(Preached at First Baptist Church, Angleton, TX Missions Conference 1/19/20)
In the 1800’s Hudson Taylor was called by God to go to China, where he spent 51 years as a missionary and founded the Inland China Mission, which ended up sending 800 missionaries to China, and the fruit of their ministry is still spreading today, even under Communism, as millions of Chinese have come to Christ. One December Taylor wrote home about what life was like for him in China. He said that it was very cold, that there were no ceilings in their house, and his “bedroom wall” was a sheet they hung up! But he said “We did not come to China because missionary work here was either safe or easy, but because He had called us.”
That call of Jesus to go on mission is our theme today as we kick off our first Church Missions Conference: “Becoming an Acts 1:8 Church.” Acts 1:8 is that “call” of Jesus that Hudson Taylor talked about, to go on mission. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says:
“… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
I. The MESSAGE of Acts 1:8
Jesus said in this verse: “you shall be My witnesses.” That is, we are to tell people about Him. JESUS is the message of Acts 1:8.
— Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 24:46-47, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” Jesus commanded His disciples to take the message of what He had done to “all the nations,” to the whole world.
— Paul said in I Corinthians 15:1-4:
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you … For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …”.
Paul said THIS is the gospel: that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, and He rose again to prove that He really was the Son of God who came to save us. Jesus is the message that we are to share.
Someone was joking the other day that when they were teaching children’s Sunday School and asked questions, the kids’ answers were always either “God, Jesus, or the Bible.” And we all chuckled. But you know, that’s really not bad. “God, Jesus, & The Bible” is pretty much our message! The BIBLE tells us that GOD so loved the world that He sent JESUS to die on the cross and pay for our sins. THAT IS OUR MESSAGE that Jesus has called us to share!
- Jesus didn’t send us on mission to tell people how religious we are. We are all just sinners who have fallen short and so are they; the message they need is the message of the gospel of the grace of Jesus.
- He doesn’t send us on mission to tell people who a good church we have; we’re not always that good, are we? The message people need to hear is that GOD is good, and sent Jesus for us.
- He has not sent us on mission to spread the “American Dream” with impoverished countries who don’t have the luxuries that we do. What if our economy collapses and we lose everything that we have? What happens to our message? No, the American Dream is not our gospel; what we need to share is how Jesus gives us riches in heaven that NOTHING can take away. JESUS is our message:
- Jesus is the most important lesson our students at ACS will learn.
- Jesus is the help the ladies at the Pregnancy Center need the most
- Jesus is what the sailors and workers at the port need the most
- That Jesus loves them is the message the orphans and others in Mexico need the most
- Whether we are ministering in Bulgaria or in Brazoria, JESUS is the message of our mission.
Jesus is the message we ALL need. The Bible says we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s why God sent Jesus, to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that if we would repent of our sins He would forgive us, and come into our lives, and take us to live with Him forever. If you’ve never received that; that’s the message YOU need, right here, right now!
But that is our commission from this verse. Jesus said, “You shall be MY witnesses”. Jesus is the message of Acts 1:8.
II. The SCOPE of Acts 1:8
This verse is loved by so many people because it reminds us of the SCOPE of our mission as a church: just WHERE are we to share that message? Jesus told His disciples: “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
There are 4 distinct places Jesus names here:
— the ends of the earth
What are these places? As we can see on this map:
— Jerusalem was their “home base.” It is where they met in the Temple and worshiped.
— Judea was their “state” in a sense: the area around their city Jerusalem.
— Samaria was the next “state” over — and as we see in the Gospels, the residents of Samaria were “different” than the Judeans were — they were considered “outcasts” or “half breeds” by the Jews. So they were not only a different region, but also a different ethnicity.
— then “the remotest part of the earth” means all the other countries of the earth; in this map and beyond, to the farthest places on earth.
So Jesus is basically saying: start where you are: in your “Jerusalem,” then share in your state, then the next state (maybe with people or a language different from you), and then all the countries of the world.
This “Acts 1:8” command has been pictured by many as a concentric circle:
I believe we can rightly apply Jesus’ “Acts 1:8” command like this:
— start where you are: your own city or town or neighborhood
— then reach out somewhere else in your state
— then go to another state or people or language group different from you
— then go to a foreign country: “the ends of the earth.”
So an “Acts 1:8” church would be a church that is actively engaged in ALL FOUR of these areas: their own city, somewhere else in their state; another state or language or ethnic group; and in a foreign country.
III. APPLYING ACTS 1:8
How do we apply Acts 1:8 to reach our “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth”?
— First of all, we need to realize that we ARE reaching into all of these “Acts 1:8” areas through our SBC mission programs:
— Our local Association helps us minister in our town and Brazoria County.
— The Baptist State Convention has church starts and language missions in TX and in other states
— as we saw during our Lottie Moon promotional time during December, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board has has over 3800 missionaries in 120 countries around the world.
We are supporting mission work in ALL of these areas through our regular giving to our church budget: that is what our Association, State Convention, and SBC giving is all about — every time you give an undesignated offering to our church, a portion of that goes to help support “Acts 1:8” work from Brazoria County to the ends of the earth!
But in addition to that, we have some special partnerships which help us to be on mission, starting here in Angleton, and reaching to the ends of the earth:
— right here in town, our Angleton Christian School is a great local mission, reaching children and families with the gospel.
— Then just down the road in Lake Jackson is our Pregnancy Help Center, which reaches out to young ladies and their families in a crisis time in their lives.
— In Freeport our Port Ministry reaches local dock workers and truck drivers from Brazoria County, as well as sailors on ships from Romania and Philippines and countries from all over the world.
— Chuck Beem leads our Gulf Coast Baptist Association, which all of our local Baptist Churches in Brazoria County belong to, and they organize ministries both locally — AND as we shall hear in a bit, have a partnership for our churches together to evangelize an unreached people group in Bulgaria! So our Association actually hits several of our “Acts 1:8” targets!
— And then Dan & Meredith Shuman serve with “Back2Back” ministries, ministering to orphans and others in Mazatlan, Mexico — one of those “ends of the earth” places Jesus commanded us to reach.
You’ll hear some more specifics from each of these during lunch.
But through our Southern Baptist partnerships, as well as through our individual missions connections, we really ARE an “Acts 1:8” church. We are involved in sharing the gospel here in Angleton, in Brazoria County, and through missions to the ends of the earth.
We need to know that we have these connections — and that we also have the opportunity to be personally INVOLVED in these different missions.
That’s one of the most important things I want you to consider today: how will YOU personally apply Acts 1:8? What is Jesus calling YOU to do with one of these mission groups?
— You know, it’s one thing to say “Our church is doing x-y-z to share the gospel in all these places.” But the real question for you, is not just what is our CHURCH doing; but what are YOU doing? You aren’t going to be rewarded by God for what everybody else in the church is doing; you are going to rewarded for what YOU are doing. So the question is: what are YOU personally doing to fulfill the “Acts 1:8” command that Jesus gave? The question is not just “are we an ‘Acts 1:8 Church,’” but: “Are YOU an ‘Acts 1:8 Christian?”
I think it would be a great personal goal for every Christian to be able to say that they had personally been involved in their lifetime, in sharing Jesus where they are; in their own county and state; in another state or with someone of another culture of language group; and in some overseas country. To be able to say at the end of your life: “I have been an ‘Acts 1:8 Christian’; I have personally fulfilled Jesus’ command.” Some of you have done this already and you’re still doing it. If you haven’t, it would be a good goal for your life.
But my prayer for each one of us here today, is to take at least ONE STEP towards becoming a “Acts 1:8 Christian”, by personally connecting with at least ONE of our mission partners, in some specific way. In just a few minutes, we’ll enjoy the International Pot Luck that you all have prepared. While we are eating, each of our 5 mission partners will share about their work, and especially some specific ways that YOU can join them on their mission. And before and after lunch, you can go by their booth, and ask questions, and sign up to be involved in various aspects of their ministry: to be a prayer partner, or adopt an orphan, or sign up to serve, or get information on a mission trip, or give in a special way. THIS IS REALLY THE HEART OF WHAT WE ARE ABOUT TODAY: WE ARE NOT HERE JUST TO “LEARN” ABOUT MISSIONS, OR “FEEL GOOD” ABOUT MISSIONS, BUT THAT EACH ONE OF US WOULD COME AWAY TODAY WITH SOME SPECIFIC WAY TO BE INVOLVED with one of our mission partners from this day forward. And maybe your Sunday School class can do something together too; I think that would be great! But focus on YOU personally. What does God want YOU to do? If you haven’t already, start praying right now that God would show you during the lunch today the specific thing He wants YOU to do to help one of these mission groups.
GIVING with “Acts 1:8 Offering”
There is one other new element of support I want to introduce into our church life today, the “Acts 1:8 Offering.” The “Acts 1:8 Offering” is just what it sounds like: a special offering which will help us as a church reach the people groups Jesus talked about in Acts 1:8. The “Acts 1:8 Offering” is not a one-time offering, but it will be a regular, year-round offering we will receive, just like we do our tithes and our building fund, which will help us give MORE to our Southern Baptist missionaries, as well as help our OWN people go on mission trips.
It will work like this: each week, or month, during the year, we as church members will give whatever amount God lays on our heart to the “Acts 1:8 Offering.” It can be $2 a week, or $5 a week, or $100 per month — whatever amount you want to give. It is entirely a “free will offering.”
But at the end of the year, we will give one-half of what we have received in our “Acts 1:8 Offering” to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Another portion of it will go to our North American missionaries (the Annie Armstrong offering), and about a third of it will go to help our OWN people from our church to go on mission trips, as Jesus commanded, especially those more expensive trips to “the uttermost parts of the earth.”
I have seen this kind of offering have some very dramatic effects. The first couple of years I pastored in Louisiana, we did the same thing we did here this year: we really promoted the Lottie Moon Offering for our foreign missionaries. And like we did here, we set a new church record for Lottie Moon — first, it was $20,000, and then $25,000+. But then we began our “Acts 1:8” Offering and we gave all year long. The first year of our “Acts 1:8 Offering,” we gave over $50,000 to Lottie Moon — DOUBLE the record we’d worked so hard to achieve those first years! How did we do it? By giving smaller amounts all year long. It just makes sense: it is far easier to give a little bit, all year ‘round, than to give one large gift, especially at Christmas time, when we have so many financial obligations.
Let me share with you the testimony of our own son, Paul. Many of you have met him. Well, he was in college, working at Dominos when we were doing all this with Lottie Moon and “Acts 1:8.” His first year, we took up the “Lottie Moon” offering, and he sacrificed, and gave $100 — which really was a pretty sacrificial offering for a college student. I was proud of him for giving that. But the next year, we started our “Acts 1:8 Offering.” And as a poor college student, Paul committed to give only $5 a week — not much, but he could afford that. But that next December, he came forward and shared the testimony that he had given over DOUBLE what he had given with that one-time sacrificial gift, in what was for him a much easier way, by giving only $5 a week through the “Acts 1:8 Offering”! And people all over our congregation did the same thing, and we doubled our old record!
Many of us can do the same thing. Maybe you really sacrificed this December and gave $154 to support a missionary for a day — and like I said, that can be hard to do at Christmas time. But what if instead you committed to give $10 per week — MUCH easier to do? By the end of the year you would have given $520 to “Acts 1:8,” half of which would go to Lottie Moon — $260 — almost double what you gave this year — PLUS you would given to the North American missionaries, and a good chunk to help our own church members go on mission trips as well!
And I really want to emphasize that last part: as a church, we need to have a consistent way of funding our own people going on mission. Many people really WANT to go on mission, but the cost can seem so prohibitive. (I think we would have had many more go on our March Mexico trip if it weren’t for the cost.) And if you’re like me, you hate to ask people for money to go on mission; nobody likes doing that. But it’s SO important for us to obey Jesus’ command to go. So I think one of the big challenges — and opportunities — we have as a church, is: Let’s make it EASY to go on mission trips from First Baptist Church Angleton. Let’s make it so that MONEY is never the issue with anyone going. That whoever is called to go, CAN go. We can do that, IF dozens of us will give just $5 or $10 a week or whatever God leads you to give, to “Acts 1:8.” This will be a huge step towards making us a real “Acts 1:8 Church” that is sending people out on mission all over the world sharing the message of Jesus.
SO I hope you’ll get one of those “Acts 1:8” offering envelopes, and begin giving today — you can give a special “one time” gift if you’d like — or just start giving $2 or $5 or $10 or $20 a week, or whatever God lays on your heart. It will all add up, and will be a huge step in making us a more effective “Acts 1:8 Church.”
IV. The Power for Acts 1:8
Well there is one more thing we really need to look at here. In all the discussion of the scope of “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & uttermost parts of the earth” in Acts 1:8, some people tend to “skip over” the very first part of the verse — and that would be a huge mistake! For it is in the first part of Acts 1:8 that Jesus says: “And you shall receive POWER when the HOLY SPIRIT shall come upon you — and (THEN) you shall be My witnesses …” in all these places. But HOW is it that we will be His witnesses? It is through the power of the Holy Spirit.
— The Holy Spirit first came upon the early church later in the next chapter, in Acts 2. Peter and the other disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and became bold witnesses.
— But the Bible also tells us that now the Holy Spirit comes upon ALL believers when we are saved:
— I Corinthians 12:13 says “For by one Spirit we were ALL baptized into one body.”
— Ephesians 1:13 says “having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
— Romans 8:9 says “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
So every Christian has the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the One who is “God in us,” who gives us the power to change, and turn away from sin, and also to be His witnesses and share Jesus with others. We MUST have the power of the Holy Spirit to share the gospel effectively.
Zechariah 4:6 says: “’Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit’ says the LORD of hosts.”
Too many churches these days are seeking to do God’s work with every kind of program and gimmick — instead of seeking what Jesus told us should be the power behind our work: the power of God’s Holy Spirit. HE is the One we need to empower our witnessing and our Kingdom work, from Angleton to Brazoria to Bulgaria. His Spirit can do much more than we ever could with our own power and programs.
Several years ago in Oklahoma, it hadn’t rained much in a while, and things were getting really dry. A guy I know said he didn’t want his yard to burn up, so he put a sprinkler on his garden hose, and he spent all day, dragging that sprinkler all over the yard, from place to place, to try to water it — but he said the ground jus sopped the water up like it was nothing; he could tell it wasn’t doing much good. But all of the sudden, he said some dark clouds appeared, and a thunderstorm broke out, and it POURED rain, and his yard was soaked. And that man said: “God did more in 5 minutes, than I had done all day” dragging that hose around.
What happened to that man and his yard, is a great picture of the work of God’s Holy Spirit. We can try all these different programs and gimmicks, and all of our best efforts in our churches. But when God’s Holy Spirit moves, He will do more in 5 minutes, than we could have done all day. He will do more in one real move of His Holy Spirit in a worship service, than we have done all year.
James Peterson told me he had a dream the other night, that I gave the invitation at the end of a worship service and we had 30 people lined up down the aisle to be saved. I wish that would happen! But I can’t fabricate that. I can’t produce it or manufacture it. Only the Spirit of God can do that — BUT HE CAN DO IT! That’s why we’ve got to seek HIM, in everything we attempt to do in our “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” Jesus said in John 15, “without Me, you can do nothing.” But with Him, “Nothing is impossible with God.” But we’ve got to make sure we are seeking Him, that HE would be the power behind everything we do, as we seek to follow His command in Acts 1:8.
So let’s bow our heads together; and during this invitation time, let’s seek HIM:
— Seek Him for salvation
— Seek Him for the salvation of someone you love
— Seek His leadership for the mission you are to connect with
— Seek His blessing on our church, as we serve Him in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”