“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you’.” (John 20:21 ESV)
God is a missionary God. He has been sending his people since the very beginning. In Genesis 12 God sent out Abraham to go to a country he didn’t know. He didn’t even tell him where he was sending him. Similarly, in Isaiah 6, we see God asking, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
The pinnacle of this sending language is found in the gospel of John in the New Testament. The word sent is used over 40 times. Jesus uses this word of himself to show that he was sent from God. One of the more prominent uses is when Jesus heals a blind man by rubbing dirt on his eyes and telling him to go wash at a pool called Siloam. I’ll give you one guess what the word Siloam means in Aramaic.
So, Jesus heals a blind man by rubbing dirt on his face and telling him to wash at the pool called sent. Jesus was trying to communicate something. He was sent from God to accomplish the mission that God had given him. He wasn’t just sent from God, but John 20:21 tells us that he was now sending his disciples. Just as the father was sending him, he was now sending those that follow him.
If being sent was the primary activity of Jesus while he was on the earth, that activity has now passed to those of us who follow him. In fact, we are following him today because Jesus sent out those eleven men. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them taking that sending nature seriously.
But a quick analysis of the church today will show that we have forgotten this “sent out” identity. Most churches are based on a “come and see” approach to church rather than a “go and tell” approach. We have bought into a “Field of Dreams” methodology for doing church. The classic line from that 1989 film is, “If you build it, they will come.” The main character Ray, played by Kevin Costner, keeps hearing a voice telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop in rural Iowa. He thinks he’s crazy, but as soon as he actually builds it, players from old appear to play on it. Eventually, people come from everywhere to see the field and the baseball that is played there.
This Field of Dreams, attractional way of doing church, has permeated North America. And the results of this have been devastating. We have lost the sentness (if I can use that word) of the early church. Brad Brisco, a church planting catalyst in Kansas City, says it this way, “If we fail to go to people who don't know Jesus, then we are requiring them to come to us. We are expecting the lost to cross the cultural barriers to come to Jesus. We are expecting them to be the missionary.”
Did you catch that last phrase?
“We are expecting those that don’t know Jesus to be the missionaries.”
Let that sink in. The church now postures itself to our culture in a way that the culture has to do all the work to come to Christ. What we need is a radical return to the sentness of the church. We need to recapture this missionary nature of God and the church. Where the church doesn’t just send missionaries but where the church IS the missionary. We must recapture the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
This is life or death stuff we are talking about here. Why? If Jesus hadn’t decided to be sent by God, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Who out there is therefore dependent on our sentness?
Chad Grigsby is a Church Planting Strategist for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He has pastored and planted in Arkansas and Tennessee. Chad, his wife Jessica and their son Ezra currently live in Batesville, AR.