The World in Your Backyard
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “ All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20).
The world is a big place. Jesus sent His Church into the all world to reach all people groups everywhere. We are to invade every part of our world, culture, and society and bring the light of the gospel to those in darkness. It’s no small task, and when looking at a map of the world, one may well wonder, “Where do I start?” I believe the answer to that question is, “From right where you are.”
For one thing, your timing and placement in this world are not by chance. The scriptures are clear that God had a hand in when and where you were born. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26). God was strategic in placing us when and where He did; first, that we might find Him and, second, that we might lead those around us to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Before He ascended on high, Jesus commissioned the disciples to be witnesses on His behalf. Some of those men would ultimately go to the uttermost boundaries of the known world of that time, but He told them all to start right where they were: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the uttermost regions of the world (see Acts 1:8). Likewise, among us there will be those sent to foreign fields to reach the lost who live there, but the lost are not just in foreign lands. Someone must reach the people of our towns and cities; our own streets and neighborhoods. For some of us, home is our mission field.
For years, missionaries have realized that the best way to reach a nation was to win the indigenous people to Christ, disciple them, and make them missionaries to their own people. They do not have the cultural or linguistic barriers to overcome. They are, simply, at home with their own people. This is not only true from nation to nation, but from region to region within a single nation. Even in America, for all our similarities, the cultural nuances from state to state, and even town to town, can be striking. I can take you from Burlington, Vermont to Boston, Massachusetts in three and a half hours, and yet, the accents, mannerisms, customs, and allegiances of the people you will meet on that short trip will be vastly different from one place to the next.
The context into which we were born was intentional and chosen by God rather than ourselves. Likewise, our journey through life must be a guided tour. God has a purpose in our placement, and there may be those whom we are called to reach, in the place we’re presently planted, that no one else has a better chance to reach. In my case, my journeys have taken me all over the nation, and even around the world, only to bring me back to the town of my birth. Often, God may take us elsewhere for a season, only to bring us back to where we started, that we might be better equipped to reach our own world for Him.
Wherever you are, be a witness for Him. Your collective experience, vernacular, values, and interests make you uniquely suited to reach your world. When Jesus said the fields were white unto harvest (John 4:35), He didn’t just mean the fields half a world away. God may use you in places far from home, but if not, realize it’s because there are people for whom Christ died right there in your own backyard who need the unique and particular witness that you can be.