Jesus told the 11 to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16–20). The instruction is to make disciples. The direct target, according to Jesus, is “all nations.” Imagine the overwhelming feeling the 11 disciples must have had to hear the resurrected Jesus telling them their responsibility was to disciple all nations. Later, just prior to His ascension, Jesus told them that when the Holy Spirit empowers them, they would be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Some may approach disciple-making as if our first responsibility is to those nearby and then optionally to those on the other side of the world or those who are culturally or ethnically different. But our obedience to Jesus is to make disciples of all nations (ethnicities).
Read Acts 1:8 with emphasis not on a strategy of Jerusalem then Judea, then Samaria … then the ends of the earth. Rather, focus on the simultaneous making of disciples – here, there and everywhere; all at the same time. “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, emphasis added).
The church’s early struggle was obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. The first disciples were ethnically Jewish, and it took several miracles, signs and wonders to launch the church out of its ethnocentrism. The great sending church of the first century was not the predominantly monocultural Hebraic church in Jerusalem. The multicultural church in Antioch was more obedient to
Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations. Most of Paul’s letters address at some level the Jewish-Gentile struggle. It was incredibly difficult for the first generation of Christians to become multiethnic.
One of our strategic priorities is to “increase the global and local influence of our churches by encouraging engagement with worldwide ministries and helping churches to better impact their communities” (fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm). In this statement, the Free Methodist Church – USA recognizes that a congregation’s engagement in worldwide ministries will help that church better impact their local community.
During General Conference 2019, focus groups will gather. On Tuesday, July 16, the Global Transformation group will focus on why and how being globally engaged makes better disciples in the local church. We can see from Jesus’ words to the 11 that being globally engaged is not optional; it is part of being a disciple. Eric Spangler, other leaders from Asia and Bishop Emeritus Les Krober will lead us in exploring why we need to be globally engaged and how that helps make better disciples here in the United States.
On Wednesday, July 17, the group will focus on what the FMCUSA can learn from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East about evangelism and discipleship. In the past 10 years, nearly 2,000 house churches have been planted in the Middle East. Area Director Dale and five key leaders and church-planting trainers from the Middle East will lead us and give insight into one of the fastest growing segments of the
On Thursday, July 18, the focus group will be led by U.S. pastors and leaders who are engaged in cross-cultural ministry to refugees and immigrants. Fraser Venter, Joanna DeWolf, Doug Cross and Herb Coates will lead the group. We will discover how being a multiethnic church elevates worship. This team will drill down to the nuts and bolts of multiethnic ministry, along with sharing successes and failures.
During each session, participants will have an opportunity to engage with FM leadership and have specific takeaway action points to lead their local congregations in fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus and the strategic priorities of the FMCUSA.
Gerald Coates is the director of global church advocacy for Free Methodist World Missions and the organizer and facilitator of the Global Transformation focus group at General Conference 2019 (gc19.org).0