Sunday, February 17, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Send! #2—Serving our world

Opening:

In 2009, we all read The Hole in Our Gospel, and we began to ramp up our efforts to serve our world.  Today, I’m going to talk with you about what we’re doing, and what has happened in the last 3.5 years.  But there is no way I can tell the whole story, because when someone catches fire, like you did, it spreads.

ILL: Jordan Nichols, from Fairchild AFB sent me this note:

My mother-in-law came to visit us from Kansas on the Sunday that “The Hole in the Gospel” was given to each person at the door. She took the message from your sermon and quotes from the book and spread the word to her church back home in Scott City, Kansas.  She bought over 100 copies of the book to give out to individuals in her church and in the community.  Now, her church has raised thousands of dollars to dig a well in Africa.  Also, numerous people in the community are now sponsoring children.  Additionally, she sent a copy to a relative in Oklahoma that has done mission work in Africa.  He read the book and now his church is raising money for wells in Africa.  Thank you for giving her the book.  That simple action was the spark that created a fire for Christ.  She wanted me to pass on to you her gratitude.

That is just one story—I’ve got a bunch of those!  God is at work, and we get to be part of it.  And when you catch fire, it spreads!

Introduction:

Last Sunday, we kicked off this series, “Send”, by saying that every Christian is a missionary.  The word “missionary” means “sent one”.  Every Christian is sent by God into the world to make disciples and do good.  

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

God is a sending God.  He sent Jesus to redeem us.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower us, and then sends us to continue His work in the world.  Every Christian is a missionary, sent by God.

Where does He send us?  Everywhere!  Hear, near and far.  Here in our own community (we talked about this last Sunday); near in our region and nation; and far—around the world, “to the ends of the earth”!  In the immortal words of Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond!”  

What does He send us to do?  Two things: to make disciples and to do good.  To make disciples—to help people find and follow Jesus.  And to do good—to let your light shine so that people will see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  

Last Sunday we talked about doing that here: the why and how of serving our city.  I shared stories from over 140 emails I received describing what owners here at Life Center are doing to serve our city.  It was inspiring.  And if you’d like to read those stories, they are posted on our website at lifecenter.net/article/serving-our-city.  

Today, I want to talk about doing that far: the why and how of serving our world.  

The Big Idea: God sends us around the world to make disciples and do good.

1. Why: the theology of serving our world.

Followers of Jesus have always had a heart for the world.  We are called to be “world Christians.”  

Let’s start with the most famous verse in the Bible.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loves the whole world.  So it’s no surprise that He sends us to the whole world and wants us to love it too!

God’s love for the whole world is a theme that runs through the whole Bible.  I’m going to do a quick survey of this theme through the whole Bible.  As we saw a few weeks ago, the story of God redeeming the world began when He called one man, Abraham, and promised to bless the whole world through him.

Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but it is important to see that God never intended the blessing to be only for them, but for all the world.  From the very beginning, God was at work redeeming the whole world.  This is echoed through the whole Old Testament; I’ve listed a few verses.  One example:

Isaiah 49:6 he (the Lord) says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

God is speaking to His Suffering Servant and says that redeeming only Israel is too small a thing—He is to redeem the Gentiles too and bring God’s salvation “to the ends of the earth.”  Though this was written hundreds of years before Jesus, the early Christians understood Jesus to be the Suffering Servant predicted in Isaiah, who would bring God’s salvation to everyone.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

“It is too small a thing.”  I love this verse.  God’s heart is huge.  He loves the whole world.  Too often Christians think too small.  We think only of ourselves.  We get locked into our church, our denomination, our country.  But God is so much bigger than all those.  God isn’t just for our church; He’s for all churches.  God isn’t Foursquare, and God isn’t American.  God loves the whole world!  

ILL: I remember the first time this idea rocked my world.  I was in high school.  America was at war in Viet Nam.  At our youth group, we often prayed for our soldiers in Viet Nam—as we should have.  But once I was at a meeting where someone was asked to pray, and he prayed not only for our soldiers, but also for the Viet Cong!  I was shocked, but then I remembered that Jesus told us to pray for our enemies.  The guy who prayed this reminded all of us that God isn’t an American, that He loves the whole world, that He cared as much when a Vietnamese soldier died as when an American soldier died.  It forever enlarged my understanding of God!

“It’s too small a thing,” God said, just to save one people group or nation. He wants to save the whole world.  Don’t get trapped in small thinking!  God isn’t!

Jesus made it clear that His message was for everyone, for all nations.

Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel has to be preached in the whole world to all nations before the end will come.  “Nations” is the Greek word ethnos, from which we get “ethnic” or “ethnicity”.  An ethnos was a body of people united by kinship, culture and common traditions.  These are often called “people groups.” Obviously, modern nations are made up of many different people groups.  Every people group must hear the gospel. There are 16,598 people groups; of these, 7,165 are considered unreached, meaning there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.  That means 2.87 billion people have no gospel witness in their own language or culture.  You can learn more about this at joshuaproject.net.

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,

Our mission is to make disciples of all nations.  We are to help people find and follow Jesus—everywhere.  This is ethnos again.

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.”

Jesus sent them here, near and far.  Here: Jersualem, right where they were.  Near: Judea and Samaria, the region they were in and the one next door, like the states of Washington and Idaho.  Far: to the ends of the earth.  Remember Isaiah 49:6?  You will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.  That is being fulfilled right here in Acts 1:8.  And it is quoted in:

Acts 13:47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

When the Jews in Psidian Antioch rejected the gospel, Paul told them he would take it to the Gentiles. And he quotes Isaiah 49:6.  “It is too small a thing to redeem only the Jews; I’ll redeem the Gentiles too!  To the ends of the earth!”   Paul clearly understood the Old Testament promise that God was redeeming and blessing the whole world!  Paul was a world Christian.

If you’re not a world Christian, you might be uncomfortable in heaven!

Revelation 7:9–10 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

What a great vision of heaven: folks from every nation, tribe, people and language!  From every ethnos, from the whole world, to the ends of the earth!

That’s where we headed; it’s going to be a big party that includes every ethnos!  We might as well get started being world Christians now!

2. How: the practice of serving our world.

I want to let you know what we’re doing to make disciples and do good around the world and how you can be part of it.

  1. Our sponsored missionaries.
    lifecenter.net/missionaries

First, we support a number of missionaries who are taking the gospel around the world.  I use this term cautiously because every Christian is a missionary—please remember that!  And some of us go around the world!

We are a Foursquare church, and our denomination has always had a robust world mission!  In fact, Foursquare is many times larger around the world than it is here: there are just over 1700 Foursquare churches in the US, and over 64,000 churches around the world!  In the beginning, we were so small and poor that we could only send one missionary to a country.  So these early missionaries led local people to Christ and trained them to be pastors and leaders.  Consequently, from the very beginning, Foursquare churches were indigenous, led by locals who reached locals—which is how it should be.  Because of this, these churches often thrived and multiplied.  Foursquare is the largest Protestant church some nations, like Brazil; they are now sending missionaries back to the US!  There are currently almost 100 Foursquare missionaries serving around the world.  We send in monthly financial support from our offerings.  You can learn more at www.foursquare.org/missions.

We also support a number of missionaries who are from our own church or related to our church.  Here they are—please go to the “sponsored missionaries” page on our website for more information, videos, and interviews.

  • Chris and Jeannette Sheeran: recruiters for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Spokane.  

  • Jim and Masako Millard: church planters in Japan, and training pastors in much of Asia.

  • David and Jenn Williamson: church planters in France with GEM.  They will be with us next Sunday and you’ll get to hear from them.

  • David and Kimberly Beine: Dave is an anthropologist and Kim is a medical doctor with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Nepal.

  • Bob and Amy Stauffacher: teaching the next generation of pastors and Christians leaders at African Bible College in Malawi.

  • Dan and Melina Durham: helping men out of sexual addiction in Mexico.

  • Shirley Cunningham: working with street kids in the slums of India through Foursquare.

  • Krister Persing: videographer working with GEM (Greater European Mission)

  • Tara Robbins: working with Child Evangelism Fellowship in Madagascar.

Besides these folks, we also support several nationals working in their own countries around the world.  And there are more people getting ready to go.

  • Doc and Carol Krebs are raising support for prayer ministry working with Greater European Missions in France.  After they launch in France, their ministry will be replicated in 11 other European countries where GEM is planting churches.

  • Jeff and Rebecca Stuhmiller from our church and now in North Carolina waiting for their assignment with TWR (Trans-World Radio).  They will be assigned to headquarters in the Netherlands where Jeff will be working in their accounting division.

  • Hannah Winters went to Ethiopia in October with New Covenant Foundation is hoping to work at East Africa CHE headquarters in Nairobi as administrative support for the entire East Africa enterprise, starting in 2014.

  • Lauren Malthaner is raising support to work for Greater European Missions in Poland,  hopefully in early 2014.

I think it is so cool that we have all these people serving around the world—and that we are supporting them! First, our sponsored missionaries. Second…

B. Our international partnerships.

In 2009, after “The Hole in Our Gospel” series, we began to form some international partnerships so that we could make disciples and do good around the world.  We wanted to form lasting relationships and make a difference over the long haul.  We have six of these partnerships and you can read more about them on our website at:

lifecenter.net/world

You’ll find information, videos, and ideas about how you can participate.  Here’s a little about each one:

  • Ethiopia: New Covenant Foundation led by Mike and Vicki Stemm.  New Covenant Foundation provides the coffee we use at our coffee bar.  Their goal is to share the gospel and help individuals and communities become self-sufficient.  They use the coffee business to employ and empower Ethiopians, raise their standard of living, and to fund several initiatives including care for orphans and widows, church planting and CHE.  

CHE is Community Health Evangelism.  CHE trains village women in basic health care and hygiene, and also shares the gospel.  Wherever CHE goes, mortality rates drop by 50%, and the gospel spreads rapidly.  Don’t forget that all the proceeds from Niki’s book goes to CHE E. Africa.

The Kale Heywot church of Ethiopia is training hundreds of church planters to take the gospel across Ethiopia and to neighboring countries.  Many of these are risking their lives going into Muslim regions.  Last year, our team was at a meeting of church planters.  They shared the news that five of them had been killed, martyred for their faith in Jesus.  Five other families immediately offered to take their places!  Our team said it felt like they were in the book of Acts!  There are dozens of trained church planters who lack funding; they are ready to go and waiting for God to provide the money.  It costs $170 a month to fund a church planter and his family for 3 years.  Maybe that is something you want to do, or your Life Group could do together.

  • Kenya: Spring of Hope International, led by David Opap.  I was privileged to go to Kenya in October, and be part of the evangelistic crusade we sponsored there.  Hundreds of people received Christ, and thanks to your generosity, we were able to buy Bibles in their own language for all of them!  They are meeting regularly—outdoors.  David says that the next step is building a community center large enough to hold this big new church, and other community events.  

It was exciting to see the changes that had happened in the community since I was there 3.5 years before.  In that time, SOHI had drilled two wells (which you paid for) that now provide clean drinking water for hundreds of people, including the 800 children at the elementary and secondary schools.  Many small projects have been undertaken, such as new roofs on widows homes, raising chickens, sewing machines that enable women to have a small sewing business, and many more.  

I also saw our agribusiness project.  We are paying two trainers to train 90 farmers in modern farming methods.  They are growing new crops using new techniques.  This increases food security for the whole village, and the new crops are not only more nutritious, but have cash value at the market and so are a source of income.  One farmer told us that last year he grew enough corn and beans to feed his family and sell his excess for $3.  This year, he is growing half a dozen new crops, they are eating better and more, and he will make close to $2000 by selling his extra crops!  Each of these 90 farmers in turn has promised to train 10 of his neighbors.  One of the farmers proudly told us, “The white man always brings us money.  Next time you come, we will give you money!”

  • Swaziland: World Vision.  In 2009, Life Center sponsored 1500 kids through World Vision in Swaziland in one day!  Most of those kids are in one region called Maseyisini.  The money that we donate each month allows World Vision to work with community leaders and develop a comprehensive plan for change, including clean water sources, sustainable food sources, economic development and job creation, education, and medical care.  The World Vision staff are devoted Christians who are sharing the gospel as they do good in Swaziland.  We recently had two Swazi’s here from World Vision.  One of them, Shortie Khumalo, was a caregiver for AIDS patients in Maseyisini.  On our website, you’ll find a link to an inspiring video that shows Shortie at work.  Your generosity is what allows her to do that!  

If you want to sponsor a child in Swaziland, you can do that from our website.  Laina and I sponsor a child here.  Also, clean water is a big issue in this area.  We have made a dent, but there is much to do, and if you’d like to write a big check, we can apply it to the water project here.

  • Mexico: Penasco Christian Fellowship, pastors Stan and Becky Tedrow.  A few years ago, we began sending teams to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, to partner with a wonderful church, Penasco Christian Fellowship.  Last year, you gave $30,000 to build dormitories for a mission center that the church will use to host American teams, but also as training centers for the Mexican church planting efforts.  You not only gave the money—some of you went and built the buildings!  Take a look at this: Mexico Build video.

This multi-cultural church of about 300 members (90% Mexican, 10% Anglo) is doing amazing work in the community, including the 2 Fish feeding program that you saw on the video.  The church provides over 10,000 free meals a month to the hungry in their community.  They have also planted a couple churches in remote areas in Mexico, and in April, our Torches students will be going to work alongside the church planter in Huachinera, Mexico.  

  • El Salvador: Compassion International and Elim Church, pastors Frank and Paty Ardon.  In 2010, we started a church-to-church partnership through Compassion International with Elim Church in Armenia, El Salvador.  Here’s how it works.  This wonderful church partners with Compassion to provide services for very poor children in their community.  Over 300 children are in the program.  They come every day to the church for food, medical attention, and help with their education.  The staff shares the gospel with them and loves them.  I’ve been twice and can’t tell you how impressed I am with their work.

Laina and I sponsor a child here, and I’ve been in Marvin’s home several times, and know his parents and can see the change that is happening in them.  If you ever get the opportunity to visit your sponsored child, do it!  It will change that relationship forever.  When you leave today, you’ll see a Compassion table in the commons, with children from our project that you can sponsor.  

Last year, you gave $42,000 to help Elim Church build a restaurant (two pics).  The Cafeteria of Heavenly Tastes is open and operating! They use the proceeds to feed more needy kids in town!  We made the upfront financial investment, and they are doing the work that generates steady income to feed hungry kids.  That money also paid for a computer center at the church used to train kids in computer skills that will equip them for jobs.  

  • Nicaragua: Globe International orphanages.  Each year, we send a fairly large team to Nicaragua to work at orphanages in Los Cedros and  Jinotego.  These teams are work crews that assist in the areas of medical aid, clothing distribution, construction projects, music, drama, and outreach programs.  We have a team of 14 heading to Nicaragua on June 22 to do 3-4 VBS sessions with kids from the community and in Jinotega they will be staying at Via Esperanza, the center that takes girls out of the garbage dumps in Managua and provides job skills, education and a wonderful Christian living environment. Last year, you gave $18,000 to purchase a new van that enables them to get the orphans to and from school.  

I know I just barraged you—it was like drinking from a fire hydrant.  There’s lots more information on our website.  But here’s what I want you to feel.  We’ve been at this 3.5 years, and God is doing something!  By God’s grace and your generosity, we’ve been able to make disciples and do good around the world.  

How can you be part of it?

C. What you can do: pray, give, go.  

Three ways to be involved: pray, give, go.

Pray.  Pray for our sponsored missionaries—I would love for each of you to adopt one and pray regularly for them.  Pray for our partners—same thing here.  Adopt a country and our partner and pray for them regularly.  Pray for your sponsored child.  God answers prayer. Pray that God would break your heart with what breaks His.  Pray for more workers for the harvest field.  Pray for the unreached people groups—pick one and start praying for it.  We have a saying: when we work, we work; when we pray, God works.  So pray!  

Give: We can’t all go, but we can all pray and give.  There are many ways to give to God’s work in the world.

  • Sponsor a child.  We have kids from our partner church in El Salvador that need a sponsor.  $38 a month can change a child’s life, and the life of his family and community!  I believe every American Christian should sponsor at least one child.  Believe in Jesus, get baptized, sponsor a child!

  • Sponsor a church planter in Ethiopia.

  • Sponsor David Opap in his work in Kenya.  David is doing amazing things there, and he’s right here, sitting next to you every week.  And I happen to know that he still needs a lot more support.

  • Sponsor one of our sponsored missionaries.  They are always looking for new supporters.  

You can do all this on our website.

There are lots of ways to be generous.  We read in The Hole in Our Gospel that the average American Christian gives 2% of his income to the church or Christian causes.  Of that, only 2% goes to poorest of the poor around the world.  2% of 2%.  We can do better!  I challenge you to take an honest look at your spending and ask if God couldn’t use some of that money better in serving our world.

Go. In the last 3.5 years, over 225 people have been on one of our mission trips. It is a life-changing experience.  You come home with a different perspective.  It helps to make you a world Christian, and a better Christian here at home.  I hope that everyone gets to go on a mission trip to another country and culture at least once!

Pray, give, go.  Be a world Christian!