Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. – Acts 13:1-3
There is a very unique and exciting thing happening in the world of Christian mission work. Churches around the world are sending missionaries to the United States. Robert Scudieri publishes a blog highlighting this dynamic and dramatic movement of God. It’s worth following – if only to see the faces and hear some of the stories of these intrepid missionaries from afar. Who would have thought that African nations would be sending missionaries to the United States of America? Who would have thought that we need evangelizing!
Years ago a group of pastors got together in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of north Texas and formed a group called the Lutheran Intercity Network Coalition (LINC). I was privileged to be part of that initial group and saw many great things happening for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of it came about by means of the opportunities afforded us when churches in the inner city would either fail or disband, or move to the suburb, leaving a vacuum of Christian witness, and sometimes buildings or dollars from the sale of those buildings for the mission work there.
The significant reality in both the sending of missionaries to the United States as well as the formation of LINC (which has now become a major missional effort located in Houston). LINC Houston is a dynamic missional agency that connects especially with different ethnic groups in one of the most ethnically-diverse cities in the nation.
Why is it that ethnically-diverse groups of Christians are so often so missional, leading the charge for bringing the Good News of Jesus to people in need? There may be many answers, but this is nothing new.
Take a look at. the church in Antioch! Luke lists notable members there: “Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Notable in that one is apparently black, another is from Cyrene, another is perhaps Roman(?). Then there is Saul and Barnabas.
The Holy Spirit moved among this ethnically-diverse group of believers to send Saul on his first missionary trip. This is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words to Saul at his conversion:
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” – Acts 9:15-16
This is also a preview of what heaven will be like:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” – Revelation 7:9-12
We had a small preview of that at St. John in a recent children’s event. It was a delightful reminder of the breadth of God’s love, his saving work in the lives of people of all nations, and a cause for thanks to God for including me – German squarehead that I am – in his kingdom! Makes me want to pray and see God’s Spirit set aside some more people for his mission.