Stephen's announcement at the time of his martyrdom is profound. I guess one may speculate what one would say if facing death.
Stephen steps into the great Jewish narrative format as he leads his hearers along some of the high points of their redemptive history. The verse that caught my eye was "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt..." Acts 17.
Holding that thought for the moment, I love the notion that a healthy church lives in the width and wonder of 3 SPACES.
"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 ends of the earth" Acts 1:8
1st Space - Jerusalem
That is the space where the local church fully embraces their mission and mandate to influence and impact their city. Beyond simply butts in chairs, the Jesus community seeks to let "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is is in heaven" Matt 6:10. This assignment given by Christ in the final hours of his life, requires faith-filled ownership to create a Christlike foot print in our cities.
2nd Space - Judea, Samaria
This second piece of the Christ adventure, is to reach into the "surrounding area, similar culture - surrounding area, different culture". Every Jesus church, is to step out of the boat of comfort and safety and embrace the privilege of kingdom advancing into these arenas. Whether it be social justice, multi-siting or church planting, we are called to find the grace that is ours to lovingly reach into the soul of these regions and peoples.
3rd Space - Ends of the Earth
Creating new gospel frontiers is still one of the most inspirational components of healthy church life. In a spirit of love and humility, we are to take this gospel to the furthest corners of the globe, invigorating our church communities in a unique way. Stepping outside of our culture and embracing the challenging notion of a global gospel, is so evident throughout the pages of the text.
How does this translate into our world?
1. Every church we work with, is responsible for their "Jerusalem". By serving, loving, caring, reaching, these communities find the mind of the Lord for the city they live and minister in - creating fresh, fun and faith-filled ways to shine the Christ light into a very dark and broken world.
2. For us the 2nd space is expressed in Genesis Collective. This is a group of friends who partner together as the relational vehicle that the Father has given us, to enlarge, empower, equip and encourage the churches in North America. I love these leaders and their churches. By swimming upstream, we are seeking to obey the text as we want to create Christlike communities that will authentically represent Him into the 21st Century.
3. The 3rd space is our collaboration with others to reach the uttermost parts of the world. We still believe that our relationships are enough to glue us together for this mammoth mountain to climb. Under the casual banner of Global Assignment, we are seeking to facilitate new gospel frontiers, help establish indigenous apostolic households in every region we are working in, planting churches into these new cultures, holding some training gatherings, to empower the churches we are partnering with.
Back to Stephen. I love him repeating the mantra of Genesis 1 - "increase, multiply, in Egypt". There the idea of the 3 Spaces is repeated. By increase we seek to reach our city. By multiplying we want to reach beyond our immediate world into a broader story. Through "Egypt", we are able to go to the uttermost, doing life with mates, as we just can't do it alone.