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Disciples of All Nations: Global Missions at Anchor House

Updated: May 24, 2023

By Gabe Holton

Matthew 28:16-20

Global Missions at Home?

One of the first draws of Anchor House for me was the unique role the ministry plays in the mission of the global church. Although we are situated in Florida, we have the opportunity to interact with sailors from all over the world from the Philippines, India, Ukraine, Russia, China, and many others on a daily basis. As of 2023, more than half of the world's Christian population is outside of North America, which makes our discussion of the global church more pertinent than ever before.

There are many questions one may ask when we speak about doing global missions. How is doing global missions possible without leaving the country? How should we do global missions responsibly, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with Christianity? Is God calling me to participate in the global church? These are all important questions to raise and answer before participating in what is one of the most debated activities in Christian history. In our devotional today, we are going to be answering these questions as well as seeing what Jesus has to say about his vision for the church on a global level.

Before getting into the devotional though, I have found certain practices helpful to keep in mind as we interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds in ministry. In Larry Caldwell's article "Interpreting the Bible with the Poor" he speaks into the two-way street that ministry, and especially global missions, has on the interpersonal level. If you are interested in hearing all of his nuance and experiences, I highly recommend reading his article for specifics. For the sake of space and time, I will summarize some of these points in the devotional later.

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (NRSV).

Responding to the Great Commission

These words are likely familiar to most of us if we grew up in church, but how are we to respond to these words appropriately? To answer this, let's first look at what the text is saying. These were Jesus's last words to his disciples before his ascension, so they must be important for us to hear.

The first thing I think is important to notice the breadth of all of Jesus's commands in this passage. He claims to have "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:17). He commands the disciples to "make disciples of all nations" (28:19). Finally, he tasks the disciples to "[teach] them to obey everything I have commanded" and that he is "with us always, to the end of the age (28:20). In his last words, Jesus claims all authority before giving the vision for his church until the end of time.

In regard to our own response today, making disciples of all nations does not look the same for every person. We must be aware of where God is leading us and being open to his voice and the doors he opens for us. That being said, doing global missions can mean serving in the place you are in. After coming back to Israel from Egypt, Jesus is not recorded to have left Israel again his whole life. Instead, he stayed in the middle east, discipling Jews, Gentiles, Roman soldiers, and outcasts. Jesus's own ministry can show us an appropriate model for how we ought to disciple others in the place we are in, as geopolitical proximity does not necessarily equal an understanding of God, as seen from the Romans who occupied Israel. Even today, there are those who do not know or have been falsely informed about Jesus who live nearby. Be attentive to how God is calling you to make disciples in this sense. This is not necessarily a call for everyone to be a street evangelist, but when we are aligned with God's will in our lives, people cannot help but notice the way we reflect his character. This reflection can be seen in any interaction or relationship we have with others, making our very lives a witness to the work Christ does.

When we minister to anyone from another culture, we are not only tasked with dissecting Scripture, but being aware of the culture of people we are speaking into. Because many of us rarely interact with those outside of our own culture, we do not necessarily consider how others might have different cultural values, upbringings, or emphases. One of the most prevalent among these are Eastern honor/shame cultural ideals. There are these kinds of cultural nuances among every people group we interact with. Often, listening to the people we minister to is the first step in understanding. Discipleship often begins with a personal relationship, and being gracious in listening to one another helps lay a Christian foundation in conversation.

It is always so encouraging to see believers onboard a ship, and we often have captains who will personally request us to have a worship service and communion onboard. When this is the case, it is such a blessing to us and the crew to interact, commune, and minister to one another in different ways. The second point I want to emphasize is the unity that all Christians can find in the Holy Spirit. It is a good practice to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our ministering to and with other people, especially those from another culture. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is the only common ground between us and other believers, and we must be conscious of the Spirit's work and how that work is embodied as a community.

How You Can Get Involved

If you feel called to be involved in global missions, there are a number of ways you can get involved. If you specifically feel called to Anchor House, check out our website under the "this is how to get involved" tab. We and many other ministries are always looking for volunteers, partners, donors, and people to pray for us as God guides us through our unique mission experiences. Reach out to us if you would like any more information.

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