top of page
  • Writer's pictureBradley Bell

How to Handle Missions History, Part One

The Via Dolarosa is the presumed route that Jesus took as he carried his cross. Forget food, I was devouring the streets. I was standing where Jesus stood. There was even a landmark where Jesus had rested his hand. Of course I put my hand there too—wouldn't you?!

Then I rounded a corner and suddenly peered down into a deep archeological site. It had been set it up to show the growth of Jerusalem over time. To my surprise, the ancient city had constantly risen, one foundation steadily being built upon another. And the foundation of Jesus’ day, the holy ground that I thought I was walking on, was actually about five feet below me.

It had totally slipped my mind that history had gone on long after Jesus stepped there.

Forgetting History

The funny this is, I do the same thing with missions history. I open up the Book of Acts and presume I’m walking the same paths. And though the Scriptures do inform my life on mission, it’s easy to forget there has been nearly two millennia of missions history in the meantime.

If we embrace our identity as people sent on mission, this history must become more than information. We can be informed, but still sit on the sidelines. If we are to take the baton into the next leg of missions history, we’ve gotta do something with this great saga.

Here’s the thing though: missions history is like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)—step into it without much preparation and you’re going to get seriously hurt. Missions history can be deeply encouraging, but also frightening and confusing. How do we handle all the death and suffering and bad examples and lingering lost people? We can’t. Not without (1) setting our eyes on Jesus and (2) building a hardy theological foundation. Matthew 24 helps us do both.

Remembering History

In the context of Matthew 24 Jesus has triumphantly entered Jerusalem with his disciples for the last time. He’s cleared out the temple—again. And he has pulled no punches about the arrival of his kingdom. At night he retreats to Bethany to rest and his disciples finally get their chance. They ask,

when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (v. 3)

Have you ever asked someone a question and then realized you had no clue what you were getting into? That seems like what’s happening here. The disciples appear to be thinking, “Lord, you’re talking a big game and we believe you—so when are you going to make it happen?”

So Jesus answers them in verses 4-14, teaching about the last days, the period of time from the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to the day of his second coming. It’s a great little summation of the church age and missions history. And it breaks down into three movements: the nations rage, the church suffers, the gospel advances. In the forthcoming posts we'll unpack them one at a time.

43 views0 comments
bottom of page