Wednesday, June 16, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth

I did some organic church training in Ethiopia a few years ago with church planters from all over the horn of Africa. Men traveled from as far as the Sudan and Somalia to be there and all had stories to tell of persecution.

Wow, it was a real blessing to be in a room full of people who have looked down the barrel of a gun or taken a blade in the side for Jesus and that are still preaching His word. I felt humbled. I had much more to learn from them then they did from me.

I carry in my Bible pictures of brothers who have lost their lives in this region for the sake of the Gospel. My favorite coffee in the world is grown by organic church planters in Ethiopia! I think about them daily when I have my morning brew. Join me in praying for their work as you sip the fruit of their labor as both organic farmers and organic church planters.

There was at least one way that I think I may have been able to help this movement, and in so doing may actually also have helped the rest of the world. Painted in bold letters on the wall in the room we met in was the purpose statement of the movement: To fulfill the great commission in the horn of Africa in this generation.

Admirable as that is, it is not correct, and can never be fulfilled. Why? because the great commission goes to "all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20)" and "to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)." You cannot fulfill the great commission in just one place of the earth. This was the problem the Jerusalem church struggled with until the persecution spurred on by Paul in Acts 8:1 pressed them out (amazing as it is, Paul is responsible for planting churches even before he followed Christ!). I actually wanted these noble apostolic church planters to raise their vision higher than the horn of Africa. The whole world could be blessed by their passion, faith and love, not just the horn of Africa.

This is something we all need to learn. Having a true Great Commission vision will affect all you do. For instance, when we evaluate our tools and methods, we ask if what we are doing will work in Calcutta as much as California. Will our methods work in Athens Greece as much as Athens Georgia? If it will only work in a US context we shelve it no matter how much we spent developing it (Note: TruthQuest is the one exception, we realize it is limited in where it will work, but encompasses enough of the world that it merits being produced).

A global perspective alters your view of what you are doing like nothing else. If what you are doing will reach the suburbs of South Orange County but will not work in the Sudan than you are not going to fulfill the Great Commission with what you are doing. This is why we scrutinize our materials so much and why we celebrate our "Shelf of Shame" where we place methods and resources we have created that will not multiply to the ends of the earth.

Is the Great Commission altering the way you do ministry? Perhaps it should.


Glenn said...

Excellent food for transformation

We have been embracing a vision that will bring the Gospel to 1000s throughout the NW Sacramento Region . . . but the premise behind having a Global Commission in view which actually guides our localized missions is helpful and creates purer and greater alignment

Good stuff

Christopher said...

Is the reason that TruthQuest doesn't work everywhere that some cultures don't have enough systematic theology textbooks in their languages, or is it something else?

Neil Cole said...


Yes that, plus many people groups are oral and do not have literature at all.