Christians are those who have been sent on mission by Jesus to be Jesus!
In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His closest followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The mission of Jesus does not begin at the ends of the earth or the other side of the planet. It started in Jerusalem, which is right where they were.
For believers today, the mission of Jesus starts right where you are. The Church does not exist primarily to gather together; rather it exists as those who are sent out with the mission and message of Jesus; as those who are sent to be His witnesses.
Mission is not merely an activity of the church. It is the very heartbeat and work of God. It is in the very being of God that the basis for the missionary enterprise is found. God is a sending God, with a desire to see humankind and creation reconciled, redeemed, and healed. The missional church, then, is a sent church. It is a going church, a movement of God through His people, sent to bring healing to a broken world. (Frost and Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come, p 18)In Isaiah 6, Isaiah has a vision of the Lord and sees Him “sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted.” In verse 8, He hears the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?” And Isaiah said, “Lord, I'll go! Send me.” This commitment to volunteer should be the response of every believer: “I’ll go! Send me.”
In Luke 9:2 we read, “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.” In John 20:21, Jesus told His disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” Just as the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends His followers to be witnesses. He sends them to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
In Acts 13, God sends two of the leaders of the church in Antioch to leave their current ministry context to expand their missionary activity by proclaiming the gospel and starting churches in other geographic communities.
“And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'” (Acts 13:2). To set apart means to dedicate for a special purpose.
The Spirit directed the team of leaders, while they were worshiping and fasting, to set apart for Him Barnabas and Saul. The verb “set apart” is seen three times in Saul’s life: 1) at his birth he was separated to God (Gal 1:15–16 ); 2) at his conversion he was set apart for the gospel (Rom 1:1); and 3) in Antioch he was separated for a specific mission (Acts 13:2).
The Spirit made known His will to these leaders so that they had neither doubt nor uncertainty in their minds: “the Holy Spirit said.” G. Campbell Morgan points out in his commentary on Acts that “this is not the picture of a church choosing men for the doing of a particular work” and it “is not the picture of a church discussing the fitness of men for the doing of any particular work.” He admits, “There is a sense in which it would be perfectly accurate to say that the church had no voice in the selection of these men. The choice was not left to the church. The choice was based upon a prior fact in the activity of the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit had called them to this work: “for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2; emphasis added). We do not know any details of how or when they were called, but it is clear from this text that Saul and Barnabus were to be set apart for this specific mission. The Spirit was sending them together in community to a new geographic region to proclaim the gospel and start new churches. He was sending them under His authority; the church was submitting to the direction of the Spirit by obeying His instruction.
Many churches use this passage to teach that the local church is the one who sends out missionaries. Clearly this passage is not teaching that the local church was a “Sending Church,” rather the Holy Spirit was the one who sends. The local church releases those whom the Spirit sends.
In verse 4, it says, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.” Luke does not say that they were sent by the church; they were sent by the Spirit. The Spirit does the sending.
Morgan notes that the end of verse 3, the phrase “they sent them away” in the NASB is a “faulty translation.” Just reading the English text, you might naturally assume that the same word is used at the end of verse 3 and at the beginning of verse 4 for “sent,” but they are two different words.
What did the church really do? They released Paul and Barnabus. What did the Spirit do? He sent them. “The church could release them, set them free, by caring for all other obligations, by taking responsibility for all that they would need.” (Morgan, p 312) But the Spirit is the One who sends believers out on mission!
And today, it is the Spirit of God that is sending every believer to proclaim the gospel in community with other Christians to our culture, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. Churches today need to embrace their role as “sent ones.”
It is not about the Church sending workers; it is about the Church being sent!
Christians are those who have been sent by God with the gospel to their culture. Every one of us is sent on mission with the Holy Spirit’s power! And we are sent in community with other believers! When you commit to follow Jesus, you are saying, “Count me in! I am here on this earth to partner together with other Christians who are radically devoted to pursuing Christ’s mission of saving the world!” What could be better than that?