By Irven Lee
“But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is a part of a conversation the Christ had with His apostles just before He ascended to the heavenly throne. You and I are not about to receive miraculous power to bind on earth that which is bound in heaven. Neither are we witnesses of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension that others might establish their faith on our direct knowledge of these great events. We could, in our feeble way, profit by considering the Master’s order of evangelizing: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth.
The beginning place for the preaching the full gospel was Jerusalem (Lk. 24:47). This was a matter of prophecy (Isa. 2:1-3; Mic. 4:1,2). From this beginning place the gospel was to spread to every creature in all the world (Mk. 16:15). Jerusalem was in the province of Judea, and Samaria was an adjacent province. Saints from Jerusalem might be expected soon to preach the word in Judea and Samaria. Later Paul preached at Ephesus, and the word spread to the Roman province of Asia around Ephesus (Acts 19: 10; Col. 1:7; 4:12). Planting the truth at Thessalonica. led to the sounding out of the word in Macedonia and Achaia and to regions beyond (1 Thess. 1:8).
It would be wonderful if each church today could see that the territory surrounding it (its Judea and Samaria) could hear the word. Philippi helped in the preaching of the word at Thessalonica and Corinth (Phil. 4:15,16; 2 Cor. 11:8). Is this not the Lord’s will-for every place? The seed of the kingdom is planted in one place that the resulting church might plant the church in the area around it and beyond. Even in the field of nature a seed that falls on the ground is designed to produce a plant that will provide seed for the area around it. That is the way the ground is covered. That is the way the gospel should cover the earth in every generation.
It is scriptural and important to send men to distant places with the gospel, but at the same time we should be able to evangelize the home county and adjacent counties. The Lord’s pattern for the early church included Judea and Samaria as well as the uttermost part of the earth. Is the church where you meet neglecting its responsibility in this regard?
It is easy to see that starting a new church within a neighboring community may be less difficult than it would be to send some one into a distant area to start from the “ground up.” A few might go to the new work in “Judea” or “Samaria”and the home church still carry on somewhat as before. In fact, the challenge of seeing the will of the Lord carried out can strengthen the church that encourages this special effort. The few that left may soon be replaced by new faces at the church which is made more zealous by the worthy activity.
We are not suggesting starting “missions” under the control of the “mother church.” We are suggesting starting independent churches through the preaching of the pure gospel in another community. The Bible says nothing about little churches being under the control of the older church. There is an abundance of Scripture that encourages the preaching of the word in other communities. When the truth is faithfully preached this leads to the obedience of some. When they are saved they become members of the church, and they will need to continue “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:36-47). Churches spread over an area as the gospel is faithfully preached publicly and privately.
The new work may develop new skills in leadership and more zeal for some. It is a challenge to find song leaders, teachers, and preachers for another church. The need will be there, and the need encourages a pleasant response. Each servant is to turn his five talents into ten, or his two talents into four. It is a shame for one to bury his talent. In reaching out in the work new abilities are discovered and developed. Good preachers and other good workers are born in such efforts.
Sometimes a new work gathers in trouble makers who seek to dominate the work. Factious people are to be marked, avoided, and rejected (Rom. 16:17, 18; Tit. 3:10, 11). The older church may have strengthened itself to handle such problems while the few at the new place find it hard to deal with such at first. Satan evidently likes to attack where the defenses against him have not been put in place. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing while you continue to search eagerly for worthy laborers.
Do not despise the day of small things. Patience is needed in planting and watering where time and past effort have not already established a strong church. Rome was not built in a day, we are told. Many of the strong churches today began small and grew slowly. Those who first struggled had much to do with the good work that is being done today. Do not be ashamed or afraid to start small and persevere.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 20, p. 617
October 17, 1985