“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” -Jesus, Acts 1:8
In the Western World, we tend to think in either/or terms. Other parts of the world, however, do not think in merely either/or terms. Some cultures think in both/and terms, allowing room for more nuance, complexity, and possibility. While there are times that either/or is more appropriate and needed, there are also times a both/and mentality is more biblically faithful.
An either/or mentality is never truer than in our present polarized, politically charged culture. Everything seems to be put in terms of either being for or against with no room for nuance or complexity. Tribal loyalty carries more weight and importance than anything else. Unfortunately, this cultural and political mentality impacts our reading and understanding of Scripture, especially the mission that Jesus has called us to.
I continue to grow increasingly concerned about how this affects our witness in the world. As someone leading an international mission organization, I see more and more a dwindled passion, interest, or concern for the world and representing Christ. On the other hand, I see a growing passion and concern for America, with spiritual overtures, but from a political and cultural standpoint than genuinely biblical.
Have you ever heard people express the sentiment that they feel called to serve locally only? I hear this frequently as an excuse for not getting involved in or giving to missions. Put simply; this is not a biblical mentality that is faithful to the heart of God or the mission of Jesus. Sure, Jesus has given us unique callings, passions, priorities, and focus. But this doesn’t negate his call for us to serve locally and globally or vice versa.
There is truth that we can be so focused on “the world out there” that we miss the importance of serving or shepherding our families or engaging those nearest to us. In this season of my life and my role, I must be more mindful and intentional with this later reality than the first.
For example, I have a daughter who is now a teenager and beginning to encounter tough questions and try to navigate what she believes and how to represent Christ to her friends. I need to be spending more time with her on a deeper apologetic/foundational identity level in this vulnerable season of her life. For me, I need to be sure I am serving locally as well as globally.
But here is what I want to surface in this blog post. When it comes to being a witness of Jesus in this world, our calling is not an either/or. It’s a both/and. Further, Jesus didn’t technically say you would first be a witness in Jerusalem “and then” an ever-widening circle beyond till you finally reach the ends of the earth as if that is the “last priority.” He didn’t say we get to pick and choose as if this is an either/or option. He simply said we would be his witnesses in all these places and among diverse cultures. Both/and.
While our circle of influence may progress in some ever-widening area, life doesn’t always happen in a straight line. Sometimes we walk across the street. Other times we step onto an airplane that takes us halfway around the world. Sometimes we sit down in our own house with our kids around the table. Other times, we send a gift to someone or a ministry serving miles away. We must think big and small, small and big at the same time.
Thinking big is about a heart and vision for those outside our immediate context or culture. God’s heart is for all the world, and why should ours be any less?
Thinking small is about bringing this down to where we find ourselves each day. Who is the person next to us that we need to be a witness too and make this tangible and practical?
When we think big without thinking small, we can get stuck in our heads with grand visions of ministry that are ideal but not real and not making an impact on anyone specifically.
When we think small without thinking big, we miss God’s heart and opportunities to impact others who need him beyond our circles, church, community, city, country, or context.
We are being discipled today by media, politics, and an either/or mentality instead of fidelity and faithfulness to Christ and his word. Our mission in this world is clear, and our calling is clear. We need to be faithful to follow Jesus as his Spirit empowers us and sends us out, whether to a neighbor nearby or a neighbor in need around the world. Now go, not with an either/or mentality, but a both/and mentality. Think big and think small at the same time.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” -Jesus, Matthew 28:18-20