When I was a child, one of my favorite toys at my grandmother’s house was a well-worn kaleidoscope. I was fascinated by how the colorful particles in the scope collided into mesmerizing patterns. As I slowly twisted the kaleidoscope, it was as if I was being called into more and more creativity and opportunity.
The kingdom of God is kaleidoscopic. God is always calling us into more faith, hope, love and mission.
Early in the book of Acts, Jesus was teaching his disciples about God’s kaleidoscopic kingdom, and mentioned being empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill his missional purpose. In Acts 1:8, Jesus declared, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Interestingly, Acts 1:8 is Jesus’ response to the disciples when they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6). Jesus clarified by stating, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set …” (1:7). Then, Jesus showed his disciples the kaleidoscopic kingdom and called them to go into Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth.
It is important to note, in between each geographical location there is a kai, the Greek word for “and.” Jesus wanted his disciples to recognize the importance of being his witnesses beyond their current context and having a kai approach in their ministry.
What is also intriguing about the book of Acts is how Luke structures it according to Jesus’ geographical vision. Some scholars divide Acts into three stages: mission to Jerusalem (Acts 1-8:3), mission to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-12:25) and mission to the ends of the earth (Acts 13-28). This geographical structure is important to recognize, but we don’t want to miss another cultural dynamic going on as the disciples were discovering how to extend their ministry beyond Jerusalem. Jerusalem can be viewed as a local mission; Judea is a similar culture but different context; Samaria is a different culture but somewhat relatable; and the ends of the earth is a totally different culture. Every step the disciples took beyond Jerusalem caused the disciples to think more like a cross-cultural missionary.
It took a while for the first disciples to understand what it meant to reach the ends of the earth. But once they did, the announcement of the good news of Jesus and the formation of new faith communities became a groundswell movement. Eventually, Jesus’ words clicked and the disciples realized they were called to be a sending church.
Jesus’ vision was not only for the first disciples. It was for every disciple in every era. Jesus’ call for his disciples to spread out geographically and within other cultures should still be part of every church’s M.A.P. (Missional Action Plan). The church in the 21st century must hear the echo of Acts 1:8 afresh and apply it to their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. In some contexts, because of the global diaspora — dispersion from original homelands — reaching Samaria and the ends of the earth may be close to home.
I’ll be honest, leading a local church would be much easier if Jesus hadn’t said those words. As a church leader, it would be much simpler to only think about missional activity in my community. But Acts 1:8 causes me to ask the following questions:
- How can my church equip disciple makers to go into every part of my Jerusalem where people live, learn, work and play?
- How can my church prepare and send disciple makers and church planters into my Judea and Samaria?
- How can my church send and support cross-cultural disciple makers and church planters to reach the ends of the earth?
As you consider the ramifications of God’s kaleidoscopic kingdom, it may be helpful to invite your church into a time of prayer and discernment. Consider how the Holy Spirit is leading and how God has uniquely gifted you and your church to reach your Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
What if every Wesleyan church had a customized Acts 1:8 vision and was doing their part to raise up pioneering leaders and sending them into new places and people groups? When we rely on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, God will give us everything we need to reach the here, near, hard and far places!
Ed Love is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship of The Wesleyan Church.