Last week I was blogging about the invitation I have accepted to do a mission trip to India this coming November. I was sharing some thoughts on the question “Why do Missions Anyway?” and I would like to continue my thoughts in this blog. One of the most significant moments in church history occurs in the 13th chapter of the Book of Acts. In that chapter the church leadership, after a season of prayer and fasting, calls out Barnabas and Saul (later to become Paul) to go and take the gospel to places where it hasn’t declared. We read in verses 2 & 3 “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. Then having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (NKJ). I am sure the work Saul and Barnabas were doing in Antioch was very significant. In fact the 11th chapter tells us “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (v. 25-26 NKJ). In the midst of all the success of the ministry, people getting saved and being discipled, the church felt led by God to call out Saul and Barnabas to go beyond the 4 walls of the church and beyond Antioch in their service for the King.
It is important to note here that it was the church that did the “calling out”, not a missionary agency. In fact in the 1st century there was no missionary agency or para church organizations to tell the church what they should be doing. The calling out of missionaries from the local church was and remains part of mission of the local church. That responsibility hasn’t changed and all kinds of problems result when that responsibility is neglected or the order is reversed (a mission agency does the calling).
The result of the action by the church in Antioch forever changed the history of the church. The church in Antioch could have kept Saul and Barnabas in the fold and continued to be blessed by their ministries. If they had Saul probably would never have become Paul and all of church history would have been very different. The church in Antioch could have been comfortable with where they were and seen only the needs of their community and church and decided we can’t afford to allow Barnabas and Saul to go, but that’s not what happened. Getting comfortable with our own little “holy huddle” is one of the most tempting things in ministry. It’s very easy to be self-absorbed and self-focused, but I am thankful that the church in Antioch saw beyond their needs to a world of need to become a “sending church”.
Over 50 years ago New Durham Chapel had a young woman who felt called to the mission field. I guessed the church leadership could have persuaded Martha Brunner to stay at NDC and continue to serve as a Sunday school teacher. Instead NDC supported her as she went on to serve as a missionary in Ecuador. In over 50 years of service, Martha has had a profound impact at the place God called her to serve. From starting a one-room clinic in Pifo, Martha went on to establish the “Refuge of the Good Shepherd” clinic. She has personally evangelized and discipled hundreds of new believers and actually raised 20 children whom she adopted. Many of Martha’s children have graduated from Christian colleges in the states and are serving in Christian ministry. Thank you New Durham Chapel, for being the “sending church” and seeing that God is interested in His world way beyond the 4 walls of our building. May we seek to be a “sending church” in finding and calling out those that He has a placed a touch on their lives for service to the Lord of glory.
All for Christ,
Pastor Rich Sivo