Leading Question: What will God do if we refuse his commission to go to the world and spread the gospel?
Scripture Focus: Genesis 11:1-9, 12:1-3, 10-13:1; Acts 1:1-4, 8
The Big Idea: God cares so much for the world that he is willing to move us out of our comfort zone in order to reach others who don’t know of him.
- Missiologist Ralph D. Winter suggests that ideally, God’s people would respond to his commission and go out to the world voluntarily. A second possibility, however, is that when his people fail to share the gospel with the world, God “forces” connections between his people and the nations. This can come through persecution and resulting dispersion, overthrow and captivity in other nations, or the unwanted conquest and settlement of foreigners in one’s own land. In his 2009 article, “The Kingdom Strikes Back” (in Foundations of the World Christian Movement: Course Reader, rev. ed., edited by Ralph D. Winter and Beth Snodderly. Pasadena: Institute of International Studies, 7-24), he reflects on the harrowing experiences of Christians in Europe when faced with the attacks of the Vikings and others from the north. He writes:
No wonder the Anglican prayer book contains the prayer, “From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, deliver us.” Once more, when Christians did not reach out to them, pagan peoples came after what the Christians possessed. And once more, the phenomenal power of Christianity manifested itself: the conquerors became conquered by the faith of their captives. Usually it was the monks sold as slaves or Christian girls forced to be their wives and mistresses who eventually won these savages of the north. In God’s providence their redemption became more important than the harrowing tragedy of this new invasion of barbarian violence and evil which fell upon God’s own people whom He loved. After all, He spared not His own Son in order to redeem us! Thus, again, what Satan intended for evil, God used for good (Winter, 17).
- Are you comfortable with the idea that God uses persecution and military expansion for missionary purposes? Is spreading the gospel of Jesus so important that it’s worth sacrificing innocent life for?
- What are some biblical examples of voluntary and involuntary outreach?
- Can you think of times in your own life when God “forced” you into a situation you didn’t desire, but in retrospect, you can see that it was for a greater, salvific purpose?
- In Acts 1:1-4, Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus continues by explaining that the “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- What does it mean to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit?
- Previously, we noted that Jesus commissions disciples who doubt, and throughout the Bible, we see that God uses and sends faulty human missionaries. So, how can we know whether we should “wait in Jerusalem for power” or whether we should simply witness as we are, with all our failures and doubts?
- Which is easier—to witness to families or to foreigners? Which is most needed today?