Day 299: Luke 8-9; The Sent Community

I feel like today I need to post an article that I wrote for my church’s monthly news letter publication for November (you’ll be seeing it before they do).  Over the course of this year we have been talking about the many different aspects of our corporate worship on Sunday mornings.  Everything from Gathering to sermon, and now to the sending time has been covered.  Today, in our reading, we encounter the text of Jesus sending out the disciples… and tomorrow when we read the narrative of Jesus sending out the 72… and it spurs in me the thoughts about the Church’s identity as a “sent community.”  There is much more in today’s reading besides this, I understand, and we have and will talk about some of these different things, but today I feel as though we need to remember “sent” identity.

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We have spent the past 10 months discussing some of the reasons behind how we “do” worship on a given Sunday morning.  Conversations like this are very good in helping us to better understand what we do and how we worship.  One page each month hardly does this subject justice in my opinion, but if this writing has even prompted one conversation or a deeper inspection of worship in one’s own, I would say that it is worth it.  This is the last month of this series of writings, and we have come to what I think is the most important part of the worship service (with the exception of the Table, which we talked about last week), the time of being sent out.  Indeed this is the time in which the community that has gathered from to worship God accepts once again its identity as disciples in Christ and is sent out to be the Body of Christ in the world today.  It is the point at which we accept and assume our identity as Christians and take it beyond the walls of the Church where we are called to serve and to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Lately, it seems, that Christian church in North America has kind of gotten its identity a little mixed up.  As we have done over this past year, we put a lot of effort into talking about our Sunday morning worship services.  In fact, we have put more than our fair share of effort into talking about our corporate worship services.  We have had church spits about them, tried to blend them and style them, add things to them, and even use different cultural features to make them more attractive.  Churches across North America have placed an inordinate amount of effort into making themselves and their Corporate worship more attractive to the “un-churched.”  And what has been the result of this?  We have turned the focus of church and worship away from God and towards people creating a consumer mindset in which people have become more concerned with what they are getting out of it and whether it appeals to them.  More than this, as a church we have made it ok for people to jump from church to church based not on the message of that they are hearing or the way that they are being equipped, but based solely on their preference of music or style.  In short, we have made corporate worship about us, not God.

So in light of that, what is the identity that we are called to as the people of God?  It is that of the “sent community.”  I know that there are many that would push back about this being the church’s primary identity when we make it a point so often to say that we identity is in Christ.  This is true.  But to say that our primary identity as the Church is to be “sent out” is not in contrast with our identity in Christ, it is actually a response to it.  Jesus didn’t come into the world, immediately set up a Church, and then try to make it cool so people would come through the door.  No, Jesus was out on the streets of the cities, on the roads of the countryside, and meeting people in their homes and meeting places.  It was in those places that He was teaching and it was in those places that he did all his miracles.  From wedding celebrations to graveside mourning, Jesus was there demonstrating the love of God in all that he did and said.

Jesus modeled this with His disciples as well.  In each of the Gospels there are multiple references to Jesus sending them out, instructing them about being in the world, and even praying to God the Father for their protection as they are out in the world.  The great commission which we, like many other churches, have modeled our mission statement after actually tells us what we need to do:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

This is the Biblical model for the church.  It doesn’t say “go if you feel called” or “put money in the plate for the missionaries” (though that does have its place too).  Jesus says to His followers, “GO!”  We don’t need theological training… we don’t need eloquent speeches… we don’t even need to do all the talking… Jesus’ command to so many of the people that He healed was “go and tell people what you have seen and heard.”

Friends we are a sent community.  When the blessing is given, we are sent out empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel wherever we go.  Sunday mornings should not be the majority of our Christian life.  We gather together to worship, to hear the Word of God, and to be empowered and equipped to be sent forth into the world proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.