They Sent Them

There are a few times that we see the Holy Spirit speak to individuals in the New Testament. The Spirit reveals to Simeon at the temple that he has now seen the Messiah. The Spirit speaks to Philip and tells him to go over by the chariot where the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the book of Isaiah, setting up the first presentation of the Gospel to an African that we’re aware of.

But Acts 13 is a unique scene. This is the first and only time that we see the Spirit speak to a church, and specifically the leaders of a church. And what does the Holy Spirit say?

“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 13:2

That is exactly what the church does. There are five leaders in the church at Antioch at this time, and now they are about to send two of them. So from my perspective, this leads me to some questions that I think are worthy of consideration:

First, are we hearing the Holy Spirit today? Does he ever say that we should be sending people? I remember when we left our home church in Colorado to come to Catania, one of the leaders brought this issue up to me. He was saying that they felt that it was a sacrifice to send us, which was humbling to hear, but that the sacrifice was worth it for the Kingdom.

I hadn’t necessarily considered it in this way, but it is important that we do so. It is important that we send our best. It is important that we send out those who are the most prepared and most ready to take the Gospel to the rest of the world.

Or are we trying to manage and control the people? Very rarely would anyone ever admit that this is what is happening, but frankly it is difficult for me to imagine otherwise at times. Why else do we rarely talk about going? Why else do we rarely speak of a strategy to see more disciples made? Why else do we rarely speak of a strategy to see more churches planted? My belief is that we try to control the movement of the Holy Spirit instead of equipping and sending. Which leads me to the third question:

Are we equipping people to send them? Are they ready to go? Have they been prepared to make disciples and plant churches? I hear leaders complain of the situation where people want to leave the church to go, and they complain that they aren’t prepared to go. But whose fault is that? Have these people ever been encouraged to go? Have they ever been encouraged to practice? Have they ever been trained to share with someone else or to make a disciple? Have we ever had a conversation with them about what God is calling them to do? Or have we instead simply assumed that they should just sit in our church Sunday after Sunday? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone decides to leave to go. And we shouldn’t be upset about that. It should be expected that they want to go, and it should happen in the context of a community that is dynamically praying, seeking, thinking, and planning to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to see the expansion of the Kingdom.

Let us be amongst the churches that listen to the Holy Spirit and send people to make disciples and plant new churches. God help us to lead like this.

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