Acts 13 tells the story of Barnabas and Saul being sent out by the church at Antioch. The church was gathered for worship and fasting. The Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special work. The church fasted, prayed, and sent them off. In a real sense, this was the first mission team in church history.
This story teaches us several lessons about sending missionaries today.
First, missionaries ought to be sent out from the gathered church.
Second, missions is an overflow of worship and prayer.
Third, missionaries are called and set apart by the Holy Spirit.
On a practical level, what would it look like for our churches to embrace the responsibility of sending missionaries and missionary teams to the ends of the earth?
I think a church that wants to be a “sending church” must embrace these four responsibilities:
- Sending Missionaries. Barnabas and Saul were sent from Antioch to take the gospel to those who had never heard about Jesus. Likewise, sending churches must send missionaries to take the good news to those who have never heard. This may take the form of short term mission teams. This may take the form of long term missionaries who don’t come back for years.
- Sending Members. When Barnabas and Saul left Antioch, the rest of the church stayed behind. These Christians were not called to the same work as Barnabas and Saul, but they were called to the work of making disciples and being witnesses. These Christians were sent out into Antioch. Likewise, sending churches must send their members into their community on mission.
- Sending Ministers. Barnabas and Saul are not the only names mentioned in the early verses of Acts 13. We also read about Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen. These men had teaching and preaching responsibilities, and they had the responsibility of raising up and sending out other teachers and pastors. Sending churches must raise up the next generation of gospel ministers.
- Sending Money. Acts 13 doesn’t specifically mention a love offering for Barnabas and Saul. However, this is a critical component of sending. Additionally, we know that other churches did send Paul financial support during his missionary journeys. This is a non-negotiable aspect of missionary work. We must be willing to give generously and sacrificially for the sake of gospel missions.