The Great Commission in the 21st Century

“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.” - Acts 1:8

Many North American churches turn to the Redeemer City to City team for insight into global missions trends, particularly regarding the cities of the world. We recently hosted representatives from more than thirty churches in NYC for a day of conversations about the changing face of world missions and how the North American Church ought to respond. As usual, we learned as much from this conversation as we contributed to it.

The group discussed the phenomenon that as the world urbanizes, it globalizes. With advances in telecommunications and Internet accessibility, an increasingly shared common language (English) and relatively safe travel across nearly all of the world’s national borders, some missiologists have argued that our age resembles the Pax Romana that allowed for the rapid expansion of Christianity in the 1st century. 

Accordingly, the dynamics affecting global missions work have changed. For decades men and women have taken up the biblical call to missions at huge personal cost by moving to places far from their homelands. Is this approach still necessary with the rise and maturity of the Church in the Global South? Missionaries once traveled with their own coffins, expecting to be shipped back in them; how do we take advantage of the ease with which laypeople are now constantly moving over borders and traveling for work or pleasure, often with natural networks and inroads to a new culture, but no equipping for mission? Young people have always been a force for missions innovation, but how are Millennials’ priorities and passions different from previous generations? 

Many of the churches represented have been rethinking their approach to missional engagement globally; some have already made fairly radical changes. Several presented new ways of thinking, best practices, and case studies of how they have restructured their missions programs. The leaders present all shared a passion for missions. One participant shared, “The Leaders Event was much more than we expected and it was really great to be around so many men and women with one purpose in mind.”

We hope this conversation will continue and that the Church can increasingly work in concert across all the denominational, cultural, and geographic lines that have divided us, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of God.