A Biblical Order to the Four Aims

[ 4 ] Comments

Within the past few years a resource called “The Four Aims” has begun to be used within Destino and Cru. The goal of the model is to help campus ministers “grow where they are and go where they’re not”. Typically, when presenting the Four Aims it has been stressed that there is not a particular order to follow when living them out. I want to suggest a strategic order to the Four Aims, one I believe has significant biblical support.

The Four Aims

A graphic representation of the Four Aims model.

As a team leader looks at their ministry context and scope there are four goals they should have in mind, even from the beginning of their movement. Though not a perfect correlation, these aims closely mirror Jesus final words to his apostles in Acts 1:8:

  • Initial Context: where the ministry starts (Jerusalem).
  • Nearby Campus: culturally similar yet geographically close ministries (Judea).
  • Cross-Cultural Movement: culturally different yet geographically close ministries, usually ethnic minorities (Samaria).
  • International Movement: culturally different and geographically distant movements (Ends of the Earth).

The Four Aims parallel Jesus' words to his disciples in Acts 1:8.

The Default Order to the Four Aims

Even though it has been explained that there is not a particular order to the Four Aims, a pattern has emerged in practice that shows a default sequence. While I will talk about it in terms of campus movements, it applies to the North American Protestant Church as a whole as well.

A movement always begins with their initial context. They begin to trust God to see something happen on their campus (or if a church, in their local community). They start to see leaders raised up to labor in the power of the Holy Spirit to launch a movement.

Next most campuses (and many churches) start an international partnership to join with what God is doing around the world. They are a blessing to the church around the world as they minister for a summer or a stint year. This often can bring incredible momentum back to the initial context as students or church members travel and participate globally in the Great Commission.

What the model looks like when we go Internationally after our initial context.

When these students return back to campus or their local church they minister with a newfound global perspective. They continue growing their movement in its local context and often work to recruit new people to participate in God’s global mission by going overseas the next year. God has used this model in fantastic ways to advance His kingdom, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

Problems That Often Arise

In our desire to be a part of God’s global mission we often jump directly from our initial context (Jerusalem) to an international context (Ends of the Earth) without going through Judea or Samaria. While the intention to reach the world is good and should be applauded, this skipping over of Samaria in particular causes three problems for the movement (or church):

  • It becomes all too easy for those of us from the majority culture to “miss” ethnic minorities. We get so focused on reaching the world that we fail to see people of different ethnicities living right around us.  As Orlando Costas has said, “It is easier to love our furthest neighbor than our nearest neighbor.” (quoted by @destinokristy) We unintentionally continue the cycle of jumping (or flying) over Samaria to go reach the world.
  • The majority culture movement or church misses the opportunity to grow in loving people cross-culturally. It is no accident that the early church was forced to respond to the controversy of the Hellenistic (read: ethnic minority) widows not being cared for before they took the gospel to the world. Until they had learned to care for their nearest cross-cultural neighbor they weren’t prepared for reaching their furthest cross-cultural neighbor. We are so focused on getting to the world that we miss a fantastic opportunity to steward our power well and become better ministers.
  • As mentioned in “FROM“, by jumping over Samaria we fail to empower ethnic minorities to participate in the Great Commission. If continued for a long period of time our mission movement can become mono-ethnic and not represent God’s true desire for the Church.

A Biblical and Strategic Order to the Four Aims

For the most part, for 200 years we’ve followed our default order to the Four Aims. If we want to fix the problems above we need to be intentional about changing the sequence. We always need to allow freedom for God to move in any order He sees fit, but I believe there are strategic and Biblical reasons for pursuing a specific order to the Four Aims.

What if instead of jumping over Samaria our movements went through it to get to the world? 

Going THROUGH Samaria to the Ends of the Earth, instead of jumping over it.

The early Church grew a variety of ways, but the main paradigm follows Acts 1:8. The gospel flourished in Jerusalem and started to expand to Judea and Samaria. As the Church grew it faced its first cross-cultural conflict in Acts 6. Bi-cultural deacons were chosen to address the issue and quickly became leaders in the Church (Stephen, a bi-cultural Jew was tried and condemned to death in the Synagogue of the Freemen, a synagogue for bi-cultural Jews).

While Peter was having trouble accepting that the gospel was for Gentiles in Acts 10, bi-cultural Jews like Barnabas (a Levite from Cyprus) and Saul/Paul (a Jew from Tarsus) were easily crossing cultures to share the good news of Jesus with non-Jews. In fact, the moment where the Christian movement made the biggest jump from Jewish culture to Gentile culture was in Antioch in Acts 11:19-26. Jews had only been sharing the gospel with Jews. It took bi-cultural Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene (modern day Libya) to share with Gentiles. It makes sense, these bi-cultural believers had grown up in two cultures so it was second nature for them to interact in both. (For more on this, read Bridge People – The Role of Biculturals in World Evangelization.)

Going to the world through Samaria can do the following for our movements:

  • Helps them learn early on how to cross cultures and steward our power well among people of different ethnicities. They learn valuable skills and have our heart attitudes changed as we see, value, and platform ethnic minorities.
  • Increases the effectiveness of ministers as they go internationally. They’re able to take the skills they’ve learned at crossing cultures and apply them when visiting an international location.
  • They’re able to involve ethnic minorities in the Great Commission. Instead of missing them as the movement jumps from Jerusalem to the Ends of the Earth,  we now involve them in taking the Gospel to the world. Because of their bi-cultural identity they serve as Bridge people between the initial context and the world. This follows the model of how the church expanded in Acts, as “The Way” was led by bi-cultural Jews like Paul and Barnabas.

What This Means for Destino

In Destino we haven’t always lived out this strategic sequence to the Four Aims. After starting a Destino movement on our local campus the next thing we did was establish an international partnership. Only after spending time in the book of Acts did we realize we had made the same mistake of skipping over our Samaria.

We’ve since gone back and are now address all of the Four Aims. We’re helping launch Destino movements on 3 nearby campuses. We’re also going to our Samaria, launching Cru at a smaller school about an hour away. These experiences have grown our Destino movement in our initial context and better prepared our students and staff to go to the world.

While we may not make it a hard and fast rule nationally, our desire is for each of our Destino movements to choose a cross-cultural movement to launch before choosing an international partnership location. We believe that having Destino students and staff learn to launch Cru, Bridges, Epic, Impact, or Nations movements will better prepare them to go to the world.


If God is calling your movement to form an international partnership before going to your Samaria, by all means, follow His leading. By suggesting this strategic model we don’t want to say it is the only way (the title of this post was chosen specifically to show what one Biblical order could be). But we do want to stress that choosing to launch an ethnic minority movement locally before forming an international partnership makes enormous sense strategically and has significant Biblical precedent. Regardless of the order God takes you, we pray that all of our movements will take initiative and be successful in reaching all of the Four Aims in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Print Friendly
Posted on February 20, 2012

About destinoeric

A white guy who believes Latinos will change the world, Destinoeric served with Destino from 2008-2013. You can read more of his posts here or on twitter.

4 Responses to A Biblical Order to the Four Aims

  1. Adrian Pei says:

    This is great stuff. Both this model and the “to” and “from” post. I hope that staff read these.

  2. BVirtue says:

    I’m glad you finally wrote down these thoughts.  It speaks to so much of ways in which missions can go wrong and the assumptions that undermine fruitfulness where we are – meaning where we really are, and not where we are with only those like us.  There are people everywhere and the way the 4 aims are laid out it assumes that the initial context is mono-ethnic, and it’s not.  1 and 3 are usually 1 and the same from a geographic standpoint.