It is exciting to be sent! To know that the God of All Things has imparted a specific call to you is an amazing thought. It is so cool to actually GO once the realization becomes a calling.
It becomes even more fun when you begin to pioneer a church plant and you want to see that same ‘sending vision’ imparted to people that you reach for Christ. To dream about being a ‘sending center’ for people to engage the world as missionaries of Jesus is fuel for the church planter’s fire.
Yet, this week I was struck with the mixed emotions of being a sending church. You see, in theory, it should feel exhilarating to send others out into the world to accomplish the great commission…and it does. However, there are other feelings as well. Just this week, we sent a man to Florida where he begins a new chapter in his journey of following Christ. He is an everyday missionary just like the laymen in your church. He wants to touch others for Christ in his workplace and in his neighborhood. He called me from his new home the day after he arrived and I was nearly in tears with the emotions I felt. Yes, I was proud for him and excited for him but I was also missing him and, to be honest, was wishing he was still here with us. I didn’t mean to be territorial but I was longing for the fellowship the guy I had been locking arms with in ministry for almost a year. It reminds me of the send-off of Paul & Barnabas from Antioch we read about in Acts 13:1-3:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of 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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
We don’t read of much emotion but can see it in other send-off’s (like Paul leaving the Ephesians). You see, for me, being a ‘sending church’ is a passion but I am realizing that it is not without its pains.
Even now, I am praying and serving with a family who feels they will likely relocate within the year. Everything in me wants to hold on but the Gospel tells me to send out. My flesh wants to discourage but my spirit wants to celebrate. These are emotions of Christian Leadership that I wasn’t as aware of until I began to serve as a church planting missionary in a transient area.
What if this sending is one of the things God will use in my heart to cause me to long for a time when we can enjoy ‘staying together’. What if I happily sent others out now knowing I would spend eternity celebrating with them later? Don’t get me wrong, there need be no other benefit of heaven other than Christ Himself…but what if I rested in the truth that this ‘longing to stay together’ will be forever sated when that day comes. If I can accept that truth, then I can send more. That’s what is needed. As it has been said, “It will take the whole church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world.” Holding on doesn’t accomplish the mission.