We live with the reality of the Great Commsion. We are to make disciples teaching them to obey all that he commanded. How about Jerusalem? Yep, we reach out those most like us. Our Judea requires some networking. There are plenty of people in our community with just enough religion to be dangerous. Eastside loves them if they live close or across the nation. Our Samaria is really exciting because they are just outside our reach culturally. And the ends of the Earth, the most remote people, we find those people in Marietta apartments, Idaho valleys, and walking the roads of Africa. Around here we have a saying.
Describing the Mission Fields
Acts 1:8 is one of five commissioning passages in the New Testament. All of these commissioning or sending commands occur after the resurrection of Jesus and represent his closing instructions to his disciples. In these, Jesus instructs and empowers his followers to carry on the work he did during his earthly ministry.
Acts 1:8 specifically lists four environments or locations where followers of Jesus are to be witnesses. These mission fields are most commonly thought of as concentric geographic rings, each one radiating out further and further from the center of Jesus’ ministry. While this is certainly an appropriate way of viewing the mission task Jesus gave us, these environments can also be viewed through a “peoples” lens. The definitions which follow suggest both ways of describing these fields.
The city of Jerusalem itself. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life and was the place where Jesus met his disciples following his resurrection. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) equates Jerusalem with the local association geographically.
Focusing on people, Jerusalem was populated primarily by Jewish people. As such, the Jerusalem mission field is one where we focus on reaching people who are most like ourselves, that being the local church.
The land of Judea was the land originally settled by the tribe of Judah. Jerusalem sits in the land of Judea. As such, Judea represents the next larger geographic region beyond the city of Jerusalem itself. NAMB equates Judea with the state convention geographically.
Judea was the land of Judah, one of the Jewish patriarchs. By the time of Jesus, Judea was still largely Jewish but was also under Roman rule. Numbers of other non-Jewish people had taken up residence in Judea making it more ethnically and nationally diverse.
The region of Samaria lies to the north of Jerusalem and the land of Judea. During the Old Testament period, Samaria was part of the Jewish nation. Geographically, it is more distant and had become a region in its own right by the time of Jesus. NAMB equates Samaria with North America.
Samaria was more than just the name for a region. It also described a group of people known as the Samaritans. These were people who were originally Jewish but who had intermarried with other non-Jewish people and had also adopted many foreign customs and religious practices. The Samaritan people were close cousins but now represented a different group of people from the Jews.
Jesus uses this term to describe all the rest of the known world beyond the land of Israel. The geographic implications are obvious and challenged the early disciples to see beyond the Jews and people like themselves. These are the mission environments that are geographically most distant and typically require travel to reach. The International Mission Board (IMB) equates “the ends of the earth” with all of the non-North American mission fields of the world.
A peoples focus on the “ends of the earth” looks beyond geographic and political boundaries to identify and develop strategies for sowing the Gospel among all of the people groups of the world. Many, if not most, of the people groups of the world are now found in North America as well as in their native homeland.
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Marietta, GA 30068
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