I am a sinful person. My desires are not always pure and my actions not always righteous. More often than I want to admit, the grid through which I process a situation is “what’s in it for me?”
Can anyone relate?
Because of that, I should not be surprised that in my flesh, I often think that whatever I see is for me. Last slice of cake? Must be mine. Last $20 in my wallet? Must be for MY lunch. $50 for a birthday gift? What do I WANT? Our flesh puts the center of gravity in OURSELVES, putting everyone and everything around us in our orbit.
This attitude is not just present in our attitude toward things, it also even filters into the way we think about our church. We want the best leader leading MY small group. We want the best preacher preaching the service that I ATTEND. We want the best worship band leading ME in worship on Sundays. We want the coolest most amazing Youth or Children’s Pastor impacting MY KIDS. We put ourselves at the center, and we don’t let anything get too far removed from our gravitational pull.
Because of this dynamic, we find what happens in Acts 13:1-3 quite alien. A long time ago, in a time before ANY CHURCHES sent people out on mission trips, one church (in Antioch) released their beloved Senior Pastor and his hotshot young teaching protege out on an extended missionary journey. They took up a collection, they released them from their Antioch specific duties, and they sent them off to lead OTHERS, to preach to THOSE WHO HAD NOT HEARD, and to lead OTHER PEOPLE’S FAMILIES to the throne of grace. All this meant that the pulpit in Antioch and the Sunday school classes in their hallways would be led by someone else. How amazing is this!?!?
To put this in practical terms, imagine a hypothetical situation where Wildwood gathered for worship on Sunday and had a particularly amazing time of worship and prayer … and at the end of that service, commissioned our Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess and myself (Senior Pastor) to take the Gospel to a foreign land, leaving Wildwood to serve in another field. Now some of you might be excited by the change, but some of you would also be sad by this development! What could enable a congregation to move past their personal agenda to take such missional action?
People with themselves at the center would almost never send someone they like to permanently serve someone else. They would want to keep them around to serve THEIR needs. However, in Christ, there is another option.
If Jesus (not us) is at the center, and His glory is at the forefront, then everything exists to honor Him. And Jesus has said that the Gospel is to go “into all the world, making disciples of ALL NATIONS …” So, churches in sync with the Savior do not collect ministers like stamps, but instead send them out to the ends of the earth. Instead of relegating missionary activities to those who “can’t cut it here,” the Spirit-empowered church is open to sending its best to those who have not heard. The task is that important!
In our worship services over the next 3 weeks at Wildwood, we will have a special emphasis on the Lord’s work through Wildwood helping us be “For the Nations” following Jesus to the glory of God. In these three weeks we will get to hear from some of Wildwood’s best and brightest who are proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth, particularly inside (or near) the 10/40 window. Please, please, please make plans to attend. This Sunday we will kick off this series with a preview message where I will be looking at Acts 13:1-3 and contemplating the unifying and primary task of the missionary expansion of the church, and Wildwood’s role in it. Make plans to join us this Sunday, October 17 in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 worship services, on online in the stream (wildwoodchurch.org/live) beginning at 9:45. Join us … and invite friends!