God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit purposed, planned and promised a global, international mission enterprise that would achieve, accomplish and apply all the blessings and benefits of redemption. Being aware and actively involved in that enterprise at a local, national and international level is the basis for healthy, biblical discipleship and solid spiritual vision. Seeing the big plan and realising the breath-taking scope of God’s mission and sensing our partnership with the one true universal Church gives a sense of perspective and encouragement in local church life.
Locally we are linked and joined in gospel fellowship to a global family of faith. ‘In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace’ (Col. 1:6). This vital connection between local and global is exciting, thrilling, inspiring and should stir the deepest praise in our minds and hearts as well as call us to fuller meaningful involvement (see Psalms 96-99, Romans 15:8-13).
Biblical truths of global awareness
From Genesis, where the covenant promise given to Abraham is to embrace all nations and the families of the earth, right through to Revelation where the final gospel choir of all tongues, tribes and languages assemble, there is a golden thread of global grace to all peoples. Israel is chosen to be the channel of this blessing for the Gentile nations.
At her best, Israel knew her elect function. Psalm 67 is a beautiful summary of the whole Old Testament understanding of the purpose and promised place of Israel’s ministry for God’s glory and the blessing of the world:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us – so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
When the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, comes we are reminded that the fruit and blessing of his saving work is not limited to one people and place. He is the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John1:29). God’s gracious loving gift is for the world; ‘For God so loved the world’ (John3:16). Jesus’ light is to shine into all dark places; ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12).
It is into this world that Jesus sends his disciples. ‘As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’ (John 17:18). Their mission was to ‘be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Crossing the cultures, barriers and languages was to be a central feature of their all-embracing mission. The apostle Paul understood his mandate and mission was to ‘call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake’ (Rom. 1:5, 16:26).
Preaching, teaching, praying, giving and serving any lesser gospel expectation and perspective robs us of the awesome heartbeat of God’s commitment to his son, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (Ps. 2:8).
Encouraging this vision
My task as preacher and teacher is to keep the theme central in all sermon series. Sometimes it is explicit other times implicit but at all times Christ-centred preaching will always be mission-centred too (Luke 24:46-47).
Keep a live flow of information from our mission partners through the amazing variety of ways we can communicate today. Encourage the reading of mission magazines, websites, biographies and other books can help keep the flame of mission vision alive. Ensure that there is a reasonable flow of visitors from all kinds of places and diverse mission ministries welcomed into the church family to present their heart for some nation or people.
In a city like ours, Newport, we have people in the congregation who add to the rich diversity of nations by their faithful presence. Getting to know them, their countries and the state of Christian witness in their home location is always a blessing. Partnering with them to reach their natural ethnic community is a challenge but one that pays rich rewards.
Sending and supporting specific individuals on their journey as they have responded to the call of God on their lives for cross-cultural mission is a responsible but joyous privilege. Short term teams and visits as appropriate enrich those who have travelled to see, hear and smell the places where we have interest.
All this fuels intercession and prayer in a regular planned way that deepens the sense of real partnership in worldwide mission. In Romans 15:30-32, Paul – a man from Tarsus in the Middle East – encourages European believers in Rome to pray for his mission to believers in Jerusalem and unbelievers in Judea. This represents the real live way we can be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19).
Balancing global and local mission
Global mission and local mission should complement one another. It’s the same gospel and the same God given mission. Most of our time is spent in the local situation seeking to reach people around us being salt and light into the family, workplace, community settings where we live. Keeping an intentional missional focus on all we are and do is a challenge when we can become comfortable, complacent and compromising at home.
We are all sent. We are all disciples. We all need the support and partnership of the local family of believers. We all need the backing and encouragement of prayer for the mission situations that are among our neighbours and friends.
There is also a harvest field in villages, towns and cities in Wales. Should the mission principle of sending be a pattern for us as we consider many areas of our land where there is little or no gospel witness? Should some Christians think of applying for jobs in such needy areas? To hear the call of the kingdom may mean just moving to mid-Wales! Cross-cultural mission will always demand respect for the local language. Should more be learning Welsh so they can reach barren gospel areas of predominantly Welsh speaking communities?
Other languages and religious communities are now on our door step. The world has come to Wales with Arabic, Pakistani, Somali, Chinese, Romanian, Polish and many other ethnic communities living side by side. Such rich diversity of culture and language so close presents great challenges and wonderful opportunities to show love, care and gospel-shaped living.
Whoever, wherever, whenever, whatever our circumstances, loving, sending and serving the local and global mission of God is a joy and blessing. May it ever and always honour and glorify him.