I make it a point to read through the book of Acts at least once a year – nothing gets me more fired up about the mission of God than reading Acts. The whole book is a glimpse into what happens when the people of God embrace the mission of God and believe in the power of God…and it’s remarkable.
But this go around I noticed something I had never noticed before…
Commentators have long pointed out that Acts 8 is the turning point of the book. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gives the famous command to his disciples, “But…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There’s one problem – we get to Acts 8 and the disciples still haven’t left Jerusalem. Why? They were comfortable. Jerusalem was home. So what happens? Acts 8:1 – “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” God uses persecution in Acts 8:1 to fulfill Acts 1:8 – and take the gospel to the nations.
But there is something else I noticed about this passage, a tiny little phrase with enormous implications. It says the disciples were scattered, except the apostles. Everyone else was scattered; the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, “… and those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1). If you read the rest of Acts, you’ll notice that everywhere the apostles eventually go, they always find Christians there waiting for them. Even Paul, when he finally makes it to Rome, Acts 28:14 tells us he found “brothers .”
The gospel didn’t sweep across the ancient world because of religious professionals. Sure they played a role, an important one, but the pioneers, the ground breakers, were normal people who took the gospel with them as they relocated their lives. These were not professional preachers; they were people with “secular” trades who took the gospel as they went. As they set up shop in new cities, they shared the gospel with the people they lived and worked among.
It’s a mindset that we’ve largely lost in Christianity, and one that we desperately need to recover.
Dr. Billy Graham famously said – the next great movement of God will not happen through the church; it will happen through believers in the workplace. The face of missions is changing. Today’s global economy offers followers of Jesus opportunities to interact with nations and people groups once accessed by only remote missionaries. In many of these places, ‘traditional’ missions has proven ineffective or illegal. If the gospel is going to reach these peoples, it’s going to happen on the backs of business – through men and women who leverage their skills in the marketplace for the sake of the gospel – who like in the early days of the church, take the gospel with them as they go.
On August 24, we’re actually hosting an event on this subject called Business as Mission. The speaker will Patrick Lai, an author and expert on the subject of business as missions (BAM). We’d love for you to join us.