What comes to your mind when you think of the word missionary? Do you think of goals being accomplished? Do you think of the Great Commission? Do you think of people selling everything and living in a remote village in Africa? When you think of missionaries, do you think it's reserved only for the Elite or Top-Tier Christians? Do you think of yourself when you hear the word missionary?
The reality is this: most Christians do not live their everyday lives as missionaries. Barna Group says this:
- 84% of Protestant churchgoers affirm that they have a personal responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.
- 75% feel comfortable sharing their faith with the lost.
- Only 35% of those actually share the gospel with the lost.
State of Modern Evangelism According to Barna Group
The final command that Jesus gave before ascending into heaven was what we call the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20). Mark Dever said in his book, Understanding the Great Commission, “During his ministry before the crucifixion, Jesus had said that his mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24). But now, after the resurrection…Jesus’ rule extends beyond Israel to all nations. He asserted his authority, then told his disciples to make disciples.” Then in Acts 1:8, believers are given the promised Holy Spirit and commanded to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Six chapters passed in Acts and the gospel still had not gone outside of Jerusalem. Then in chapter 7, Stephen was stoned which began persecution in the church on a large scale and caused the believers to be scattered all throughout the regions.
The interesting thing that we see in Acts 8, according to verse 1, is that those who were being scattered were all the believers except the apostles. It wasn’t the church leaders or elders taking the gospel to new places. It was the normal, everyday believers spreading the gospel into new regions. Verse 4 tells us that wherever they went, they were preaching the Word. Don’t see the word “preaching” and assume it is talking about a pastor in a service, the word preach here simply means “to proclaim.” It was normal, everyday believers proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.
This is the picture we see in Acts 8—God’s saved people proclaiming the gospel to people who did not know Jesus. God certainly used church leaders and preachers in the New Testament, and still does today, but the gospel first spread out of Jerusalem through normal, everyday believers.
What about the church today? We gather every Sunday to worship God, hear the preaching of the Word, fellowship, pray, take communion, and sing the gospel. Then we scatter. Week after week we scatter into different communities, into different offices, into different jobs, into different families, and occasionally into different parts of the world. This is what the church does. We gather and scatter. The challenge is this: as we scatter, preach the gospel. God is working behind the scenes in all of our scattering to ordain relationships, conversations, interactions, and even tragedies—may it be so that we see these as opportunities to proclaim his gospel.