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"Jesus commands us to go.

It should be the exception if we stay.”

Keith Green’s classic song is compelling – too bad it’s not true!

The problem is that Jesus never commanded us to go. The great commission (Matt.28:18; Mark 16:15) certainly seems to begin with a command to go, but both versions of the commission really only have one command – “make disciples” in Matthew’s gospel and “preach the gospel” in Mark. The “command” to go in both versions does not appear as a command (imperative) in the original language but as a participle. It could be more accurately translated as “Going . . .” or “As you go . . .”

Unfortunately, this misreading of the great commission has led to an overemphasis on going as being the way one is obedient to the commission. Our obedience should be judged by whether or not we are making disciples (of all nations) and preaching the gospel (to all people).

Yet going is part of the great commission. If not a command, how does going relate to the tasks of making disciples and preaching the gospel?

Could it be that the natural patterns of human migration (going) present significant opportunities for reaching the unreached that we have not adequately recognized? The early Christian church rapidly spread throughout the expanse of the Roman empire in the first century in part due to the missionary journeys of Paul and others but also to a great degree by the natural movement of peoples. The church got a “jump-start” in global growth on the day of Pentecost through converts from all corners of the empire (Acts 2:9-11) who returned to their homes taking the gospel with them. Subsequently, persecution of the church in Jerusalem caused the believers to scatter and “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) Similarly, the believers in Antioch to escape persecution “traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.” (Acts 11:19) Yes, the early church commissioned and sent Paul and others, but that is only half of the story behind the expansion of the early church in the first century.

The Seoul Declaration on Diaspora Missiology declares, “That the sovereign work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gathering and scattering of peoples across the earth is a central part of God’s mission and redemptive purposes for the world.”[1] But it has not been a central part of GP’s strategy and mission.

Just as in the book of Acts, believers are being scattered around the globe for many reasons – including into places and among peoples where doors are closed to traditional missionaries. In the past, the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines recognized this reality and sought to make its members equipped to take the gospel with them wherever they went in the world. The emergence of the “Marketplace Multipliers” movement within the North American Wesleyan Church could be a catalyst for similarly equipping American Wesleyans for global outreach wherever they may go.[2][3]

Also, as in the book of Acts, unreached people are being gathered into places where they are more likely to come into contact with Christ-followers, making them more accessible for gospel witness. For example, “At 51% foreign-born, with 232 nationalities represented, Toronto is considered the most diverse city in the world. In Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park community, the top ten languages spoken in homes are: Urdu (3,975); Persian/Farsi (765); Gujarati (700); Pashto (465); Tagalog (460); Bengali (300); Spanish (295); Panjabi/Punjabi (255); Arabic (225); and Greek (205).”[4]  According to infographics produced by Missionexus, there are 1,500,000+ unreached people in Toronto[5] and 4,000,000+ unreached people in New York[6]. (See https://globalgates.info/ for more mind-boggling and heart-wrenching information about unreached people groups in North America.)

Again, as in the book of Acts, people who come to faith in diaspora may be the instrument God uses to bring the gospel to their home country. For example, the Wesleyan Church in Mozambique has its origins in the evangelization of migrant miners in South Africa. Converted miners returned to their homes at the end of their contracts and won their family to Christ and planted churches.  

The move of the Holy Spirit in the first century to establish the church across the known world was accomplished through a combination of natural human migration activity along with intentional missionary sending by the church. Could it be that we need to return and embrace that same formula today? What shifts would need to take place in GP if we embraced a focus on diaspora ministries?

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[1] Rijnhart, C., Tira, S., Krason, F., TV Thomas, J., & Eriksen, S. (2014, September 22). The Seoul Declaration on DIASPORA MISSIOLOGY. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/the-seoul-declaration-on-diaspora-missiology

[2] Schmidt, W. (2021, February 08). Mega Shifts - Marketplace Multipliers. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/52-mega-shifts-marketplace-multipliers

[3] Ward, B. (2021, February 17). Does GP need a new model for sending M’s? Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/54-does-gp-need-a-new-model-for-sending-m-s

[4] Tira, S. J. (2018, November 23). A diaspora mission strategy for local churches. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://micn.org/diaspora-mission-strategy-local-churches/

[5] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-Greater-Toronto-Area.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0H1JZIZBfh056lPuw43Wt0rfR1T__fQuWLsxyL_gR5uXvQng3tSHuIyPU

[6] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-New-York-Metro.pdf

 

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