Did Jesus do 4G ministry?
Ok, I admit it’s kind of an odd question. It’s a bit of circular reasoning. 4G mission theory is, to begin with, based on Jesus’ instructions for his church, (Acts 1:8) re-interpreted for our modern context. So, what happens if I take our 4G definitions are reapply them back onto New Testament context? This should be fun.
So, G1: His own family and relationships/communities that he is already part of. In Luke 4, after being rejected in his local synagogue Jesus goes to his friend Simon’s mum’s house and heals her of a fever. This is ministry, both successful and unsuccessful in his own immediate context. At the end of this story Jesus says something interesting:
Luke 4: 42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
So on to Judea it is!
G2: Wider society, lands of our ancestors, traditional allies. In Luke chapter 6 Jesus is about to share the sermon on the mount. There is a large crowd gathered, from all over Judea, including Jerusalem (Jesus’ G1 was not Jerusalem?!) and as far away as the costal towns of Tyre and Sidon. That day “power was coming from him” and they were all healed, of diseases and those troubled by impure spirits. (Luke6:18) They were also all blessed by some excellent teaching that day.
G3: Nations and people groups that have traditional animosity with our own kind. In the context Jesus was born into these were literally the Samaritan people. In John 4 Jesus has a beautiful conversation with the woman at the well, significantly, a Samaritan. Her whole village follow her into faith in Jesus that day. There is also the story of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7). Jesus heals her daughter, it seems somewhat reluctantly, wishing that his own people had as much faith as this Greek woman did.
Did Jesus do G4? He certainly traveled outside of his comfort zone crossing the Lake and spreading the kingdom in the region of the Decapolis. When Jesus feeds the 4000 (Mark 8) it is in this “foreign” territory, and remote enough that the disciples doubted there would be food enough to feed the people. G4? Maybe.
But Jesus was also aware of the far more distant people that God longed to reconcile with himself:
Luke 66:19 “I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.
I think this is part of what Jesus meant when he said that those who believe and follow him will go on to do things that are even greater than he did. (John 14:12) While in his earthly body, Jesus didn’t get to go to the distant tribes that Isaiah prophesied about.
In John 10 Jesus speaks about having sheep “from another pasture”. I think this is another reference to those who would become his followers but were outside of his personal reach.
Some of them are still waiting to this day.
That was fun :) Let’s do the book of Acts too.
G1: This time is literally Jerusalem. The day I launched the Traverse Facebook page someone rightly pointed out that for the disciples Jerusalem was not their home. But, at the beginning of the book of Acts it is their starting point. Many, many of us find our starting point, our every day relationships and immediate context to not be the same place we would necessarily call “home”. In fact, part of the definition of G2 is the lands of our ancestors, which might be where you include your birthplace if you aren’t living there. But, I’m overcomplicating it already.
The book of Acts basically starts with the disciples reaching out to their G2 context. They were physically still in Jerusalem but their message was immediately to “fellow Israelites” (Acts 2) from all over the place. I’m calling this G2 because these were not pre-existing relationships, this ministry required a bold step of talking to strangers, not outsiders mind you, but those they shared a common history and worldview with (though not always language!) That sounds like G2 to me. And it was hugely successful, 3000 people believed on the first day!
And there my friends is their G1. Each other. The way that the early church ministered one to each other had a huge impact on the way they were perceived.
Peter and John were passionate ministers in their G1 and G2 contexts. The church and the Jews. The church grew quickly because of the G2 ministry that was spreading like wildfire. There were bumps along the way as they worked out how to minister to each other too. All the way through chapter 6 things grow and improve.
And then Stephen is killed. And the church is scattered, some of them to Samaria. And now G3 starts happening. The first G3 Missionary is Phillip. And everything is much more complicated. (Acts 8) One of the first Samaritan converts is a man called Simon. Simon comes from another cultural and religious background and Peter and John (who come to witness Phillip’s success). Neither Peter, John or Phillip have much experience in cross-cultural ministry at this point, how could they? Simon, (the new G3 convert) doesn’t understand that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are free for the whole church and instead tries to pay. This offends the church leaders. I know of a few modern stories where pagan converts mis-understood and assumed they had to purchase access to the incredible power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Personally, I think he didn’t need a rebuke as much as he did an assurance of God’s grace.
But G3 really gets an explosion of attention with the arrival of the Apostle to the Gentiles. I get the impression that Peter and Paul didn’t always see eye to eye. I guess the competitiveness of different passions for ministry is not a new thing ;) Peter does eventually come around to the validity of G3 ministry (Acts 10).
So, G4. Did they get there in Acts? What are we looking for? It would have to be something outside of the empire, or theoretically a minority people group within the empire that was mostly left alone. We’re looking for a disciple who made contact with a people group outside of their historical allies and enemies. A language they had never heard before. A culture they had no experience with.
Rome? Athens? Hardly. These are the centres, not the outskirts. They might be the furthest in relational distance but they were still part of the same “world” as Judea, leaders in it in fact. So, it appears I have just categorised all of the Greeks as G3 from the perspective of the early church. Their own worldview had two categories; Jew and Gentile. Both Samaritans and Greeks were Gentiles. G4 people groups, if they knew of any, would have been lumped into the Gentile category too, so their own descriptions aren’t going to help us much.
Possibly Philip and the Ethiopian official? (Acts 8:26) God had to put these two men together through a miraculous meeting because they would not have otherwise crossed paths. If so, Phillip also becomes the first G4 missionary. If God had picked Philip up and landed him in Ethiopia I would think that would certainly have been G4. This is the only part of the story that touches on a nation outside of the Roman Empire.
What is clear is that by the end of Acts the believers understood that the gospel of Christ was meant for the entire world. Paul finishes the book with the assertion that though salvation was first offered to the Jews it was now, because of grace, available to all. Theologically they understood that the distant islands still needed to be reached.
The Romans knew there were people groups outside their empire. They knew there were people out there who they had no contact with. They did not have as wide an understanding of geography as we do. Like Jesus, Paul did not get to take the message of the Kingdom as far as he would have desired. For much the same reason I suppose.
The people groups and the ends of the earth fell to the responsibilities of further generations. Including our own generation because, unlikely as it would seem, we are still not done.
P.S. Next, I’d like to look into early church history to see when it did start happening. Thomas going to India comes to mind.