Send the Word - Take the Word

Acts 13:1-3

There is an interesting passage in Acts 13 that comes right out of the life of the early church.  Here is the church in Antioch – a mission point itself, hard-pressed by the world, working to give the gospel a foothold in their own community.  And then this happened:  “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

The church sent its very best to take the gospel somewhere else.

Why has mission work always been at the heart of the church?  Why send money over there, when there are lots of lost people over here?  Why would we pour money into people that most of us will never meet and places that most of us will never visit.  It doesn’t affect us here in Glenwood Springs.  Couldn’t we spend that money on something that directly affects us and that we would see benefits from for ourselves and our families?  That’s a legitimate question, and one a lot of churches ask around budget time every year.  And it’s a question that a lot of churches answer by not doing mission work, or suspending mission work for more important things, like paving parking lots, or by throwing a couple hundred dollars here and there to pacify themselves that they are fulfilling the great commission.

But still, it’s a question we need to ask and answer for ourselves, for the Glenwood church.

Is it simply a matter of duty?  The Bible says to, so we do it?  Paul asked the question of himself personally and came to this conclusion:  “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me” (1 Cor. 9:16-17).

I suppose if duty was all there was, that would certainly be enough, but I’m convinced we can do better than that.  Especially when we look at the attitude and the example of the apostle Paul and the early church, we cannot help but be convinced that mission work is the very heart and soul of the church’s reason for being.  The church was not established to set up shop and keep house for itself, but to be launching pads for preaching the gospel into all the world.  The greatest thing that ever happened to the church was the persecution in Acts 8 that scattered the church, and Luke tells us in Acts 8 that “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”  The saddest day for the church was when it decided the gospel stops here while we take care of our own needs.

I hear three motivating attitudes in scripture that should be the driving force behind our dedication to mission work:

Compassion for the lost – Why did Jesus come?  Jesus’ own answer was, “To seek and save the lost.”  What were Jesus’ final words to his disciples?  “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

We must be convinced of the truth of the gospel that there are people in this world who are precious to God and lost if we do not take the good news of Jesus to them.

What God has done in your life – I think of what my life would be like if someone hadn’t done “mission work” in the form of a bus ministry in Ft. Collins when I was a teenager.  I would very likely never have heard the good news if Tom and Patty Mueller hadn’t knocked on our door and asked if my little brother would like to ride on the joy bus to come to church.  And the ripples that went out from that seemingly insignificant encounter are still travelling to this day.  Somebody told you about Jesus – don’t let it end with you – send it on.

The Bible calls us “partners in the gospel”:

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2).

“ ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’”  (John 4:34-38).

Our role is twofold:  we not only send the gospel, but take the gospel with us. 

That brings us back to our question, why do we do missions?  What is in it for us?  Mission work is ultimately an act of faith – faith that walking in the will of God will make you (both individual and congregation) into what he wants you to be.  Faith cuts straight against the grain of human logic that says, “Use it here where it will benefit us” – it tramples on the human selfishness that asks, “what’s in it for me?”

Faith says, imitate God, seek his will, have his heart – and the heart of the Shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go seek the one who is lost.  When we neglect missions, when we cut it and spend it on ourselves, we cut the heart and soul out of the church and leave an empty shell.

I heard once the true story of some missionaries who received a care package from their supporting congregation.  In it were used clothes for the children with the buttons and zippers missing and broken, worn out shoes with holes in them, and used tea bags.  How would that make you feel?  How would that make God feel?  Let’s not give our leftovers and castoffs to the most important work we do.

Jesus looked out on the lost people coming out from Sychar and said, “The fields are white unto harvest.”  Throughout the world there are lost waiting to hear the gospel – and we need to take the gospel to them.

I have a heart for missions, because folks who are very close to my heart are missionaries.  Diana’s brother and his family have been missionaries in Rio for 29 years.  They have built two self-supporting congregations, and have brought hundreds of people to the Lord through their work.  Their oldest son, just finished his graduate work in Bible and has moved back to Brazil with his new wife to begin a new mission work across the bay.  I’ve watched them devote their lives to taking the gospel to people thousands of miles from here, so that they could honor Christ’s call for laborers in the fields that are white unto harvest.

I have a heart for missions, because folks who are very close to my heart are missionaries.  Diana’s brother and his family have been missionaries in Rio de Janiero for 33 years.  They have built two self-supporting congregations, and have brought hundreds of people to the Lord through their work.  Their oldest son, has moved back to Brazil with a mission team across the bay from Rio.  I’ve watched them devote their lives to taking the gospel to people thousands of miles from here, so that they could honor Christ’s call for laborers in the fields that are white unto harvest.

I’ve come to love and appreciate the work that Russ and Joanne Licht do through Campus Crusade for Christ.  They have dedicated themselves to taking the gospel all over the world.

I’ve been inspired by our young people who have gone to do mission work through AIM – Alex Loter, Glenna Schultz, Neil Schultz.

And I’ve been proud of Jessica Medsker’s work on behalf of those who are helpless and defenseless in Guatemala through International Justice Mission.

We’ve watched the Martins over the last three years do wonderful work in Uganda, helping the people, not only learn a better way of farming, but a better way of living and be drawn to the good news of Jesus Christ.

One of our first mission works here in Glenwood was Carlos and Rossa Montoya and La Roca Ministry in Tijuana, Mexico.  They are doing a tremendous work reaching out to those who are hurting and hopeless, and bringing help and salvation to the lost around them.

And you are a part of it.  What they do, they do on your behalf – in partnership with you.  And what we do, we do because of what Jesus Christ first did for us.