By George Bullard
Because congregations are doing more direct missional engagement rather than cooperative missions work through their denomination or parachurch organization they are redefining what is meant by missions. In many ways this is good. At the same time this has created confusion about what is missional engagement, and perhaps led to a myopic missional trap.
As a reference point let’s be reminded of Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [NASB]
A geographic interpretation of this verse states that we are to be concerned about our local community and nearby areas, our state or province, a neighboring state or province, our country, our hemisphere, and the world. Nothing in here implies and either/or situation. Only and/both embracing of the missions task is sufficient. It is all or none.
A diversity interpretation of this verse states that we are to be concerned about the people with whom we connect who are close to us, people we have to cross over barriers to connect with, people we do not really like or have prejudices toward, plus all identifying people groups throughout the world. It is all or none.
The practice of these principles has drifted—even shifted—from the 20th century to the 21 century. Let’s take a look at these practices and consider the difference.