Our God is a sending God. The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world and Jesus sent the church to make that message of salvation known (1 John 4:14; John 20:21).
While in one sense this is true of every believer, God also calls certain believers to do gospel work in other places. The New Testament encourages churches to send these kinds of workers and gives examples of those who did just that (Romans 10:14-15; 2 Corinthians 8:19, 23; Philippians. 2:25-30).
In Acts 13:1-4, we read about the church in Antioch sending Barnabas and Saul to do the work that God had called them to do. In this church we find a number of helpful characteristics which help us to see what it looks like to be a sending church.
They are first a receiving church (Acts 11:19-26)
Before the church in Antioch was a sending church, they were a receiving church. The grace of God had been at work among them. When they gave, they gave out of what they had first received from the Lord.
They received the gospel (Acts 11:19-20)
The church began after Jewish believers travelled to Antioch due to persecution in Jerusalem. When they arrived they began spreading the message of the gospel. Some of them only shared with fellow Jews, but others shared with Gentiles as well. By the grace of God, many came to faith in Christ and a multi-ethnic church was born.
They received outside help (Acts 11:21-26)
When the church in Jerusalem heard about what was happening in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to them. When he arrived, he rejoiced over the grace of God that he could see at work in their lives and encouraged them to remain faithful to the Lord. He then brought Saul there and together they met with this young church for a year, teaching the word as the church bore witness to Christ in their community.
A sending church is a church that has first seen the grace of God at work in their own midst. When they give, they give out of what they have first received.
- What are some of the ways you have experienced the grace of God at work in your own church?
- How would an awareness of the grace of God in your church help you to send mission workers elsewhere?
They care about needs in other places (Acts 11:27-30)
Before the church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul, they demonstrated a concern for needs outside their locality. Prophets from Jerusalem had visited the church in Antioch. One named Agabus prophesied about an upcoming famine. When the church heard, they responded by taking up a collection to help their brothers and sisters in Judea and sent it by way of Barnabas and Saul.
A sending church cares about needs in other places. They find out about people and places that need assistance and do what they can to help.
- What are some ways this kind of care can be cultivated across the whole congregation?In a world filled with so much need, how do you determine which needs to help with?
How can having a personal relationship with a worker in another place be a mutual help to the worker and the church?
- Are there some ways this can be further developed in your church?
This article is written by Brandon Nelson, UFM Worldwide’s Area Director for Northern England, the Midlands and North Wales.
It is part of a series of Bible studies looking at some characteristics of sending and supporting churches. If you are a church leader, feel free to use these in your church!
Next time: A sending church prioritises worship, takes action, gives sacrificially, and maintains concern.