The genesis of missions
THE GENESIS OF MISSIONS (ACTS 13:1-3)
6 characteristics of an effective missionary church
5: Spirit filled
The weekend of 19th we are celebrating our heritage as a church. Midrand Chapel was constituted 30 years ago this year and we want to remember and rejoice in all that God has done over these 30 years. Please make the effort to be a part of these celebrations. If you are new to the church, you’ve entered into the flow of something which you need to understand.
• This is not about how amazing Midrand Chapel is, but how amazing God is to work in us and through us despite our weakness and our sin.
• We must take time to stop and consider all that God had done and give him the glory.
• So we’ll have a special service on the Sunday, for Bible hour we’ll have some more testimonies and video clips and then have lunch together.
• On the Saturday we will have tea at 3 and consider how God has graciously supplied so many faithful men to this church over the years.
• In 30 years of existence, we’ve never had more than 85 members. We’re a small farm church, yet God has been gracious enough to use us in His global mission.
• Over the 30 years, this church has (and is) training up and sending out 15 men into vocational ministry. That means on average, every second year we are sending out a man who will be devoting all his time and effort to build Christ’s church across the globe. All of these men are still in the ministry serving in 5 different countries in 7 different cultures and 4 different languages.
• God is truly great and gracious isn’t He, that we could be a part of what He is doing all around the world?
That is what global foreign missions is all about – God graciously giving us the opportunity to be a part of what He is doing all around the world. Letting us make some contribution to something that is global and universal and eternal, however small and insignificant we are as a church. That is why it is my firm conviction that every local church should be engaged in foreign global missions in some way.
And that is the theme of this mornings text in Acts. Acts 13 marks the genesis of global, foreign, cross-cultural missions as the first church sends out the first missionaries to cross geographic and cultural boundaries in order to see Christ’s church planted and established in all the world.
Turn in your Bibles to Acts 13. Read Acts 13:1-3
So here we see Antioch sending out the first missionaries in obedience to God’s command.
It’s important that we realize this simple fact – this is God’s mission. This is what God is doing and we are the ones who have the privilege of being a part of it. This is not our mission, our idea, out great plans. This is God’s doing.
• Global missions began when God divided the world into many languages and nations at the tower of Babel in Gen 11 and then in Gen 12 said to Abraham, I will bless you and make your name great and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
When God described the mission of the messiah in Isaiah 49:6
6 he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
• The mission of Christ was global and international, to restore all nations to God. So before He ascended into heaven he issued the great commission in Matt 28 commanding his disciples to make disciples of all nations.
• And its not surprising then, that the glimpse we get into the final picture at the end of days is of people from every tribe and language and people and nation standing before the throne and proclaiming – worthy is the lamb, because He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
• Missions is God’s idea, God’s plan
• The key verse in Acts, which explains its structure, is Acts 1:8 – this is what God is going to do when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, He is going to make you witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
• The book of Acts shows God doing this at every step along the way.
• Here the Spirit reveals that He has set apart these particular men to spearhead the mission efforts to the Gentiles and the church is to support and send them out.
• This is the turning point in the book of Acts as the focus turns from Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, to Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Peter hardly features anymore because Acts is tracing God’s global mission – the establishment of the church in all places among all people groups.
So I think it is helpful at this point to stop and recognize that missions is God’s mission given to the church. It is the church’s mission. Missions is to be embraced and supported by the local church. Here God commands this local church to recognize, send out and support these missionaries. This is the responsibility of the local church.
Missionaries are called and gifted by God, but they are recognized, sent out and supported by the local church. And they are sent out with a view to establishing local churches. They may engage in evangelism and various other activities, but their ultimate goal is to help plant local churches. So the local church is the origin and goal of missions, the start and the end point and really the engine that keeps the mission going.
There are too many missionaries out there who are lone rangers doing their own mission, rather than servants, carrying out the mission of the church.
• Acts 14:26-28 After their first mission trip, they return to the church from where they had been sent out. They report back, so that the believers can be mutually encourage and informed.
• Every member of the church is supposed to take an interest in God’s mission. Yes, missionaries spearhead the mission, but this is not just their thing. This is God’s thing, its supposed to matter to every single one of us, we should be eager to know what God is doing around the world and missionaries become the touchpoint for us.
ILLUSTRATION: MISSION ORGANIZATIONS
Historically, the local church got so busy with its own affairs, so wrapped up in its own problems, that it lost sight of God’s mission. Church became all about building up its own members, establishing its own programs, and there was little left over for taking the gospel to the nations.
• So missionaries established para-church organizations. They established their own vehicle for sending and supporting missions and the church got left behind to carry on with its own thing and for the last 200 years this is how missions has largely been conducted – through mission organizations, with the average church and missionary caring little about what is happening in the world.
• That is not God’s plan. His plan is for His people and His church to embrace and support and participate in His mission.
Therefore, I would concur with the words of Oswald Smith, “Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.”
So what kind of church does God use in His mission? I would like to highlight 6 characteristics of the church at Antioch which I think makes any local church more usable in God’s mission.
6 characteristics of an effective missionary church
5: Spirit filled
Vs 1 tells us that at Antioch there was a number of prophets and teachers. What do prophets and teachers do? Proclaim the word of God.
You remember we were first introduced to this church back in Acts 11
• 11:19-20 the church was started by believers who spoke the Word of God as a part of their daily life, and who made special effort to cross cultural, linguistic barriers to preach the gospel to Helenists.
• 11:25 Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem and he in turn sent for Paul to come help him build up this fledging church.
• And for a whole year they taught and the church learned and was built up in the Scriptures.
• Until here in Acts 13 we find them not only being taught, but themselves having their own teachers and prophets who could continue to teach the Scriptures and build the church up.
At the end of the day missions is all about taking the gospel to the nations, baptizing converts into local churches and teaching new disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded.
A local church that is not biblical, that is not Scripture saturated, that is not continually learning and teaching and being built up in the Truth, is not going to have the knowledge or the gifts to make a meaningful contribution to missions.
Missionaries are equipped and prepared for the task of missions by the teaching ministry of the local church. The men and women we have sent out all started out as ordinary believers who were hungry to be established in the Scriptures and that hunger never got satisfied, until it developed into a desire to teach and train others, to give from what they had been given.
The men and women who have gone out from us, were trained up and taught and their character moulded in the context of ordinary fellowship as we challenge one another and teach one another to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.
The Bible needs to remain central in all that we do as a church. Sound doctrine needs to be pursued and disseminated. Some of you are doing FOF now, and God is preparing you for missions one day, giving you the foundation that you can impart to others what you have received. Some of you are involved in training up the next generation of missionaries in your Sunday school classes and youth groups…. (Jono – literally taught by some of you in S school)
You remember that in Acts 11 the church was started because some of those early believers cross cultural barriers and spoke the word to Hellenists also. You remember that Antioch was started with men from Cyrpris and Cyrene, and here we are also told “Simeon called Niger.” Niger is a Latin word meaning dark or black and many believe this this man was an African. At any rate, the book of Acts emphasizes the international composition of the church at Antioch.
Antioch was established in a cosmopolitan area and that came to be reflected in the church and that put them in a good position to send missionaries out to different nations.
That is why I’m so excited about what God is doing here at Midrand Chapel. Our members are from many different races, cultures and languages. That means we are more self-consciously aware of our cultural biases, we regularly have to work at getting along, crossing cultural barriers, forgiving cultural blunders and missions is just doing more of that in another part of the world.
The lessons we are learning here, by learning to love each other aross racial and economic barriers – is part of God’s training to make us more useful in His mission.
Biblical church, a international church
Acts records the context in which God directed this church to begin their mission. It was the context of worship and prayer.
Here I must quote John Piper, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.
At the end of the day, the passion that drives us to give our lives and sacrifice our time and money – is a passion for God’s glory, to see God known and worshipped by all people. To see God’s name exalted, to hear Jesus be praised in Hindi and Tswana, and Finnish and Chinese.
No other passion is sufficient to sustain the kind of long-term, all out commitment that foreign missions requires.
So the mission-minded church must first be a worshipping church. A church that truly delights in exalting God – and that, of course begins right here at home. In our homes, in or families, in our gatherings. We need to be raising up disciples who love Christ above all things, who’s hearts bleed for more of Christ, who can never get enough of Him and who desperately want others to find that same delight in Him.
Again – what we are doing here, on a daily, weekly basis – becomes the foundations and training ground for what we will be doing in missions.
Biblical, international, worshipping
The other thing they were doing was praying. Vs 2 says worshipping and fasting, vs 3 says fasting and praying.
The term “fasting” highlights the intensity of their praying. They were a church which took corporate prayer seriously. They gathered to pray and the prayers they offered were earnest and heartfelt. They took prayer seriously enough to fast as they prayed.
• I won’t embarrass everyone by asking you to raise your hand if you have fasted in the last year…
• In every church I’ve ever been a part of, prayer is the least attended meeting. We have conferences and hundreds pitch up, but we have prayer meetings and handfuls pitch up.
• The Western church is particularly guilty of this because we are over-confident in our own plans and abilities. When we want to embark on something we tend to have brainstorming sessions and planning meetings and we draw up budgets and task lists with time lines. Nothing wrong with any of that – but what is conspicuously absent is prayer and fasting.
• Then some churches have prayer vigils and fasting – but it is all self-serving. God bless us, God please send rain for us, help our country, heal my parents, provide for our needs, help me get this job…. When do we fast and pray for God’s mission!
• When do we humble ourselves and plead and stop doing anything else so that we can focus ourselves on one thing – the glory of Christ among the nations.
Missions is too costly, too difficult to be carried out by a prayerless church. It is too much beyond the reach of any local church to carry out mission without laying hold of God’s supernatural power and provision.
And of course, that is why missions strengthens the local church. I’ve been involved in missions for over 20 years now and the constant opposition I hear is that – missions weakens the local church, we have so much to do here, let’s first strengthen the home base. And there is a degree of wisdom in that – the Apostles spent a year building up this church before launching into missions. But, we must recognise that missions is itself the means by which God continues to strengthen the local church – to fuel the fervency of our worship, increase the strength of our faith and extend the depth of our sacrifice. Missions makes the church more like Christ.
5: SPIRIT FILLED
The Holy Spirit is a key mover in the book of Acts. Remember the key verse is Acts 1:8, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, this is what will happen – He will empower you for missions.
“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” – Henry Martyn (missionary to India and Persia)
The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks to the church and initiates the mission. The Holy Spirit is the one who called Paul and Barnabus and set them apart for the mission. The Holy Spirit is the one in vs 4 who sent them out and continued to direct them in their mission. In Acts 16:6 it’s the Holy Spirit who forbids Paul to go preach the Word in Asia and who directs them elsewhere. He is the prime mover at the beginning of the mission and at every point throughout.
We are not a Charismatic or Pentecostal church, but we better be a Spirit-filled one!... We cannot live the Christian life, be a witness for Christ or engage in His worldwide mission in our strength, with our own resources. We need God’s supernatural power, God’s resources, God’s wisdom, God’s enabling, God’s gifts – that is why He gave His Spirit to the church.
In Acts 4:31 after Peter is imprisoned and the believers pray for boldness to continue to speak the Word of God, Acts 4:31 says “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
To be Spirit-filled is to live in constant dependence upon God, constant obedience to Him. We need to be a church characterised by letting the Spirit have His way with us. Here, when the Spirit speaks, the church listens and obeys.
We don’t believe that God is still giving prophetic words because the abiding word of the Spirit has been preserved for us in the Scriptures that He inspired and the cannon is complete and closed. This is the Word that the Spirit has inspired and given to the church for all ages. But the Spirit still speaks through His Word – and we can quench the Spirit and disobey His Word and do our own thing in our own strength for our own glory.
APPLICATION – YIELD TO THE SPIRIT
We will not be raising up and sending out missionaries who are willing to sacrifice home and family for the sake of the call – if they have not been growing up in a church that is characterized by obedience to the Spirit on a daily basis, in all the little matters about which He convicts us. When you hear His Word and He convicts you specifically and personally about what you need to do or change – you better listen. …and when you do, you are playing your part in fashioning a spirit-filled community who are more useful to God in His mission.
Again, what we are doing every day in being an active member of a local church is helping us be more effective in global foreign missions.
Biblical, international, worshipping, praying, spirit-filled
In Acts 11 we saw that the church in Jerusalem was willing to sacrifice Barnabas in order that he could go and build up the church at Antioch. Now we see that Antioch is willing to sacrifice their best men in order to send them out to do the same for other churches.
Freely you have received, freely give.
Missions is costly. It take inordinate amounts of time and money to travel to other parts of the world and try to establish churches there….
Acts 12:48 reminds us the context in which Paul and Barnabus had been sent out. Acts 11:27-30. Paul and Barnabus had just come back from a trip in which they had taken relief to the church in Jerusalem. This was a global famine, a time of global economic recession and difficulty. This church was only just getting established, Paul and Barnabus had been teaching there for a year – and now – in that context – The Holy Spirit says, now is the time, these are the men – YOUR BEST MEN
A very difficult time to use very valuable men and try send them out on a very costly mission….
This was a giving church and one that gave sacrificially for God’s mission.
Most churches are not involved in global foreign missions because they are simply not willing to pay the price.
Research shows that more than 99% of all the money and people that God raises up for the church – is spent within the church. Less than 1% goes to the cause of global foreign missions…. The church is happy to spend most of God’s money and enjoy the 99% of God’s blessings on ourselves and barely give 1% to further God’s mission.
• The Joshua Project 2019 statistics list 17k distinct people groups. 7k unreached. People growing up within these people groups will probably never hear the gospel even once, never know a Christian or attend a church.
• 90% of the people groups in India are unreached
• India has more unreached people groups than any other country.
• India is one of the most difficult countries for Christians to live in, It’s no 10 on the OpenDoors persecution watchlist and has been rising faster in persecution than any other country.
• 3 other churches we know have had their missionaries pull out of India in the last 5 years and in that same time we have managed to send a couple to establish a beachhead for the gospel work and Bible translation.
• They are languishing in a very difficult environment – and nobody else wants to go join them and serve with them.
• Surely we have a businessman, or accountant or Engineer who is willing to live and work and raise a family in India for the glory of Christ….
• This is the great burden of my heart because I believe it to be the great burden of God’s heart.
• To each one of you. Beg you, plead with you. Embrace God’s mission. Commit yourself to building up a local church that would have these characteristics and would be active and sacrificial in carrying out God’s mission.
• To some of you – God is calling you to spearhead His mission. To be sent out from Midrand Chapel or another local church to take His Word to those people who do not have it. Commit yourself to live these things out today, so that you can be ready and useful when the time comes.