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Leading to the Ends of the Earth

How to reach beyond your church by investing within your church
Leading to the Ends of the Earth

According to Acts 1:8, the last promise Jesus gave his disciples was that “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That promise was meant to comfort, but it can also be overwhelming at first glance. I recently heard a speaker who is radically committed to reaching the world for Christ. He sheepishly confessed that his son is in counseling and the first thing his son asked the counselor was “Do I have to reach the entire world for Christ?”

Any of us who have been involved in church leadership certainly feel the same. Just keeping up with your own congregation is a full-time job. But perhaps the solution is breaking down that verse to be applicable within the ministries in your church. “Jerusalem” would be reaching your own congregation, “Judea” would be reaching your entire city, “Samaria” could represent your region or country, and “the ends of the earth” would be the world.

Loving Your Congregation

This is the obvious one that I will need to spend the least time talking about. If you are in church leadership, you are already committed to this. You take seriously Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20). And of course that starts in your own church. Through ministry to children, visitors, and regular attenders, your ministry is clearly defined to those in your church, and most of the people in your church will be involved in ministering to others in your congregation. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s what we naturally think of when we think of being involved in ministry.

But some in your church will think beyond the church, and you as a leader can turn them loose to pursue the ministries God lays on their hearts. It’s important that you give them freedom, encouragement, and resources to fulfill their missions.

Loving Your Community

Those who are civic-minded will be drawn to ministering to the community more than within the church. That is no less spiritual and provides a much-needed way to develop relationships with those outside the church. These people are in contact with those around them in ways those who are primarily involved only within a local church can never be.

The possibilities for ministry within a community are myriad. I think of Kori and Terry, two women who have a heart for the poorest children of their community, who took a reading program to a struggling section of the city and began developing relationships with kids. As a result, many have come to church and have been introduced to Christian thought for the first time. The church, in turn, provides volunteers, materials, and refreshments to make this happen.

Katie felt compelled to reach out to women and men with unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, she did all the research and work to begin a pregnancy center that ministers to these people. It’s entirely staffed by Christians who have the same passion for those who are facing a difficult life decision. Her church offers their facility for banquets, financially supports the ministry, and gives her many opportunities to raise funds and recruit volunteers to help with this ministry.

Dean lived his entire life in the same small town and loved it passionately. He felt his faith compelled him to be involved in making that town better; therefore, he worked to bring tourism to town and to improve the park system. Those in the community knew that his motivation was his love for God and understood that love compelled him to make the lives of those around him better by bringing jobs and raising the quality of life of those in his hometown. The church acknowledged the importance of his work and honored him when they could.

Loving Your Region or Country

Some in your church will want to impact more than just those around them. They will want to reach out to their county, state, or country. Often such people are disaster-relief workers or simply love responding to needs no matter where they are found.

Julie is such a person. She loves to serve those who are facing disaster. And she’s also hands-on. So although she’s a woman in her 50s, she volunteered to help build housing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Her church didn’t have anything organized to help there, so she contacted the church’s denomination to see if anything was available. It was, so she went. Her church supported her by giving her an opportunity to share about her mission and to encourage others to get involved.

Several churches in our area responded to a call to help those in our state whose town was devastated by a tornado. They got a team together and volunteered to do whatever needed to be done. The churches working together provided many more people than if one church was working alone. Crossing denominational lines gave opportunity for broader, more effective ministry.

Loving the World

Those who want to reach beyond our own nation have a passion for those from other countries. They are missionaries at heart, but for one reason or another are not in the position to go to the mission field. Yet they can have an enormous impact worldwide as they minister to immigrants or international students.

Ruth was raised on the mission field and never lost her love for those who were from other nations. As a result, she began a ministry to the international students who came to the university in her city. Her church responded by giving her an office within their church, funds to help support the ministry, and numerous volunteers to reach out. The ministry picks up international students at the airport, provides temporary housing for them, collects used furniture and warm winter coats, and offers a meal and fellowship weekly. Many of these students have come to Christ before returning to their own homes.

Andy and Renee have a large family and a fairly big house. When they found out an immigrant Muslim family was in need of a place to stay, they fixed up their basement and offered it to the family so they could be together until they were able to strike out on their own. They developed deep and abiding relationships with this family and were able to share their faith freely with them. Their church provided clothes and encouragement.

These are just a few examples, but there are as many opportunities as there are people in your church. As a church leader, you can encourage and spur on those who are big-hearted and visionary. Just give them the freedom and support to reach the entire world for Christ.

JoHannah Reardon has at times been involved in each one of these kinds of outreach. Follow her blog and find her many novels and devotionals at www.johannahreardon.com.

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