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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Four circles

Jesus wanted his disciples to know their mission field. So, after the resurrection he took them to the Mount of Olives and gave them a vivid panoramic view of where he was sending them. You know the verses because they are also the compelling record of what he promised to give them to equip them for such a bold mission. Luke wrote it---

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will

be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the


Acts 1:8, ESV

Jesus drew four circles around Jerusalem. They form the boundaries of the mission to which his followers have been sent for two millennia. From the Mount of Olives, the second highest peak surrounding Jerusalem, he could show them the center point of their work and the incredible landscape of their mission field. One other minor reference in the Acts 1 account happened after Jesus ascended. Angels appeared and one of them spoke to them. He referenced them as "Man of Galilee..." (Acts 1:11). Since they were from the Galilee region, it would have been natural for them to have returned there and focused their mission on the villages and people surrounding the Sea of Galilee. It was a reminder that their mission would take them beyond their own comfortable places.

The four circles are well-know too. We've used them metaphorically to mark the extent of church mission. They are circles around [1] Jerusalem, [2] Judea, [3] Samaria, and [4] to the end of the earth. For my purposes they are [1] the mission field down the street, [2] the mission field of our own nation, [3] the mission field of hard to reach people, and [4] the mission field around the world. They comprise the compass points that delineate our mission enterprise. Today, two thousand + years later we pursue them in many ways, through our own bold mission efforts, the work of our denominational mission organizations, and through collaborative partnerships with churches of like mind. In my experience, the most difficult mission fields of the four are numbers [1] the mission field down the street, and number [3] the hard to reach field to which we have been assigned by God.

Engaging the mission field down the street involves knowing demographic specifics about who resides in that circle, understanding the lifestyle patterns of those inhabitants, and specifically providing mission occasions to create connection and relationship with them. Once again, there's abundant information available to provide assistance in gathering, analyzing, and responding to data about this mission field. A call to the your state convention or association office will open the doors to this data and give you the opportunity to engage this primary and most important mission field.

The hard to read mission field is often a deeper spiritual matter. It could be a community experiencing racial or economic transition, a low performing school, multi-family housing areas, places of growing crime or drug cultures, colleges and universities, nursing homes, transient populations, or just about any neighborhood or group of people that slip through the cracks of typical mission. One church I heard about made Sunday workers their mission field, providing an early meal and devotions for people working during church hours. The thing is, this is an important yet unspecified mission field that God's people cannot ignore or overlook. Or, expect someone else to adopt.

There's another powerful personal application to the four circles too. It was first identified for me in an old book by Oscar Thompson, Concentric Circles of Concern (B & H Books, revised 1999). Thompson was an evangelism professor and he applied the idea of the four circles to the individual, personal relationships that connect most of us to others. It is an extension from the inner circle of self, to the family, relatives, friends, neighbors and associates, acquaintances, and finally to person X. Though an older book, even in the re-issue, it provides compelling biblical guidance in developing personal mission.

Jesus entrusted his mission to the men he chose. Down through the generations he calls us to mission. Being intentional with our purpose means that we must, either personally or corporately, visualize the boundaries of our mission field. Four circles is one way to begin that process.

The neighborhood down the street to the end of the earth. WOW!

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