The opening chapter is always pivotal to any good book. Think about it: in it we are introduced to the main players, the context gets sketched and the great adventure (that both binds the characters and gives energy to the whole story) is framed. Like the mountain spring of a great river that eventually empties into the ocean, the energy and momentum is generated at the source.
Luke’s Acts of the Apostles is no different.
The first chapter glances back at the public ministry of Christ, reintroduces us to the little group of followers, and names the great adventure: mission. The rest of the narrative flows directly out of this framework. It is the story of a remarkably empowered community and the transformative power of God.
Fast forward two and a bit thousand years and we (amongst one third of the entire planet’s population) are the fruit of that story.
Yet the latest census data in Australia suggests that all the mainline Christian groupings are trending backwards, and those people classifying themselves as having ‘no religion’ has risen from 18.7% in 2006 to 22.3% in 2011,1 a near 4% jump. In real terms this means almost 1,000,000 more people declaring themselves to be faithless than five years ago – sobering stuff!
Early in 2012 Global Interaction launched our Church resource, ‘Moved’*, helping faith communities to remember our missionary heritage and engage in the opportunities still before us.
There are three DVDs and the third one focuses on resource distribution: 97% of our resources are spent on ministering to the ‘reached’ peoples of the world. That is to say, the vast majority of our time, creativity, money and energy is directed toward ourselves. Less than 1% is released toward ministry amongst the ‘least reached’.2 Given the vision of the early church, this is unbalanced by any measure.
Even so, in times such as these it is easy for us to react and ‘circle the wagons’. The catch-cry, ‘to look after our own before we look after the rest’ is an easy slogan for a nervous church to grab on to.
And it’s the very opposite of the gospel response.
The genius of the early church was that they viewed themselves primarily through a missionary lens: to be Christian was to be missional. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament Scripture reveals this truth. Whenever the church took its eyes off the mission focus, the Apostles redirected the vision.
Churches that identify, equip, resource and send cross-cultural missionaries are ipso facto healthy churches. The reverse is also true. This is because our God is a missionary God, and we are created in His image.
Don’t allow your vision to be dimmed for God’s mission, even – and maybe especially – in the difficult times.
Global Interaction NSW/ACT partners with churches to send workers into the field with the full recognition that in the very act of doing so we join in the process of developing healthy, God-honouring, worship-hungry, transformative communities of faith here in our home culture. It’s the ultimate win-win. Because that’s the way God’s economy works.