As the night settled and I had time to pray a bit, the Holy Spirit brought a reminder to my heart:
The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers: Barnabas, Simon, nicknamed Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, an advisor to the ruler Herod, Saul. One day as they were worshiping God-they were also fasting as they waited for guidance-the Holy Spirit spoke: "Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do." So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3 MSG).
Where I minister and how I try to minister come with a hard, yet blessed, reality: quite often, we say goodbye and send off our best and brightest to serve the Kingdom somewhere else. This process is never easy. Being a part of the development and maturity process is quite exciting, but saying goodbye is emotionally hard. I am selfishness: I want to keep that person near because we need them, we've invested in them, and they can do great things right where we are. Part of it is emotional: I love that person and I am attached to that person and I will miss them and miss getting to see them "do their thing for God" right here!
The call of the Lord is often hard — for both the one who answers the call and also the ones who send that person. Yet at the core of a church where Jesus lives is a passion to be a sending church. Just as a family doesn't raise children to keep them in their house forever, so also a church built on the heart of Jesus doesn't seek to keep its best and brightest to themselves.
The example of the church in Antioch is a clear reminder of this principle. God blesses us so we can share with others (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). This is true financially and it is also true with our human resources — even those people especially precious and close to us. The church in Antioch sent out their top guy, along with and another one of their top 5 guys, to preach the good news of Jesus and to plant churches. If they did this, then shouldn't we?
We see this same process happen again in Lystra. One of their best and brightest, a young man named Timothy, was chosen by Paul to accompany Silas and him on their mission journeys (Acts 16:1-5).
This "sending church" principle is rooted in some of the last words of Jesus:
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).
You don't reach your city (Jerusalem), your region (all Judea and Samaria), and your world (the ends of the earth), without sending out your best and brightest to share Jesus, preach the Kingdom, and establish new churches.
So whether it's planting new churches in your own town, sending them to nearby areas where churches are needed, or commissioning teams to reach out to other countries, please pray that God will make your church family a sending church. We can't claim to have the heart of Jesus and not invest ourselves in the lives of others who will take the message of Jesus beyond the shadow of our own buildings!
Which of the following do you think make it hard to be a sending church and why?
- Reaching young families who will raise their children in the Lord so you can send them out?
- Training youth and teens to love the Lord?
- Keeping university and young adult believers connected to the church so they can be sent out later?
- Sending out your own to do Kingdom work?
- Supporting those you send out financially and spiritually as they begin their outreach and church planting efforts?
Which of the following places do you think it is hardest to send out folks close to you, and why?
- Church plants in the same city or area?
- Mission and church planting efforts in the region?
- Missions and church planting work in other nations?
Who is someone in each of the following roles for whom you can become a prayer supporter?
- Someone who is a small child?
- Someone who is a youth or teen?
- Someone who is a young adult or university student?
- Someone who has just left to do church planting in your area?
- Someone who is involved in international and church missions?
- Someone who is older that is going out to short-term or long-term missions?