Last week, I led a Bible study with our leadership team of local believers on the first chapter of Acts. It was a lot of fun and created some good conversation. One of the central ideas that I brought up was verse 8 of chapter one, which says that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I emphasized an idea that is probably familiar with many of you, that this is a kind of guide moving from local to global, not just for the early church but for the church throughout history.
Jerusalem was the place they were familiar with–their hometown.
As for Judea and Samaria? Well, the Samaritans were basically the Jews’ culturally different next-door neighbors. The two groups were actually pretty similar in terms of most of their beliefs in Moses and the Law, but some of their ideas were different enough that they would have seemed… weird. A culturally significant example for us might be the way many of us feel towards the Mormons that live at end of the cul-de-sac or the Jehovah’s witness who works behind the counter at our favorite restaurant. There are tons of similarities, but the differences make us feel odd around them.
And then the ends of the earth might include going to far away places–like Central Asia. :]
But one point I wanted to make to them is that if we are not willing to cross the street to share the Gospel with the person that is like us, how can we expect to cross the world to share the Gospel with the person who’s not?
That’s becoming more real to me these days for two reasons. As I excitedly wrote to many of you recently, Elisa has gotten approval for her American visa, which means that we’re one step closer to moving to the US (although there are still several more steps, so keep us in prayer for that). That also means, though, that we’ll be leaving Central Asia before the school year starts. As with writers who are never sure if their final draft is really finished or if they should do just one more edit, I worry if I’ve put enough into our student leaders that they’ll be able to carry the banner once Elisa and I are gone. In these last months, I really want to reiterate to them the importance of not simply creating a fun large group gathering (which they’re fantastic at), but of “crossing the street” to befriend non-believers and to share Jesus with them.
Please pray that they will be prepared for this task by the time we leave.
The second reason that “crossing the street” to share the Gospel with those like me is becoming more real for me is that I know that I will soon be back in my own Jerusalem (although, to be fair, Elisa and I will mostly be ministering to foreigners, which may well be a kind of “Judea and Samaria”). It’s been two years since I’ve really interacted a great deal with Americans in an American-setting. I’ve gotten quite good at sharing the Gospel with pluralist Muslims here; I worry sometimes: have I forgotten how to share it with nominal/pluralist Christians in America?
Please pray also that the Lord will prepare me again for sharing the Gospel with those “across the street.”
What do you think about the idea that we need to practice “crossing the street” before we “cross the world”?