|Image source: beccastevens.org|
During my devotional time this morning I realized something. Jesus' first ministry assignment for His disciples is to go to the lost sheep among their own people. Only later does He send them out to the whole world.Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
It is much easier to go overseas than to go next door. In some aspects it's much easier to tell people about Jesus in a foreign culture. The expectations are lower. If you are unsuccessful you can always use the excuse: "Oh well... I'm just a foreigner." You don't have to fit in there. You will automatically stand out. It's not as embarrassing, to some extent.
But where does Jesus begin training His disciples? Where is the first place He sends them "on mission?" He sends them to their own people. Why does He do this? Sharing God's message of love and grace is often more difficult in your own context. You know what is socially acceptable; what is considered "normal behavior." You know "the rules" of what a polite society does and doesn't do. And to go against the rules makes us uncomfortable. It makes us stick out in a place where we shouldn't stick out. No matter how much we value our individuality, we all want to fit in. Maybe not with some groups; but at least with our own.
But Jesus knew something: If you can't learn to minister to people that share your culture (your traditions, customs, language, food, etc), you won't be nearly as effective among a people whose culture is vastly different to yours. Courage is better developed HERE than THERE. Having served as a missionary to Europe for 13 years, I can honestly say it's much easier to represent Christ THERE than it is HERE. But if HERE is where God has you, then it's HERE that He wants to use you.
Cross-cultural mission trips are vitally important. But don't discount the value of ministry among your own people. Jesus is concerned about the lost sheep among YOUR people - this includes your neighbors and your family.
My encouragement to you today: Pray for courage. Pray for boldness. Pray for opportunities: that you would recognize them and take advantage of them. And pray Philippians 2:13: "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."