Archives For Gospel advance

“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” – Acts 8:4
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch…” – Acts 11:19

Those who read the book of Acts will notice the influence of two major churches: the church in Jerusalem and the church in Antioch. Jerusalem was the city where the New Testament church started through the preaching of Peter at Pentecost, and Antioch became the missionary sending center for Paul and Barnabas throughout the Gentile world. But there is an amazing connection between these two churches that can get easily overlooked while reading about Stephen’s martyrdom, Paul’s conversion, and Peter’s dreams. It’s the ordinary life on mission from the no-named army of disciples who preached Jesus everywhere they went.

In Acts 8, the church scattered from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria due to persecution from the hand of Saul and his accomplices. They were identified as “those who were scattered.” The persecution that sent them did not stop them or silence them. Providence pushed them toward proclaiming Jesus, and they “went about” their lives doing just that. How did the gospel get from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria? It happened as Spirit-empowered disciples bore witness to Jesus and His resurrection and preached the Word as they stepped out on mission.

Fast forward a couple of chapters and you see that same gospel seed spreading from Judea and Samaria to the Gentile world, completing the promise of Acts 1:8. But how did it get there? More specifically, who took it to the Gentile world? Did God use Phillip, Peter and Paul? Absolutely. But notice the language of Acts 11:19.

“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arise over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch…”.

The gospel went from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria because of no-named disciples on mission to make much of Jesus. And the gospel went from Judea and Samaria to the Gentile world because of no-named disciples on mission to make much of Jesus. Is it any wonder, then, that the church in Antioch would be the sending center for the early church in the book of Acts? It was comprised of disciples whose spiritual lineage descended from disciples who made disciples who preached Jesus in the power of the Spirit. They had the missional DNA from the beginning because the gospel seed was so generously and faithfully scattered by ordinary disciples “going about” their ordinary lives on mission to preach the Word and tell others about Jesus.

We will never know the stories and the sacrifices of “those who were scattered” in the early church, but they have a legacy that continues generation after generation among people from all lands and languages of people who have no name or recognition other than the everlasting fruit they leave in the wake of their life on mission.

May that be true about our generation and our cities today. The way God will reach our world may be through a Peter or Paul. But it also may be through “those who were scattered” that went about their lives making much of Jesus and sowing that gospel seed day in and day out.

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Google Maps and Gospel Advance

Tim Brister —  February 14, 2008 — 8 Comments

I am one who has never been on the cutting edge of technological innovation.  However, I do enjoy and appreciate good tools and resources that assist me in the work of the ministry and my studies.  One such tool that I have come to use in recent weeks is Google Maps.

In years past, when I would attempt to canvass a community with the gospel, I would purchase a full-size map of the city and put it on a poster board or tack it on my door.  I would then use thumb tacks and plot out the areas or streets where I have gone in sharing the gospel.  I would then mark the hopes with colored markers where people were receptive or came faith in Christ.  The map became a resource that helped me plan out my evangelism strategy as well as encourage me to pray for various parts of the city.

That was then.

Two weeks ago, I went to Google Maps to figure out how to customize a personal map for a research project I am doing for class.  The first time I saw a customized Google map was during the wildfires in southern California last year.   In my project, I am working with a multi-ethnic church who has two services–one for English-speaking congregants, and another for Spanish-speaking congregants.  My first segment was to take the directory for the Hispanic congregation and plot them on my customized Google map, which came to a total of 105 units (family residences).  The second segment is to do the same with the directory for the English congregation on a second customized map.  When completed, I will overlay the two maps to see where members are located across the city and region, perhaps breaking them down by zip code.

The second phase is to gather the most recent demographic and ethnographic data of the city as possible, finding the areas where Hispanics are most densely populated.  I would then break that segment down to find the specific ethnic groups, such as Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, etc.  Once I have found the areas, communities, or streets where the various ethnic groups are located, I would then make a third customized Google map, marking the streets and communities with various symbols, designating the different areas.  When finished, I would then overlay this ethnographic map over the map of the Hispanic congregation.  Hopefully, the results would allow me to see what areas of the city are effectively being reached by the church, and what areas or people groups within the city where the gospel has yet to come to their home.

Needless to say, I am really excited about this project.  I think it would serve profitable not only for strategic evangelistic planning but also alert the church to places and peoples for prayer, service, or other forms of ministry.

Having shared all that, I was wondering if any of you have in the past, or are currently using Google maps or any other map resource for your evangelistic or missional purposes.  This is all new to me, and I am learning more and more by the day of ways to use this to benefit the advance of the gospel.  If you have any ideas or ways that online maps could be use for the sake of the gospel, please pass them along as I am sure that I will benefit from your input (as well as others).

For those interested in learning more about customizable Google maps, check out this YouTube video:

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