Here’s a challenge: Park your car in front of your local church and start walking. Limit yourself to a two-mile radius and note what you see and experience.
Odds are you will discover an intricate network of small businesses, parks, residential areas, schools, and community centers. Within each are people. Both individually and together as a community, people in that two-mile radius struggle with an array of challenges, celebrate life in unique ways, and share similar dreams and aspirations.
Now imagine your local church “adopting” that two-mile radius—visiting every business; getting to know the owners and if possible buying their products and services; knocking on every residential door and simply greeting the people; meeting with community leaders and offering your church building for community events; providing tutoring at the schools.
The challenge is to be present within that two-mile radius until every person, business, and organization not only recognizes the presence of Adventists, but appreciates the value they add to their community.
From a missional perspective, the scenario is somewhat challenging for Adventists. We are commissioned to reach the entire world, the entire country, the entire city—which is both biblical and logical.
Thus we struggle at times with “limiting” mission to a smaller area and applying a relational, community-centered approach to it. Yet a biblical model of mission exists that may be helpful.
Jesus left early Christians with a promise that doubles as a missional model. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on 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).
Notice the concentric circles that move out like ripples in a pond. Jerusalem is the epicenter, or perhaps the backyard. Judea is the broader area, and Samaria is the neighboring territory. Then—and only then—do we get to “the ends of the earth.”
In other words, effective mission begins in our two-mile radius and ripples out from there.
This is more than just a geographical call to action, and it’s certainly not a grow-your-church-quick scheme. It’s a challenge for Adventists to practice and model the ministry of presence. It involves spending time with people and listening. Most of all, it involves being genuinely interested in people, their unique stories, and their best interests.
Jesus modeled it well. He had unhurried conversation with a woman drawing water from a well, and He attended multiple social events. He met with a Pharisee after dark, and joined two disappointed friends as they walked to Emmaus, allowing them to work out their frustrations and connecting them to a greater reality.
Now it’s our turn. As witnesses of what Jesus has done for others, and for us, we extend His ministry in His way to our communities, to our cities, to our nation, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.
It all begins with a simple walk.
Costin Jordache is director of communication for Adventist Review Ministries and news editor for Adventist Review.