There is no model for missions in the Bible that falls out of the context of the local
church. Locally, nationally, and internationally, the mission to make disciples was the
heartbeat of healthy gatherings of believers.
From the Jerusalem church’s earliest days, those who repented and believed were
baptised in Jesus name into church life (Acts 2.40-41), devoting themselves to the
apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer (Acts 2.42). While mission
is regularly thought of as something we support and/or do over there, churches
cannot expect to be well used in work elsewhere that they are not first doing locally.
Our mission in disciple-making begins within our churches ensuring we ‘stir up one
another to love and good works…meet together…encouraging one another…’ in
anticipation of Jesus’ return (Hebrews 10.24-25). Others know we are Christ’s
disciples by this love for one another (John 13.35).
Local mission, however, is not simply fulfilled by loving our Lord through other
Christians. The same love must be shown to those who are not yet following Jesus.
As those in the Jerusalem church were charged with filling the city with their teaching
(Acts 5.28), such should be our goal, that no one misses out on hearing the good
news of Jesus!
With the large and necessarily multi-site Jerusalem church devotion to fulfill Christ’s
commission, they accepted their responsibility to take the gospel to the surrounding
regions of Judea and Samaria. How did they accomplish this? By sending
Philip, a deacon in the Jerusalem church went to Samaria and surrounding regions,
making disciples and baptising them, having the approval, support, and
accountability from Jerusalem (Acts 8.4-25).
Slightly further afield, a church – implicitly associated with Jerusalem – had begun in
Damascus by Acts 9. It was this church in which the church persecutor Saul would
first find his place following his conversion. Eventually he was sent away for his
safety to Jerusalem where he sought to fulfill his Christian responsibilities in holding
himself accountable in the Jerusalem church (Acts 9.26)
As early church mission was effective locally and regionally, so also it spread
globally – through the local church and for the local church. Many disciples were
scattered away from Jerusalem by persecution, bringing the gospel to their new
cities. Through this Antioch was reached and a church was formed – itself held
accountable by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11.19-26).
Eventually Antioch would send the aforementioned Saul and Barnabas to give relief
and aid to the Jerusalem church that was being heavily impacted by famine and later
to focused church-planting and strengthening work among Jews and Gentiles.
In the brief time span of the New Testaments’ written record we see reference to no
fewer than 33 local churches and 6 regions with multiple churches. In this we see
that mission, Biblically practiced, is based in local churches that have the purpose of
establishing, strengthening, and relieving other local churches.
Originally posted in Grace Baptist Partnership’s “News and Views”, February 2020. To subscribe, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org