An Unprecedented Great Commission Opportunity
By Bob Rasmussen
Executive Director, Near Frontiers
When Jesus intentionally traversed the rocky hills toward Samaria, he set an example for his disciples down through the centuries. Just before he ascended back to the Father, his final words reminded the disciples of that day by the well in Samaria. You will be my witnesses, he said, yes, in Jerusalem. But don’t forget Samaria.
It was in Samaria that Jesus demonstrated that places of spiritual harvest are sometimes hidden. So, he told us to lift our eyes and see the harvest through his perspective. In local church ministry, the activities of the congregation can easily consume all our efforts. But if we seek a fresh view of our times and places, we will see an opportunity to advance the good news in a wonderfully strategic way.
We who live in North America, and other places similarly blessed, have been presented with a “Great Commission Opportunity” due to the convergence of three factors:
1. Opportunity to build relationships with people from unreached nations
2. Availability of believers who can share the gospel
3. Freedom to live and share our faith without persecution
Clearly, we live in a historic time of international migration. So prolific is the displacement of peoples from their homelands that even mid-sized towns are receiving refugees. Still others are choosing to migrate for better opportunity for their families. In the case of refugees, most suffer from some form of trauma. We are familiar with the statistic that many international students come to study for four years and are never invited into the home of a local family.
While God does not delight in people being forced to migrate, he has revealed in it a purpose for his church. This leads to the second factor: the availability of believers who can share the gospel. In Christianized countries in North America and Europe, there are churches in good supply. Admittedly, we are concerned about the increasing number of those growing cold in their faith, but the fact remains that we still enjoy a strong Christian presence in most neighborhoods. We know the gospel story, yet we lack the resolve to share it in winsome ways.
The third factor is easily overlooked. There are countries which receive many migrants, where many believers reside, but they do not have the freedom to live out their faith nor speak publicly of Christ. So, we should not overlook the significance of freedom of religion and speech.
If God were to hold a billboard in the sky for his church to see, I believe it would say, Reach the nations I am bringing to you! God has placed us, prepared us, commissioned us, and empowers us to be his witnesses in our Samaria.
There is one bonus thought to conclude: Ministering to refugees and immigrants is good for our souls and our congregations. Some of our churches are apathetic because we lack a vision for the harvest. When we welcome a stranger in Jesus’ name, our efforts are received with gratitude. And many who come from afar are committed Christians and bring a devout love for Christ. The zeal for their faith stimulates our own walk with God. As we include people of various cultures into our congregations, the diversity enriches our experience and enables us to understand God’s love for all peoples.