The beginning of our title should sound familiar, as they are the words of Jesus recorded for us in Mark 16:15. The second half of the title is also an encouragement from our Lord, but more on that later.
I wonder how many of our readers have traveled in foreign lands? And of those who have, how many for the purpose of mission work? I am in no way criticizing anyone for vacationing abroad. I’m simply pointing out the reality that very few of us Christians will actually step on foreign soil for the purpose of bringing the Gospel. This does not, however, let us off the hook for doing foreign mission work. After all, Jesus spoke the Great Commission to all of us. We can give of our treasures to support the work of the church overseas. We can search for and fulfill the needs of Project Kinship and the MEF (Mission Extension Fund). And easiest, but perhaps most important, we can keep our foreign missions and missionaries in our daily prayers. But where does the “rubber meet the road” in your mission life?
Jesus also spoke these words to his disciples: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts1:8 ESV) Notice the beginning point? Your hometown, Jesus says, is where you start witnessing. In fact, for some, mission work may be as close as a spouse or other family member. Does your next-door neighbor know about your relationship with Christ? Do your co-workers think of you as “churchy” and judgmental, or do they recognize your wise and moral counsel as Scripture-based? What others have stated is very true: mission work does begin at home.
While our congregations have the blessing of supporting the spread of the Gospel around the world, it would be missing the point if our own neighborhoods didn’t know what we stood for. Do you know what your church’s reputation is in your area? Are you known as the friendly church, the picky church, the forgiving church, or the stuffy church? What could change or improve your church’s reputation in your community? Most likely, the same thing that brings most new members into a congregation—word of mouth. Practice talking up your church and your pastor. Know the issues of the day and the Bible’s stance on such so you can show your church’s compliance with Scriptures. Get in the habit of inviting people to “come and see” that Jesus is present, taught, and worshiped in our services, and that the sacraments are administered correctly.
Besides these individual efforts in your community, take the time to really get to know your own congregation. Does your church have an outreach or missions committee for local endeavors? Is your congregation actively getting its name and the Gospel message out to the community? Have you found ways in which you can help or support your church’s undertakings?
The best way to share the Gospel is to talk. The best way to share how to share the Gospel is also to talk. Get together with your fellow Christians and discuss ways to get the word out. Is your church able to man a booth at local fairs or festivals? Perhaps you could have a family project building a float to enter into a local parade. More common ideas should not be overlooked either, such as TV, radio, and internet ads. Consider also using social media, posters, lunch menus, or place mats. And do not attempt to reinvent the wheel! This is an area where most Christians encourage plagiarism! Share and borrow ideas freely. A great place to start would be on our CLC Domestic Missions website (us.lutheranmissions.org)
If the Lord gives you opportunity, by all means go into all the world, just don’t miss the opportunities right outside your door!
David W. Bernthal is a retired teacher. He is a member of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin