Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Different Kind of Christian

Part 4: Send

 

Introduction: God sends us into our world to do His work.

          John 20:21 “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”

 

 

1. God ____________________________________________________________.

Matthew 10:40, 21:34-37, 22:3-4, Mark 9:37, 12:2-6, Luke 9:48, 10:16, 24:49, John 5:23, 6:29, 44, 57, 12:44-45, 13:20, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, 17:18, 20:21, Galatians 4:4, 6

 

 

 

 

 

2. God ____________________________________________________________.

Acts 1:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. God ____________________________________________________________.

Acts 1:8, Matthew 9:37-38, 28:18-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. God ____________________________________________________________.

 

 

 

Opening:

          The book, UnChristian, reports on what thousands of young people think of Christianity.  One of the things they think about us is that we are too sheltered; we are out of touch with what’s happening in the world; we are disengaged from the world and sheltered inside the four walls of our churches.

ILL: Jonathan, age 22, said, “Christians enjoy being in their own community.  The more they seclude themselves, the less they can function in the real world.  So many Christians are caught in the Christian bubble.”

Jonathan is on to something.  Many Christians use their faith to escape the world rather than engage the world. 

          One of our four guiding purposes is “send”: God sends all of us into the world to do His work.  Rather than pulling us out of the world, God sends us into the world.  That’s what we’re talking about.

 

Offering and announcements:

The Hole in Our Gospel series starts next Sunday!  Read Chapters 1 – 7 to be ready. Books are available today at the Info Center in the Commons—first one per household is free, additional copies are available for $7 each. 

We just completed the sign-ups for The Hole in Our Gospel Life Groups test drive.  Over 50 new leaders stepped up to start new groups and we had over 700 people sign up to join the discussion.  We are thrilled that you have taken this first step—and we want to ask you to continue to follow through.  You may have received or will be receiving a phone call this week from a Life Group leader.  Please be prompt about returning their phone calls—they are serving you.  Next week the test drive begins—so let’s get connected this week.

If you haven’t signed up for a Life Group, please stop by the Info Center today to sign up.

Adventures in Motherhood is Thursday (item #9).  This monthly group for moms of young children is a great way to grow as a woman, a wife and a mother through Biblical teaching, support and encouragement. . .and a lot of fun!

Connections Meeting (back of tear-off).  If you are new to Life Center, and would like to meet other newcomers and learn about the church, please join us at the Connections Meeting on Sunday, Nov. 1 after the 11:15 AM service.  Please sign up at the Info Center so we’ll have enough food!

 

Introduction: God sends all of us into our world to do His work.

          This is the fourth and final week in this vision series, A Different Kind of Christian.  We’re talking about our four guiding purposes as a church, and I’m proposing that if we live these out, we’ll be a different kind of Christian.  What are our four guiding purposes?  Love, win, grow, send.

  • Love God and people.
  • Win our friends to Christ.
  • Grow into all God wants us to be.
  • Send all of us to do God’s work in a broken world.

Today, we’re talking about “send”, that God sends all of us to do His work in a broken world.  At the top of your outline, I want you to add the words “all of” before “us”.  “God sends all of us into our world to do His work.”  And I want to emphasize “all”. 

          When you hear the word “send” or “sent” applied to a Christian, what do you usually think of?  A missionary.  Missionaries are sent to faraway places to take the gospel and do God’s work.  The word “mission” or “missionary” comes from the Latin word that means “to send.”  A missionary is a sent one. 

Missionaries are the heroes of the Christian faith, those hardy souls who move far away from the comforts of home and family, and bravely do God’s work in a foreign land, often in very difficult, dangerous and impoverished circumstances.  I’ve always admired them!  As a young Christian, I read some of the great missionary biographies:

  • Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, the remarkable story of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission.
  • C. T. Studd, (that was really his name), a famous all-star British athlete turned pioneer missionary in China, India, and most notably in Africa.  Imagine LeBron James—a great athlete at the top of his game—quitting to take the gospel to Africa—that was C. T. Studd!  He was the LeBron James of his day and gave it up to go live in poverty and share the gospel. 
  • Through Gates of Splendor, the inspiring story of Jim Eliot and four other young missionaries who were martyred in the jungles of Ecuador.
  • Bruchko, the amazing story of Bruce Olson, who went to Colombia alone to take the gospel to the Motilone tribe…when he was 19!

These guys were amazing—champions for God!  Here’s the first paragraph in the foreword of C. T. Studd’s biography.

C. T. Studd’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generation that it is worthwhile to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come.  His life will be an eternal rebuke to easy-going Christianity.  He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back. 

He was a stud!

          I want to say two things about missionaries.

          First, they are heroes and deserve our respect and admiration; and we need more of them.  We still need people who are willing to cross cultural barriers and risk everything to take the good news where it hasn’t been heard.  Over the years, we’ve gotten smarter about how to do it.  We have learned that the best people to reach Kenyans are Kenyans; the best people to reach Nicaraguans are Nicaraguans; the best people to reach Chinese are Chinese.  So most Western missionaries now focus their energies on training and assisting local leaders to reach their own cultures.  But we’ll always need people who are called and willing to go for Jesus. 

          Second, we are wrong to think that only missionaries are sent.  All of us are sent by God to do His work in a broken world.  All of us!  In this sense, all of us are missionaries.  Every Christian is a missionary, sent by God to do His work where you live.  The Great Commission—to make disciples of all nations—is not for a few Christians, but for every Christian.  You may not ever be a missionary:

  • in Africa like Bob and Amy Stauffacher, 
  • or in Japan like Jim and Masako Millard, 
  • or in Guatemala like Chris and Jeanette Sheeran, 
  • or in India like Jim and Laurie Thomson.

But you are missionary in Spokane!  We are all “on a mission from God.”  All of us!  Would you say this with me: “I am a missionary, sent by God, to do His work where I live.”  If you believe this and live this, you will be a different kind of Christian, one who is engaging a broken world.

          This is what “send” means: we are all sent by God to do His work in our world.  All of us.  We want every one of you to live with a sense of being sent by God, being on mission for God.  After His resurrection, Jesus told His followers:

          John 20:21 “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”

Just as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus is sending you and me.  Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

 

1. God is the Sender.

          God is the Sender—He is a sending God.  All through the Bible, when God wants to do something on earth, He calls and sends someone. 

          Think of the story of Moses.  Moses had fled Egypt and been a sheep herder for 40 years when God got his attention with a burning bush.  God said, “I have seen the misery of the Israelites and I have heard their cries for help, and I am concerned and I am coming down to rescue them.”  Sounds good so far—go God!  But then God says, “So now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh.”  Interesting progression: I have seen, I have heard, I am concerned, I am coming down, I am sending you.  The culmination of God’s concern was to send Moses.

          Or think of all the prophets God sent to Israel in the Old Testament.  God kept sending prophets, even though they were rejected and persecuted and killed.  Jesus referred to this in the parable of the tenants. 

Mark 12:1-6 A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.

At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6 He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

Who is the vineyard owner?  God.  Who are the tenants?  The Jewish people.  Who are the servants He sent?  The prophets.  And who is the son?  Jesus.  What I want you to notice is that God sent a prophet, and when the prophet was rejected, God sent another, and another, and many others, and finally, sent His son.  God’s love was so persistent that He kept sending and sending and sending.  And as the story says, the supreme act of love was the sending of His Son.  God keeps sending, trying to reach us.

ILL: A man in Wales fell in love with his neighbor, but they had an argument, and she refused to reconcile.  For 42 years, this persistent, but rather shy man sent a weekly love letter, but she refused to respond.

          Finally, after writing 2,184 love letters without ever getting a spoken or written answer, this single-hearted old man summoned up enough courage to present himself in person. He knocked on the door of the reluctant lady and asked for her hand. To his delight and surprise, she accepted. The couple, both 74, became husband and wife.

Have you ever been on the outs with someone, and you kept trying to reconcile?  Maybe you sent letters, or voice mails, or text messages, or twitters, or maybe you sent flowers or gifts, or even a person to intervene—but you kept sending until you got a response.  This is the persistent love of God the Sender.  He sends and sends, and the ultimate sending was sending His Son.

I listed some references on your outline; these are a handful of dozens of verses about God sending Jesus, and about God and Jesus sending the Holy Spirit, and then God, Jesus and the Spirit sending us.  Here’s the diagram.


God                    Jesus

 

 


The Holy Spirit

 

 


 

Us

 

Every Christian is sent by God to do His work.  Jesus prayed,

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Later, after His resurrection, Jesus commissioned them by saying,  

John 20:21 Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

Just as God sent Jesus into the world, He sends us into the world to continue His work.  All of us!  Where does He send us?  Into the world.  Not into the church, but into the world to do His work.  He sends us into the world to engage the world with God’s love.  We engage, not escape.

And because we are sent by Jesus (or the Holy Spirit), we are sent by God.  We represent God.  Jesus says this repeatedly.

Matthew 10:40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.

Luke 10:16 He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.

John 13:20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.

People respond from you to Jesus to God.  Do you see why it is important that we represent God well? 

          God is the Sender, and all of us are the sent ones.  Every Christian is a missionary, sent by God into the world to do His work.  Where does He send us?

 

2. God sends us here.

          The first place God sends us to do His work is…HERE!  We start right where we are. 

Acts 1:8 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.

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples.  The Holy Spirit would empower them to be His witnesses.  Where?  In Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.   Jerusalem was the city where they were.  They started where they were.  Judea was the region surrounding Jerusalem, and Samaria was the nearest foreign region.  And from there, to the ends of the earth…or in the words of Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond.”  They were to take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth…but where did they start?  Where they were.

          If we were to translate this to our geography, Jesus is sending us to Spokane, and then to Washington (the region surrounding Spokane) and British Columbia (the nearest foreign region), and to the ends of the earth.  But where do we start?  Right here.          God sends us here first. 

ILL: When I was in high school, I had classmates who talked about being missionaries, but wouldn’t walk across the hall at school to share their faith with a friend.  “How are you going to do God’s work half-way around the world if you’re not doing it here?” I asked them. 

I’ve always thought that a church that makes a big deal about missions around the world, but doesn’t do any at home was missing the point.  It always starts here.  I think we should make a big deal about missions around the world—I’ll talk about that in a moment.  But it starts here.  And if we’re not doing it here, we don’t have anything to export!

          God is sending you as His representative into your world, right where you are.  God is sending you to your home, to your neighborhood, to your workplace, to your school, to your gym, to your golf course, to your grocery store, to your coffee shop, to the place where you volunteer.  God is sending you to your community.  “I have seen, I have heard, I am concerned, I am sending you.”  Right here.

          You are a missionary to Spokane.  Some of you are missionaries in the work place.  Some of you are missionaries in your neighborhood.  Some of you are missionaries at Gonzaga, or Eastern, or SFCC, or Whitworth.  Some of you are missionaries at Ferris or LC, at NC or Rogers, at Shadle or Mead or Mt. Spokane.  Some of you are missionaries where you volunteer.  God is sending you to do His work right here, right where you are.  You don’t have to go somewhere to be sent.  You are sent right where you are! 

ILL: Several years ago, we sent a mission team to work with the Foursquare churches of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Like they needed help from us!  In a city of 4 million, there were over 400 Foursquare churches, and they were multiplying rapidly.  While we were there, one of them told us the reason for their growth. 

          “We teach every Christian that they are a missionary right where they are.  And when we tell people about Jesus, we invite them to come to church with us 7 times, and if God doesn’t change your life, you don’t have to come anymore.” 

          What were they doing?  Everyone was a missionary…doing find tell bring.

Every Christian is a missionary…sent by God to His work in the world.  And you start here.

Right here, you can do find tell bring.  Find someone you love, tell them what you know and bring them to church with you.  You don’t have to go to Zimbabwe or India to rescue the lost; they’re all around us!  Start here!

Right here, you can do acts of compassion for the poor and needy.  We’re living in the midst of the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes; you can help others right here, meeting needs in Jesus’ name.  You don’t have to go Kenya or Nicaragua to serve the poor; they’re here too.  Start here.

ILL: How many of you remember “Show and Tell” time in grade school?  You brought something to school that you wanted to show your classmates and tell them about it. 

          In the fifth grade, I brought a newspaper picture and article about Hell, Michigan.  In the picture, Hell was buried in snow, and the caption read, “Hell freezes over.”  It was something like this (pic).  I thought it was very funny; my teacher didn’t.  I was a wicked boy.

Show and tell.  That’s how we do God’s work in the world.  We show God’s love through acts of compassion and justice, and we tell the good news of Jesus.  Jesus talked about the value of giving a cup of water to someone who was thirsty.  God uses simple acts of kindness, generosity and compassion.  Show and tell…right here.

          God sends you here, right where you are.  This is our Jerusalem; this is where He sends us first.  God has sent us into every corner of the city, into every institution and organization and neighborhood in our city to infect it with the good news of the Kingdom.  If you think the swine flu is contagious—it’s nothing compared to the good news of Jesus!  We start here. 

 

3. God sends us to the world.

          We start here, but we can’t end here.  We start in Spokane, but it moves out from here to our region, to other nations, to the ends of the earth.  We read Acts 1:8 where Jesus told them to start in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  And last week we looked at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said,

Matthew 28:18-20 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…

Jesus commissioned them (and us) to make disciples of all nations.  God is sending us to the ends of the earth . 

          This is one reason why we are ramping up our emphasis on world mission, and particularly on show and tell, on using acts of compassion to show the gospel to the poor as well as telling it.  This is why we’re reading The Hole in Our Gospel.  I want us to become “world Christians”—believers who are aware and care about what’s going on in the world around us, and are doing something about it.  This is why we going to steadily offer more opportunities for you to take a mission trip somewhere in the world and get a first hand taste of what God is doing and how you can be part of it.  God sends us to the world.

          And God is sending the world to us!  You don’t have to leave town to make disciples of all nations!  I said last week that there are over 25,000 refugees in Spokane, and many more coming.  There will be 5,000 more Nepalese/Bhutanese refugees in the next few years.  Most of these families arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs; they speak little or no English; they know nothing about our culture, or how to get a job.  Many of these refugees are Christians who are escaping persecution in their countries; many others are not Christians, but are very open when they arrive here.  All of them need help.  We have a wonderful opportunity right in front of us to “make disciples of all nations.”  Here are some ways you could help:

  • Your Life Group could “adopt” a refugee family.  Together you could help them with the basics of getting settled, and simply befriend them.  It would be a great Life Group project.
  • One of the most difficult things for the refugees is finding work.  If you could hire them, or know of someone who could hire them, this is huge.  Also, if you work for a non-profit and could let them volunteer, that is very helpful for them as well.

If you are interested in helping refugees, here are the numbers for World Relief (232-2814, 484-9901).   Give them a call and let them know you’d like to help.

 

4. God called us to send out church plants.

          We are the sent ones…and we are a sending church.  We believe that God called us to send out church plants in our community and beyond.  In the past 12 years, we have planted or helped plant 8 new churches in Spokane (Summit, LC North, LifeRoads, Eastpoint, Mosaic, West Central Life, City Church, Living Hope).  These are daughter or granddaughter churches.  We need more healthy, life-giving churches in our community, and beyond.  So we’ll continue to plant churches in Spokane and beyond.

          I’ve been asked, “Why start more churches?  Aren’t there enough churches in our town?”  On any Sunday, less than 18% of our community is in church—any kind of church.  (I think these numbers are generous; I suspect it’s less than 18%.)  That means more than 82% are not.  We have a lot of people to reach—most of our town!  To reach those people, we need new churches.  We certainly can’t hold them all here!  Nor can all the other existing churches hold them.  If every church in town was full multiple times on Sunday, there still wouldn’t be room for over half our community!  We need new churches to reach more people.  And we need new churches to reach different people; it takes different kinds of churches to reach different people.  Not everyone will like our church, so we need to start new churches, different churches that they will like. 

          Send: God sends all of us into our world to do His work.  And together, we send out new churches. 

          But it starts with God sending all of us to do His work in the world.