Sunday, September 11th - Marks of a Good Sending Church
So, what makes a good sending church? Pastor John presented a convicting charge to us on Sunday to be a living example of what the Bible says about this...
The crowning virtue of a sending church is faithfulness...
"The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." - 3 John 1-4
Pastor John highlighted that faithfulness is "the one way in which we will be evaluated." We see is this passage that John praises his dear friend for his faithfulness which was well known amongst believers.
I love that Pastor John pointed out that there are churches all over the world, and each church's ministry is going to vary from the others. Churches operate in different social demographics, different income streams, they vary in sizes (from a small handful of people to thousands) and each ministry is going to look different. These differences do not make churches "better" or "worse" than another, and its important to keep that in mind. Just because a church down the street maintains a larger congregation, doesn't mean they have something "better" than we do.
"God doesn't consider the size our ministries when He evaluates us...the only evaluation that matters to the God of Heaven is this - are you faithful to the task you have been given."
Each and every one of us will be evaluated by our faithfulness! Just as each church looks and feels a bit different, each one of us are completely unique in the way God made us, the people we communicate with, the possessions we steward, etc...yet, we are each going to be held responsible for how faithful we lived our lives to the Word of God.
"Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people." - Jude 1:3
The truth of God does not change - the faith has been delivered to the saints. We live in a world that largely promotes relative truth and rejects the truth of Scripture. We can find solace in knowing that despite the chaos going on around us, God's truth does not change. While there is much encouragement in that fact, we must also recognize the challenge that comes with it - we are to remain faithful to that truth! It's easy to be faithful to God's truth on a Sunday morning, surrounded by like-minded believers while we worship together. However, remaining faithful to the truth out in the world can be uncomfortable, unpopular, or - in some areas - even dangerous.
As Christians, we must contend for the truth. We know the truth of the Gospel message, and nothing can change that truth! Just as God's Word remains faithful to us, we must remain faithful to His truth.
As a church, we face external pressure to move away from this truth. As cultural and societal norms evolve, there will be ever-growing pressure for the church to deviate from truth and instead preach a message that is accepted and embraced by all. I am happy to say that you will not find a watered-down, altered, crowd pleasing "version" of the truth at Marsh Lane Baptist Church!
"Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth." - 3 John 5-8
In case you haven't noticed, we have a lot of information at our disposal today. More than ever, information on any topic is readily available to anyone who wants to access it. This is obviously an incredible resource for those seeking to learn, and can be a great help to those seeking to better understand Scripture.
This was not the case at the time of the early church. Churches scattered across the map were in need of clarification on matters of doctrine, Scripture and culture. The way that they received this information was from individuals called by God - evangelists, prophets, and ministers - who would travel from church to church and preach truth to them. In this passage, we see that the church had been instructed to take care of these messengers when they arrived, and to send them on their way in such a manner that would be pleasing to God.
Pastor John went on to explain something that often happened during this time - individuals would arrive at a church, declaring to be sent by God, who were imposters. This is something we should also be mindful of today! As we mentioned before, we are in the information age...but not all information available to us is valuable and true. Just as the early church had to be wary of false teachers, so do we!
With that being said, let's take a look at how we can be faithful to the mission of God:
1. By sending - vs 6
It would be hard to consider ourselves a sending church if we don't send... Not only has Marsh Lane sent out multiple families into various mission fields as full time missionaries, we also seek to fulfill this command in verse 6 by caring for missionaries and sending them on their way in a manner that would honor God. We hope that you make plans to attend the missions conference at the end of the month where you can witness this first hand!
2. By supporting vs 6-8
The charge presented in these verses is a powerful one. If you imagine this picture of a travelling evangelist or missionary stopping by a church to share God's Word, the church is called to care for that individual as if Christ Himself were visiting.
I feel as though sometimes it becomes easy to disconnect from the missionaries we support as a church. Most of them are not people we all know personally, we don't see or hear from them on a regular basis, and we can't empathize with the work they are doing if we've never participated. I know that I personally need to further my connection to these amazing people - in part by contributing to their ministries financially and by praying over them, but also learning more about what they do. What country are they ministering too? What are the living conditions like? What unique challenges do they face in sharing the Gospel message? How can I personally get involved in what God is doing through their ministry? I believe a stronger personal connection will bolster our support, and again, this is made possible largely by the technology available to us today!
3. By going
This is the scary one, right? What better way to connect with a missionary than by going with them to the mission field! I keep going back to Scott's message last week - the point was made that missions can shift our perspective or focus. I feel like this is the report I hear more than anything else from those who return from a foreign mission trip - their eyes have been opened to how other people are living their lives right now and they need Jesus just like we do.
I challenge you to think and pray on this. Yes, going on a mission trip costs money, it takes time and preparation, and it requires effort. However, we are called to share the Gospel. We are called to support those who take the Gospel across the world. Going on a mission trip is an excellent way to fulfill both of those commands! If you hang out at Marsh Lane long enough, you'll have an opportunity to participate in a mission trip. I pray that you'll be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and you'll consider being a part of this awesome experience.
1. Are You Listening for the Call of God?
2. Are You Willing to Respond to the Will of God?
3. Are You Willing to Go in the Direction of God?
4. Are You Willing to be a Part of Our Missions Program?
Each of these questions carries a lot of weight. I challenge you to take a moment and ponder on each of these. If you're like me, you'll probably see some areas where you are resisting God. I love that Pastor John referenced this verse:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." - Romans 12:1
This verse calls us to write a blank check to God. Our heart should be prostrate before Him, stating "whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, the answer is YES!"
I also hope to see you all next Sunday as we go deeper into this series - "All Things" - and that you'll make plans to attend the Missions Conference. Have a great rest of your week, and we will see you soon at MLBC!
I really appreciated the part on how “each one of us are completely unique in the way God made us, the people we communicate with, the possessions we steward, etc...yet, we are each going to be held responsible for how faithful we lived our lives to the Word of God”.
I think it can be really easy to fall into thinking “someone else will do it” or “I don’t know enough” and we avoid sharing where we feel convicted. We tell ourselves “next time!” but it’s really unfaithfulness to God. I find I am closest to God when I am truthful about the severity of my disobedience and I am earnestly seeking the Holy Spirit for guidance & strength to accomplish what has been placed on my heart.
Also I believe the more we understand our value and identity in the Lord, the more we see that our personal mission field is important. If God actually loves me (you) in the way He says He does, then the people around me (you) aren’t just placeholders, but people He designed me (you) to care for. Our identity and our mission matter to God.
Thanks for writing this out! I appreciate these takes!
Thanks for sharing, Hunter. We truly have our own mission field, and no one is better equipped to reach those individuals than the person God has placed in their life!