"Kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home." Acts 21:5-6
The gospel ministry is a two sided venture. There are two sides gathered on that beach in Acts 21, both vital to the strategic advance of the good news. There are those who board the ship and go to distant and unfamiliar places and there are those who return home and advance the good news in the familiarity of family and community. Most people relate to those who return home and somehow we feel less important than the few who board the ship and go to the unfamiliar. However those who board the ship are strengthened and spurred on by those who return to the familiarity of home and community. They are supported by our financial giving, by our faithful praying, and most of all by our steadfast faithfulness to the work of gospel ministry at home.
Those who stay home are not called to stay home and sit on our hands. We are called to put our hands to the work of ministry, continuing to be the evidence that Jesus has visited the shores of our community and has wrought faithful witnesses right where we are. We are called to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of Christ and thus make disciples of them for the glory of Jesus. We are called to faithfully rub shoulders with unbelievers in our workplaces and in our marketplaces so that there is a continued gospel witness in our community and thus to make disciples of co-workers and neighbors. We are called to build up our spouse in the work of the ministry and to help one another grow in Jesus and thus further the walk of our families as disciples of Jesus. We are called to gather with the saints of God at church and from house to house building one another up in the disciple making calling and to pray for one another and exhort one another and when necessary to lovingly confront one another when our hearts are fainting or our hearts are growing in rebellion. All of this work of the ministry at home is spurring the ministry of those who have gone out from among us and boarded the ship (plane) and have taken the good news to foreign places. It’s fuel that reaches the far away places and touches the hearts of our loved ones who have sacrificed the familiarity and comforts of home to take the good news to people who often don’t want them there or don’t see the need for them to even be there. Those who have gone need to see and sense the security and faithfulness of those who have returned home.
So when they return “home” to report all of the good things God has done in the foreign field they will encounter the continued evidences that the good hand of God’s favor is still being experienced at home from the place from which they were trained and were catapulted forth into distant lands. Those who have gone are the spiritual heroes of those who returned home, and rightfully so, they have set an example for those who are now being called to distant lands to follow in their footsteps, but I’m saying that those who minister faithfully “at home” are just as necessary to the advance of the gospel in both the far away places and on the home front.
So those of us who have stayed behind ought to let the advance of the gospel, at home and abroad, be the fuel that drives our “very normal, ordinary” lives.
These thoughts were inspired by the missionary devotional “Gospel Meditations for Missions”, Day 11, which talks about the importance of those who stay home to the advancement of the Gospel.