Despite all the talk, there is a lack of clarity today about the mission Jesus has entrusted to us. Luke wrote the book of Acts to make sure that future generations knew what it meant to obey Jesus' command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.
Every new generation of Jesus' disciples must ask themselves, "Does our understanding and practice of mission measure up?"
Eckhard Schnabel has identified fifteen lessons on mission from the book of Acts. Read each one and see how your understanding and practice compares.
- The missionary outreach of the church is directed by God at crucial stages (by the Spirit: Acts 8:29, 39; 10:19; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; by angels: Acts 8:26; by the Lord himself: Acts 18:9; 23:11); the apostolic mission is carried out by God himself (Acts 15:4).
- According to God’s will (Acts 10:1–11:18) and Jesus’ commission (Acts 1:8; 9:15) the preaching of the gospel moves from Jewish and Samaritan audiences to pagan Gentiles.
- The story of the early Christian mission is a story of geographical expansion from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the coastal plain, to Antioch in Syria, to Asia Minor and to Greece and finally to Rome.
- The mission of the church is Israel’s mission to the nations and therefore an essential aspect of Israel’s restoration (Acts 1:6–8; 2:39; 3:17–26; 15:14–18; 26:22–23; 28:23).
- Jesus’ status means that he can impart forgiveness, rescue from God’s judgment, the gift of the Spirit and salvation (cf. Acts 2:38; 10:43; 17:31; 22:16).
- The Twelve, who had witnessed the main events in the life of Jesus, particularly his death and resurrection, are the primary witnesses to the fact that God has fulfilled his earlier promises.
- The personal experience of the living power of Jesus Christ entitles other Christians to be regarded as witnesses as well.
- The proclamation of the Word is a decisive factor in the passing on of the message of salvation; the witness of the apostles and other missionaries, delivered in the form of speeches that were intended as a medium of persuasion, includes elements of reasoned argument.
- In the encounters with Jews the decisive point is whether Jesus is the Messiah whose life and death correspond with the plan of God and whose status as kyrios (“Lord”) accords him an authoritative position similar to that of God.
- In the encounters with pagans the proclamation centers on biblical conceptions of God, who demands repentance and has designated Jesus as Lord and future judge.
- Jesus’ position enables the apostles to do the same kind of mighty works as Jesus had done.
- The success of the mission is dependent on and enabled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8, 31), as the crucial factor in conversion is the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:14–17; 9:17; 10:44–48; 11:15–18); the missionaries are inspired to speak with an effectiveness that often transcends their native ability (Acts 4:13).
- In the conversion of individual people several factors come together (cf. Acts 10:1–11:18): God’s initiative, human instruments of God’s purpose, points of contact with the religious and ethical disposition of the hearers, the reception of salvation as gracious gift.
- The church needs to be open for new challenges and new developments (Acts 6:1–7; 10:1–11:18).
- The Christian mission involves progress despite opposition: missionaries are threatened by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, they are brought before magistrates of Greek or Roman cities; some are killed, others are maltreated, some escape by a miracle; despite the opposition, the word of God continues its triumphal progress.
To what degree is each one reflected in your mission principles and practice?
Pull down all those text books and conference notes you have and ask, how many of these fifteen lessons do I find in them?
Now realign your life and ministry around the movement Jesus founded and continues to lead as the Risen Lord.