Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this week’s episode, I’m sharing some thoughts on a topic I have been struggling with for a few weeks. It was actually intended to be last week’s episode, but I just couldn’t get the handle on it that I wanted.
I need to thank Brad Brisco from Missional Church Network for starting my thinking down this path about a year ago.
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Here am I, send me.
My tribe of the evangelical family has probably sent more missionaries than any other part of evangelicalism since our founding in 1845. We currently have thousands of missionaries around the world. We’re big on sending. We even have a really large event called the Send Conference.
We seek to consistently focus on what is known as the Great Commission: Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We seek also to consistently pray for God to send more workers into the harvest: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
God’s calling of Isaiah in the Old Testament has been a central text in our missionary thinking: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
I began a few years ago, praying every day at 9:38 a.m. (based on Matthew 9:38), “Lord of the harvest, send workers into the harvest.” Recognizing that one of the great needs for harvest workers is pastors for pastorless churches, I added, “Send pastors into our churches.” And then recognizing that so many churches have an almost exclusively inward focus, I added, “Send churches into their communities.” Finally, recognizing praying for God to send others leaves out a big part of being a Christ-follower, I added, “Send me where you want me to go.”
Then I had my first aha moment. It is His world, His harvest, His workers. So, I adjusted my prayer: “Lord of the harvest, send workers into YOUR harvest. Send pastors intoYOUR churches. Send churches intoYOUR communities. Send me where you want me to go inYOUR world.”
That prayer has continued until recent months, when I experienced my second aha moment. We’ve been hoping and praying that God would send someone (us or someone else) into His harvest. We’ve been so focused on who He might send where, that we have missed this incredibly simple, but profoundly life-changing reality: we have already been sent.
I’m sending you
Here’s a profound quote from Alan Hirsch’s new book “5 Q“: “Toward the end of his [Jesus] ministry in Israel, he confers his own sentness upon the ecclesia; the movement is thus birthed through his apostolic ministry. The so-called Johannine Commission (“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” John 20:21) is one of the definitively apostolic texts in the New Testament.”
Here’s the aha moment we need to experience within our churches: Everyone who has been called into the community of the redeemed (the family of God, the Body of Christ, the church) has been called and gifted for ministry and has already been sent into the world.
Therefore, the final part of my prayer has now changed from “send me where you want me to go in your world” to “help me today to live sent.”
What would it look like if we didn’t just pray for God to send people to different places in His harvest, but we would pray that all of us would live with a sense of sacred sent-ness?
What sent-ness looks like
Here’s another quote from Alan Hirsch: “The church then is not only God’s redeemed people, but they are the human agency by which Jesus extends his own ministry into the world. The church carries out the work that Jesus started and it does it in a way that is consistent with who Jesus was and how he went about his own ministry.”
He also shares a quote attributed to Augustine that gets to the heart of what sent-ness looks like: “A Christian is: a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, and a hand through which Christ helps.”
Now think about that in terms of where we have already been sent:
- To our families
- To our neighborhoods
- To our workplaces
- To our churches
- To our communities
- To our schools
If we saw ourselves as already sent to those places, would it affect our behavior? Would it affect our words? Would it affect our attitudes?
If we, in our churches, began to focus on the reality that we have already been sent, would it affect our ministries? Is it possible that some ministries that only happen inside the church building would be scuttled in favor of ministries out among the people?
Brad Brisco shocked me last year with this thought: If all our ministries are directed toward getting people into the church – inviting them to move toward us – we are actually expecting them to live like missionaries. We can never forget that Jesus has sent us to them.
I have watched churches shrivel and move toward death with good intentions to be open, friendly, and willing to minister to anyone God sends to them.
Why would we expect God to send anyone to us if we are unwilling to fulfill our own sent-ness?
Missional Church Network
Brad Brisco – @bradbrisco_kc
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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music for intro)
*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music for outro)