 1:8 church” and we’re talking about these four areas of community, commonwealth, country, and continents. To stress that these areas are to be reached simultaneously we started last week with the “ends of the earth” and we’re working backward to our Jerusalem. So we started with the “continents” and we’re working backward.
Before we look at reaching our country, let’s review this term “unreached people group,” or UPG. Sometimes you’ll see this abbreviation, UPG. It stands for unreached people group. What is an unreached people group?
A “people group” is a sociological grouping of individuals who have a common affinity with one another, usually sharing a common culture and language. It is better to speak of people groups than nations because within some nations, like China, there are thousands of individual people groups, a bit like a country within a country or a nation within a nation.
An “unreached people group,” a UPG, is a group of people in which less than 2% of the population are Evangelical Christians. In the majority of cases these are people who have not heard the saving message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are lost people mainly because no one speaks their language and can share the Gospel with them.
To help further in our understanding of unreached people groups, UPGs, let’s take a look at this short video clip put out by the missional organization, Pioneers. In one part of the clip, you will see a map of the world and a specific portion of that map highlighted in orange. This part of the world is known as the 10/40 window. It is called the 10/40 window because this area is located between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude. It’s like a belt that covers these areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the places where the majority of UPGs are located.
VIDEO CLIP, Unreached People Groups [3:50]
Who will reach them? You can and I can. We can pray. We can give. We can go. Every single one of us can do one of those three things in all four areas of community, commonwealth, country, and continents. We can pray, give, or go. Together we can reach the unreached.
You know if all we had in the Bible were the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the letters of Paul beginning with Romans, we may wonder how in the world the Gospel got from Jerusalem to Rome. How did the Gospel get from the community to the continents?
Look with me now in Acts, chapter 8. Up until chapter 8, the work of the Gospel centers in Jerusalem, the community. We don’t read yet of the work of the Gospel beyond the community. So what happens in chapter 8 is critical. It is in chapter 8 that we begin to read of the spread of the Gospel from community to the continents. The Gospel begins to spread from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria.
A disciple named Stephen has just been martyred. He dies giving testimony to Jesus Christ. He dies preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem. The God who knows and controls the end from the beginning works through this persecution in enabling the disciples to take the Gospel from the community out to the continents.
- Stand in honor of the reading of the Word.
1Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
In the remainder of our time, I want to share with you from this text some general principles for missional Christians. These principles apply to us today as we take the Gospel to the community, commonwealth, country, and continents. There are several so let’s take a look.
**General Principles for Missional Christians:
1) We are Not Called to Self-Focused Living
Jesus had said back in Acts 1:8 that His followers are to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. This is a commission for all Christians. Every member is a missionary. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to go into all the nations with the Gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He says, “and I am with you always even to the end of the age.” That time—the end of the age—has not yet come so the work continues. Jesus was not talking only to the disciples of 2,000 years ago. He is talking to disciples today. The “end of the age” has not yet come so the work is not yet done. We are to busy ourselves with the important business of taking the Gospel from the community to the continents until “the end of the age” arrives.
This is not a call to self-focused living. Pop-culture Christianity is about self-focused living. There is no end to the shamelessly, self-focused sermons, books, and materials that tell you that “it’s all about you.” It is not. Our focus is not inward. Our focus is upward and outward.
The disciples were called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and their scattering here in Acts, chapter 8 leads to their going “everywhere preaching the word (v.4).”
God guides them in their taking the Gospel outside of Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. They were not permitted to focus inwardly on themselves. If you’re looking for a church where it’s all about you and getting your needs met, there are many churches that will cater to you. May First Baptist Church always be about primarily looking upward and outward. Secondly:
2) We are Not Called to a Life of Ease
You will never read in the New Testament that the call to follow Jesus Christ means you are guaranteed a life of ease and prosperity. No! Your best life is not “now.” Your best life is when Christ returns to right all the wrongs of this sin-cursed world. In the meantime, use your gifts and talents to take the Gospel from the community to the continents.
3) Our Missional work can be Difficult and Dangerous
Stephen had just died sharing the Gospel. It is a fascinating, moving, and inspiring story. He boldly shares the Gospel there in Jerusalem. His witness is not well received. He is chased out of the city and stoned to death. As the stones are being thrown at him, Stephen prays for those killing him, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” and he dies.
And the Bible says then in verse 1 of chapter 8 that a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”
Our missional work can be difficult and dangerous. God’s people should expect persecution. Persecution will happen. It will come. Stephen died and the Christians are persecuted and scattered about. Saul—who would later become Paul—not only approved of the killing of Stephen (v.1) but also, verse 3, “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”
Just as it is important that we remember we are not called to a life of ease so we must remember that missional work can be difficult and dangerous. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” It will come. Expect it. And Jesus goes on to say, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” The idea is, “I am with you, even to the end of the age.”
So remember when you encounter difficulties, trials, and tribulation that you are living in a world that is not as it should be. It is not as it was meant to be. We live not for this fallen world. We live for the world to come. Don’t get comfortable here. As soon as you get comfortable, you’ll be tempted to get lazy and when persecution comes, you’ll falter because you will have forgotten that you do not live for this world and its comforts and enticements. You live for a cause greater than yourself: for the glory of God and spreading the name of Jesus Christ.
And when tribulation comes and overwhelms you, like Stephen, and like our Lord Jesus says, “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).” Fourth:
4) Our Missional work can at times seem Ineffective
This is a quick word of encouragement. Remember that in this passage it says that Saul was there consenting to the death of Stephen (v.1). Little doubt he had heard Stephen’s sharing the Gospel, but was unmoved. He had likely heard many times the sharing of the Gospel by these Christians in Jerusalem and was unmoved, not interested, his heart hard and his ears closed to the Gospel. He was, verse 3, “making havoc of the church” and “dragging people off to prison.”
But eventually Saul came to know Jesus Christ in a personal, real way. He got saved and became the Apostle Paul, used of God in a mighty way, giving us two-thirds of the New Testament.
Your missional work can at times seem ineffective. You have knocked on that door a hundred times. You have prayed for that lost loved one a thousand times. You wonder whether God is using you at all. But you keep with it! Our job is not to do the work of the Holy Spirit. We are merely to obey the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stay faithful. Leave the results and timing to God.
5) God Guides through Missional Activity
Remember the doctrine of God here in this text. God is all-powerful and all-knowing so He is superintending here. God is ruling over this persecution. God is guiding. God is in control. God is able to work the “bad” of persecution to the “good” of advancing the Gospel. This is the mystery of the God who “works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).” God guides through death, persecution, and imprisonment to advance the Gospel.
The Bible says in verses 4 and 5:
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
God rules over the persecution, guiding the church now in taking the Gospel to Judea and Samaria. The geographical and cultural equivalent of Samaria for us is the country of the United States. We are not only to take the Gospel to the far away parts of the continents, but the far away parts of the country.
We now have a trusted missional partnership with Redemption Hill Church, a new church plant in Boston, Massachusetts. A former member of ours, Tanner Turley, and his team are planting a church in Boston this summer and we have partnered with them in our praying, giving and, eventually, our going. Boston is a great area to plant a church because only 2% of the entire population is evangelical. There are people living in Boston from all over the world. There are folks living in the city of Boston from Unreached People Groups (UPGs) all over the globe. If we reach folks in Boston for Christ, we can also reach much of the world for Christ!
But there is really no end to other missional opportunities in America. We can reach others for Christ by taking the Gospel to our country. Some of you may have great ideas about reaching others in our country for Christ. Go for it. Take the Gospel to the country!
And remember that “Samaria” is also cultural. Historically, the people of Samaria were of a different race and culture than the first Christians. We, too, must be about the business of reaching people of all races and cultures for the glory of God.
6) God Changes People through Missional Activity
When you read verses 6-8 you read about a changed people. The power of the Gospel is seen in miracles, healing and, ultimately in verse 8, “great joy.” How does all of this happen? Back up in verses 4-5:
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching (evangelizing) the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached (heralded) Christ to them.
The people were changed by the missional activity of Christians who were sharing the good news of the Gospel. Only the Gospel permanently changes a person.
- Stand for prayer.
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