Making disciples includes local and global missions

Obeying the Great Commission requires prioritizing evangelism in the community and abroad.

Lauren Good, Freelance Writer

Christians agree that the decision between pursuing local and global mission opportunities relies upon the relationship between the person or church with God. However, there is dissension about which trajectory takes priority while considering what the Scripture says about spreading the gospel. God commands Christians to go out and make disciples of all nations, but what about their local communities in the United States? What informs us about making these decisions?   

THE GREAT COMMISSION

Quoted often when speaking about missions, Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This passage sparks passion for the global missions initiative. 

Prioritizing global missions can lead to the neglect of local communities, many of which have experienced devastating poverty after the global pandemic. According to the United States census on poverty, “The official poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from 10.5 percent in 2019. This is the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines.”

Local churches should consider all members of their community that are in need of their resources, attending to spreading the gospel.  It is important to recognize the work yet to be done in the church’s surrounding environment before interacting with communities globally. Isaiah 58:7 calls Christians to feed the hungry, house the homeless and clothe the naked when they see those in need. 

Although the United States has more economic stability than other countries in the world, it is evident that people in the United States struggle financially and mentally. Many local communities in the United States are in need of support, resources and spiritual guidance. If churches exhaust their resources reaching out to global missions, who will be left to care for those in their own backyard?  

IMPORTANCE OF GLOBAL MISSIONS

Global missions are beneficial to empowering and expanding the Kingdom of God. Historically, global missions have been an important way of spreading the gospel to nations who otherwise have no opportunity of hearing it. Yet, the focus on global missions should include alleviating poverty through evangelizing. 

In Scripture, Jesus used his miracles of healing and provision as an expression of his love and forgiveness leading to eternal life. In Mark 2:1-13, Jesus heals a paralytic man in forgiving his sins. This example of forgiveness represented through physical healing led to the restoration of the unbelieving Pharisees’ hearts. It is necessary to extend resources to those in need while spreading the gospel as believers imitate Christ through exercising servitude.

The church has a tendency to hop from place to place, but it is crucial to invest in one location, according to Baptist Press. This is why short-term missions should be focused on supporting local missionaries in an international location. Long-term investments prevent harm typically done by short-term missions. 

At Biola University, the Student Missionary Union allows students the opportunity to serve at school, reach out to local communities and travel internationally to spread the gospel. The organization prioritizes long-term relationships by reaching out to local communities as well as by spending meaningful time in multiple locations overseas. Along with their global outreach, SMU invests in Biolans through Missions Conference, an annual convention that teaches students about God’s heart for the nations through breakout sessions and guest speakers. 

In the end, the decision between local and global missions should be made according to personal conviction in light of Jesus’ command to Christians according to Mark 16:15, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’ ” Participating in the Great Commision involves connecting with all communities, locally and globally.

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