Where do I begin? How do I get started? Those are frequently asked questions when the topic of “Going” in obedience to the Great Commission comes up.
The conversation had focused on the responsibility of each church to obey the Great Commission. The pastor said, “We want as a church to reach out to the ends of the earth. But we don’t know where to start. How do we get from point A to point B? Can you tell us how to begin?”
What I can tell anyone is pretty much the same. I can tell you where I think I have to begin. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” How do I apply that to this question of where to begin missionally? I begin by asking God, “What do you want me to do next?” I have a faith that He will tell me, but that is contingent upon my heart being willing to do whatever it is that He says.
I believe the apostle Paul undertook his missionary travels with a great deal of prayer. Prayerfully he put together a strategy, but he was always subject to being redirected by the Holy Spirit. There is probably nowhere this is more clear than in Acts 16. Luke records that the Holy Spirit had forbidden them speak the Word in Asia. Luke doesn’t tell us how that prohibition had come, but this band of missionaries had no doubt it was direction from God. They then attempted to enter in a place called Bithynia, but again were not allowed by the Spirit of Jesus. Then we discover that God speaks to them through a Vision of a man from Macedonia pleading they come and help them.
The Bible teaches that our God is a God who opens doors no one can close and closes doors no one can open (Rev. 3:7). I believe with all my heart that if we seek God in all sincerity with a commitment to do His will, He will tell us where to go next. He may not unfold the entire plan (it would probably scare us out of our socks). He will, however, reveal enough at a time to keep us moving.
Sometimes people ask me, “How will I know that it is God?” Recently a well-intentioned good friend advised me to do something. I responded, “I am certainly willing to do that if God releases me from what I am doing?” His response was, “How will you know?” I cannot give a formula to that. There is no three easy step plan.(No easy button). YOU JUST KNOW. When God speaks to your heart, you know.
What if I make a mistake? Can I be blunt and say, “Stop it.” Stop trying to figure it out; “do not lean on your own understanding.” This is called faith. We come to God believing that He hears our inquiry and stands ready to give us an answer, in His time.
On a practical side, we know that God has called us to pray for the nations. The Gospels quote the prophet Isaiah when Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers, and reminds the people His house is to be called a house of prayer. But it is only Mark 11:17 that gives the full quote: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” The word “nations” is “ethne” meaning all people groups. We can begin this journey of where in our prayer chambers. Put a map of the world in front of your eyes where you have your prayer times. Begin to pray for the peoples around the world. Get the names of unreached people from somewhere like the Joshua Project. As you continually pray, see where your eyes and heart continue to land. Probably that will tell you where God is leading you.
The Great Commission is given to all of the Church, which means all of the local churches that make up THE church. Every Christian can pray about the ends of the earth. Most Christians can give to support the work of missions. MANY can actually go. You may not go permanently, but you can go as a support person to those who are committed to a place and a people. Let God give direction.
Where works out When. What does that mean? God reveals His plan when He has our heart. So put your “Yes” on the table, and then let God put it on the map.
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