Various attempts have been made to apply the geography of Acts 1:8 to the personal situation of Jesus' disciples. A common view is to see "Jerusalem" as the city/town/village where one lives, "Judea" as the state/province/district, "Samaria" as the nation, and the "uttermost parts" as the world. The writing of missiologist David Mays has given me another way of understanding these levels.
Mays points out that we can classify the peoples who need our witness as either "like us" or "not like us." "Like us" may include similar factors such as language, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, or even age-group. When we don't share one or more of those factors, we tend to see others as "not like us." Usually, that means that there will be some barrier to get over in order to share the gospel.
Mays further points out that peoples are either "near us" or "not near us." This distinction is based solely on geographical location. Some, regardless of the other factors already mentioned, are right around us, readily available for contact and conversation. Others will require us to make a journey or relocate in order to develop a relationship with them. Again, there is a barrier to cross--simple geographical distance.
Combining these two types of distinction yields four classifications: (1) like us and near us; (2) like us and not near us; (3) not like us and near us; and (4) not like us and not near us. Applying these four categories to Acts 1:8, we see Jerusalem as those both like and near us; Judea, like us but not near us (that is, not so close); Samaria, not like us but near us (that is, not so far); and the uttermost, not like us and not near us.
As pointed out in a previous post ("Both ... And"), we are not to think in terms of progressing through these levels sequentially. We are to address them all simultaneously. It is not logical to ignore the lost around us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is heartless to neglect those in lands with little access to the gospel while repeatedly evangelizing those around us. And while it may be more comfortable and pragmatic to share with those of our own kind (think "homogenous unit" principle of church growth), it would be utterly selfish to save our own at the expense of Jesus' "other fold" (John 10:16).
Let's pray that we will be complete in our obedience to Jesus' instruction.
The Purpose of This Blog
In response to the challenge by the Southern Baptist Convention that churches take on the task to share the gospel with unengaged unreached people groups, the missions team of Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association felt the need for a way to focus prayer on the task. This blog is intended to facilitate prayer for those contemplating their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. This on-line prayer guide may prove useful to those exploring a call to missions involvement as well as to those who have sensed a call to pray for those who will go to the front lines.