by Nate Adams
In Acts 1:1-8 Jesus challenged His first followers with five bold new ways
of thinking and behaving to change their world. They lay the foundation for a
strategy many missions leaders today are calling the Acts 1:8 Challenge. Is
your church considering it? Is your class or small group studying it?
I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do
and teach until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the
Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. After He had suffered, He also
presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them
during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While He was together
with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the
Fathers promise. This, He said, is what you heard from Me; for John baptized
with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from
now. So when they had come together, they asked Him, Lord, at this time
are You restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, It is not for
you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be
My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the
I admit that sometimes my church feels pretty small and insignificant. We
rarely have all the workers or money we seem to need, and sometimes we even
lose track of why were really here. But, as I studied the first chapter of Acts
recently, it dawned on me that the first congregation in the New Testament
probably felt much the same way when Jesus spoke to them just before He left
It was a momentous occasion but with modest beginnings. Only about 120
Christ-followers met in a rented room, andwhile these early disciples were no
doubt excited about the resurrection of Jesusthey had little idea what to do
next. But in the first eight verses of this amazing little history, we discover
five bold attitudes and actions Jesus challenged that first little Jerusalem
congregation to embrace which would turn them inside out and allow them to
change their world.
Jesus challenged the first church to understand that His primary focus as
the risen Christ is on the Kingdom of God.
During the 40 days after Jesus resurrection, the Bible tells us that He
appeared to His followers and spoke to them with laser-like focus about one
thing: the Kingdom of God. His primary purpose on earthand now their primary
purpose as a churchwas to invite the Jewish people and ultimately all the lost
peoples of the world back into the loving Lordship of their Creator. The good
news is that all is forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus. We are invited
to run back into the arms of God just as frightened, lost children would run
back into the open arms of their Father. This one thing, this mission that led
Jesus to the cross, is still to be the one thing that the first churchand now
my churchis commanded by Jesus to keep in the forefront of its vision.
Surprisingly, even after the resurrected Jesus spoke to His followers for 40
days about the priority of the Kingdom of God, they asked, Lord, are you at
this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Their question conveyed an
attitude still prevalent in churches today, where there seem to be two main
perspectives among Christians. One simply says, The church is for me. This is
where I enjoy friendship and spiritual growth, and this is where I connect with
God and find fulfillment in serving Him. The other perspective says, The church
is for the world. These wonderful things that take place within our churchs
walls are not ends in themselves but are designed to propel us out into the
world where so many are lost and outside the Kingdom.
Announcing the Kingdom of God to the lost is still the worldwide priority of
Jesus for churches like mine today.
Jesus challenged the first church to see history and the world from Gods
point of view.
Jesus second challenge and patient answer to that first church when they
asked about the kingdom being returned to Israel was that God was ready to do
something much larger than the nation of Israel. When Jesus replied, It is not
for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority, I
believe He was inviting His followers to step back and look at Gods redemptive
pattern throughout all of history and His loving heart for all the worlds
Consider the times and dates that God already had revealed to His young
church. Gods glorythe glory reflected in His marvelous creation and His
ultimate creatures, man and womanhad been tarnished and corrupted by sin. At
the Tower of Babel the rebellious peoples had scattered into the world, their
confused languages a judgment by God for their own empire-building sin. Yet God
had continued His loving, redemptive mission by initiating relationship with a
man (Abram), a family (Abrahams family) and ultimately a people (Israel) who
were invited again to reflect His glory and show the world what it meant to be
the people of God. Israel had proven it could not return the lost peoples of
the world to God, but in the fullness of time Israel had been used by God to
bring the world its Savior, Jesus. That Savior had accomplished His redemptive
purpose on the cross of Calvary, and He now stood before that first little
church promising to send them Someone who would lead them and empower them to
reclaim the lost peoples of the world as worshipers of the King.
Jesus reminded that first church and my own church today that our little
slice of history is only one link in a long chain of Gods history-long,
worldwide mission. He was saying, in effect, Regardless of your current
situation or challenges, step back and realize the bigger picture of what God
is doing! God is not going backward to Israel at its zenith or to your
churchs better days. Gods epic, redemptive plan has been moving steadily
forward since the beginning of timenow are you ready to discover the next
chapter and your part in it? Are you ready to see how great Gods salvation will
be, even compared to your past experience? And then Jesus gave them, and us,
these final words, this Acts 1:8 Challenge before He ascended into heaven:
But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will
tell people about me everywherein Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Jesus challenged the first church to rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit for
boldness and effectiveness.
Jesus must have looked at that first little church and seen a room full of
gunpowder that was about to meet its match. He had already told them that those
who believed in Him would do the works He did and even greater, because Jesus
was going to be with the Father (John 14:12). Later Jesus even said that His
followers would benefit from His departure, because His going would mean the
coming of the Counselor that would convict the world of its need for God (John
He must look at my little church today the same way sometimes, wondering if
we are ready to stop doing our own thing and rely on the Holy Spirit to lead
and empower us back on the track of His mission to the world.
It reminds me of my friend Bob, who told me about the hours he spent trying
to blow the leaves in his yard on a windy day. His little gas blower could not
move the leaves west as long as the wind was blowing to the east. Finally his
wife came out and suggested, Why dont you work with the wind, dear? When Bob
changed his own plan, sought the direction of the wind and utilized its power,
his task was finished in minutes! With his newly discovered power, he was able
to make quick work of his neighbors yards as well.
I dont understand everything about the Holy Spirit, any more than I
understand everything about the wind. But every time I experience His power, I
wonder why my little church and I dont stop and adjust to His movement more
Jesus challenged the first church to radiate the gospel to its own
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth.
In His final words to that little church in Jerusalem, Jesus makes clear
that even little churches like mine are designed and commanded to have
worldwide influence. And He maps out a plan for at least four types of mission
fields where we are to have plans for that redemptive influence:
a plan for my churchs ends of the earth. While new people groups are being
reached with the gospel every year, more than 1.5 billion people in about 5,000
people groups still have little or no access to the good news about Jesus
Christ and the Kingdom of God. So thousands of people groups in the world are
waiting for my church (and yours) to bring them the good news.
a plan for my churchs Samaria. For todays church, as for the early church,
Samaria is a close-by place that we rarely visit, and Samaritans are those who
live relatively near us, but who are not like us. Its estimated that in North
America seven out of 10 people do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
North Americas lostness is as deep as the worlds lostness is wide. Today God
still calls churches like mine to personalize the gospel for the diversity of
people in and near our homeland.
a plan for my churchs Judea. For todays churches, as for early churches,
Judea can be seen as the surrounding state, region or province in which people
share or adapt to a predominant language, culture and regional identity. If
Samaritans are seen as those who live relatively near us but are not like us,
then Judeans can be seen as those who live relatively near us and who, in many
ways, are like us. The Judea mission field of the first century reminds us that
a more homogeneous culture and some religious familiarity can provide bridges
as well as barriers to the gospel. Yet one great challenge of the Judea mission
field is the barrier of presumed familiarity that people have with the gospel.
Those who were lost in a works-based religion in the first century were likely
to declare Im Roman or Im Jewish just as those lost in the Judea mission field
of the church today might declare Im Baptist or Im Catholic. Those depending on
a works-based religion rather than a grace-based relationship still dont
understand the gospel. And God calls Christians to nearby people who may share
regional identity or religious familiarity but not real fellowship with
a plan for my churchs Jerusalem. The Jerusalem mission field is the
community where we live, work, shop, play and go to school. And it requires as
much intentionality as the mission fields of Judea, Samaria and the ends of the
earth. Every week Christians drive by countless people who, for a variety of
reasons, might never set foot in their church building. Just as the Holy Spirit
compelled that first little church out into the streets of its Jerusalem, God
calls my churchand meout into our local community, even to people who need a
new or different church.
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation,
tribe, people and language, which no one could number standing before the
throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in
their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice; Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Jesus challenged the first church to be witnessespersonal participants in
the worldwide mission of God.
I suppose that first little congregation in Jerusalem could have affirmed
Jesus challenge and then chosen to stay within their rented room, waiting for
their resources to increase or their problems to be solved or their strategy to
become clearer. But they didnt. Every one of them became not only a worshiper
but also a witness. Every one chose to participate in the worldwide mission of
God and to tell what they had seen and heard. They spilled out into the streets
of Jerusalem and beyond with such boldness that the world was changed, not only
then, but throughout history and for eternity.
And like that first church, my little church should be out gathering
worshipers from the peoples of the world as if gathering treasure to present to
our beloved King.
I admit that sometimes my church seems pretty small and insignificant. We
rarely have all the workers or money we seem to need, and sometimes we lose
track of why were here and what Gods purposes are for us. But when I read again
what the Holy Spirit did through that first little church, I pray that He will
do it again and again, beginning with little churches like mine.
Adapted from The Acts 1:8 Challenge:
Empowering the Church to be On Mission, by Nate Adams, vice president of
Mission Mobilization, NAMB. This 2005 Doctrine Study is available from LifeWay
Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com or 800-458-2772. For information and help with how
your church can embrace The Acts 1:8 Challenge, visit www.ActsOne8.com.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC