If you’re anything like me, questions begin to fill your head when thinking about Local and Global missions. “Is one better than the other?” ” Which one has a greater need?” “How and where do my passions and strengths come into play?”
These are all fantastic questions to ask. The short answer is, that Local and Global Missions are equally important.
I recently learned that the two branches of missions are actually intertwined and one cannot be fully realized without the other, after all, every mission is local to someone.
Before we dig any further into the topic at hand, we first need to lay a foundation of understanding by answering the question ” What are Missions?” and break down some incorrect connotations and stereotypes associated with missions.
First and foremost we will discuss the difference between “Mission” and “missions“. (I know, it blew my mind at first too)
The definition of “missions” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged”.
Notice how the dictionary definition isn’t bound by specific people, tasks, or locations
“Mission” is God’s redemptive, historical initiative on our behalf as seen in Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Whereas “missions” are all the ways the church crosses and faces boundaries to share the gospel.
The whole reason missions exist is because there are areas in the world where worship of God does not.
It is our calling, and purpose to spread the word of the Lord until the whole world not only knows his name but experiences the soul-level transformation of, surrender to, and can feel for themselves the overwhelming love of God to the point at which they cannot help but worship Him.
What about your specific, God-given calling?
To start, we ask the question, “what is a calling?”
A calling is something that you were created to do with your life, and it has two main parts–
1: The God-given ability to do a job
2: Equally God-given enjoyment in doing the job because of your desire to do it.
If you know God has called you to missions (or at the very least put it on your heart for a season) that’s a great start. To go a little deeper though, it is good to further discern your specific calling within the overarching call to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ….Love your neighbor as yourself….” Matthew 22:37-39
First, you need to know God on an intimate level, and then, you need to truly know yourself. You are made of two people; you, and who Christ knows you to be. To live out of the latter, you must choose every day to live in surrender to God and to let who he says you are, be the final authority over your identity. However, you can only surrender as much as you know about yourself to as much as you know him. So dig into the word, lean into the Lord, live expectantly, and you will be amazed at how the Lord begins to work in your heart and life.
Local missions are the act of living out the gospel to those already around you.
In the Bible, when God calls us to “Go forth and make disciples of all Nations”. The word “nations” in Greek is “ethne” which refers not to the nation-states we think of today, but instead to extended families, tribes, and ethnic groups.
Local missionaries are no less called to change lives through and for Christ than international missionaries are. You as a child of God can live just as radically from the overflowing love of God and the fruit of the spirit at home as you can abroad, but it may look a little different.
An excellent example of someone who was called to missions in a more local sense was Peter. The Lord called Peter to evangelize to, and pastor his fellow Jews, to be both a shepherd for the flocks already there, and to introduce the salvation of Christ to those he could culturally relate to as members of the Jewish community and the Abrahamic covenant.
One cool part of local missions is that they oftentimes involve cross-cultural elements as well, so if you have a heart for the nations but feel as though God is calling you to stay where you are, even for just a season, all hope is not lost! Our communities are becoming ever more diverse and the harvest here, while different, is just as ripe.
International missions are the act of living out the gospel to those abroad.
This side of missions often gets the glory when it comes to platforms used to share the gospel. We think of it as involving daring adventure, radical and widespread surrender to God, and the chance to see the Holy Spirit move in crazy, unconventional ways! All of which can be true. however, it is vital that we do not overlook the fact that International Missions also come with additional layers of complexity. This includes but is not limited to, governmental relations, complicated paperwork, extra fundraising, culture shock, language barriers, limited resources, different potential dangers, and the trials that come with being far from family and support groups. This form of missions is a beautiful, God-glorifying form of work, but we must not let the excitement overshadow a more holistic view of the story.
A great example of someone who was called by God to be internationally Missions focused, or Unreached People Group focused, is Paul.
If Peter was a metaphorical Shepherd, Paul was a metaphorical farmer. Paul lived his life in total surrender to God by the words of Jesus, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. “Matthew 9:35-38
Paul spent his whole converted life becoming like the gentiles in a cross-cultural manner so that he could more effectively minister to them and meet them where they were at, with the love and new life of the Lord.
Paul was reaching people who had never before had access to the gospel, and Peter was reaching people who already had some level of access to the good news. Nevertheless, there was plenty of crossover, as they each did a bit of both, leaving room for the Spirit to partner with them and move as He saw fit.
What does it all mean for me?
Both international and Local missions are used to fulfill the Great Commission, they involve relationship building, outreach, evangelism, discipleship, teaching, leadership development, and much more. It’s all a part of God’s global Mission, after all, what is local for you is global for someone else and vice versa. The real question is, “What doors has God opened to you?” You’ve already decided to follow God’s command, now, take some time to dig into his word, pray, talk with God and discuss with Godly peers/mentors. I find that God can put a people group or an issue on your heart best when you are knowledgeable about them, so do some research on Global unreached people groups, as well as the needs of those around you. You may be surprised how the Spirit moves!
NOTE: Thank you Dr. T and Prof. Harbour for inspiring this blog!