Today is the launch for a new emphasis we will call Hub Sunday. The idea for these times of worship each month will be to celebrate what we are doing as a church relating to fulfilling our mission.
Why Missions’ Hub?
First, let me tell you about the origins of the name. The name comes from a couple of conversations where Roger and I were both present. One of the conversations was a one-on-one conversation while driving and the other was part of a discussion with the deacons. In the latter meeting with the deacons, Roger used the words “missions’ hub” to describe an aspect of our church and the name resonated strongly with me. So, for the last month, I have been considering how to celebrate everything we are doing as a church year-round. Thus, the idea for a regular service to celebrate was born. But beyond being a celebration, Hub Sunday will also be meant to challenge and inspire us.
Today, as we begin our first Hub Sunday, I want to share three ideas with you and then leave us with a couple of considerations. First, I want to share the “Why” of missions. That is, why should we be engaged in servings others? Second, I want to break down a fallacy regarding missions. Third, I want to briefly make a comment about the nature of a worship service. After I have mentioned each of these items, I will provide our challenge for the remaining months of 2018 and beyond.
The main reason for us to be involved in missions is because Jesus commanded us to make disciples. And as part of that process, He said we are to “go.” Read Matthew 28.19-20. Thus, if Jesus tells us to go, then we are sent, but our sending is with a purpose. When talking about our purpose as Christians, we often mention the idea of being called. And that is true. Jesus called for the disciples to “Follow Me” (Matthew 4.19) and the Greek word from which we get the English “church” is ekklessia which means “called out ones.” So, we are indeed called, but our calling is so that we can be sent.
Consider some of the major characters of the Bible. Abraham was sent out from his homeland. Moses was sent to Pharaoh. The Israelites were sent to the Promised Land. David was sent to the front lines where he would face Goliath. Ezra was sent to Jerusalem to help get the temple rebuilt. Nehemiah was sent to help rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. God sent His Son that whoever believes will have eternal life. The apostles were told they would be sent from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Paul was sent to the Gentiles. Etc. So, the idea of being sent is prominent throughout Scripture.
The idea is not just for great people for none of the people mentioned (except His Son) were considered great until they obeyed their call to be sent. Again, we are sent by Jesus as He commands us to make disciples as we “go.” (Matthew 28.19). And we do not go in order to become great; rather we go in order that His Name will be made great (Matthew 5.16). Of course, some refuse the call to be sent (even if only for a while) like Jonah. However, the book of Jonah shows obedience of God’s sending throughout that short book. Consider that God sent Jonah (who initially disobeyed, but later obeyed), but God also sent a great wind and storm (Jonah 1.4), a big fish (1.17), a plant (4.6), a worm (4.7), and a scorching wind (4.8). So, again, listening to Jesus requires us to “Go!” because like God sent Him, He sends us.
But being sent is not just about going abroad, it can mean going across the street or across the town. And that will be the next part of the message.
One of the primary reasons behind Hub Sunday is to help correct a misunderstanding of missions. Since late August of 2016, and particularly since late January of this year, you have heard a great deal about Kenya. And in previous years, you have heard about various mission trips to Panama, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, as well as various places within the United States. It is particularly important for a church to hear what God is doing when the church is sending people out to far away locations. The church at Antioch sent Paul (and Barnabas) out (Acts 13.1-3), and Paul regularly returned to Antioch to give reports of his missionary endeavors (e.g. Acts 14.26-28; 18.22-23).
But the emphasis in the Great Commission is not the word “go.” The emphasis is to make disciples. In fact, the verb is “to make” and the terms “go,” “baptize,” and “teach,” are all participles which explain how “to make.” So, the important part is to make disciples and that can be done “as we go.” That is, as we go about our regular business we are to make disciples.
Therefore, the idea is not necessarily about going on a mission trip. Rather, it is living a life that is “on mission” or being “missional” as is often said today. The difference is staggering. Going to and from Kenya costs between $1100-$1500 just for the airfare and costs a great deal of time (airport to airport is nearly 24 hours, for instance). Going across the street costs nothing monetarily, and perhaps five minutes of time at a minimum. But both can have eternal impact if we are mission-minded.
Every interaction we have with another person could be a difference maker in their eternity. That statement is why Matthew 5.16 is the verse for our Vision statement. We do our good works to that others will give God the glory. Being missional is more than merely setting a good example, it is about being a positive influence and leading others into a deeper relationship with God. We do this by being salt and light wherever we are and whatever we are doing – whether it is one-half way around the world or talking to our neighbor in the front yard.
So, we must break the mindset of thinking that missions as something that happens over there. Missions is about being missional and that process begins in the heart and in the brain. For, as Jesus reminded us, we are to “love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength” (Mark 12.30-31). The heart and mind set the tone for our soul to be engaged and thus we use our strength to serve God by loving and serving others as well.
Service as Worship
One last important aspect of Hub Sundays, at least future Hub Sundays, is to get more people involved in the worship service. Think about those two words. We come to worship God and part of that is done by some of the common elements we do every week. But the bulk of the time is spent with the focus on three or four people. Certainly, the time of worship should have direction (God is not a God of confusion, i.e. order is important – 1 Cor 14.33), and leaders help provide that direction. And the congregation can actively sing and actively give, but much of what is done is passive (i.e. listening). So, what if on one Sunday each month, the bulk of the congregation got more involved? That is, what if, instead of sitting and listening, the congregation contributed by sharing how they have served and then encourages others to do the same? If this is done, then the time of worship truly becomes a time of serving during worship – or a service of worship, which gives credence to the concept of a worship service.
If we think of the Old Testament priests, their responsibility was to serve at the tabernacle and later the temple. And, one of the distinctives that was rebirthed during the Reformation was that we are all priests – designed to serve God (1 Peter 2.5). Of course, we are to serve outside the walls of this building because the building is not the church, we are! But, we can also serve within the church and can do so by sharing how God is using us to fulfill His purposes in a corporate setting.
Furthermore, our service is truly an act of worship. Just as we may sing as worship, so can we serve as worship (and pray, study, etc.). Colossians 3.17 reminds us of this – whatever we do, in word or action, we do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks (i.e. praising/worshipping) to God as we do. And, again, as we serve in this way, others will rejoice and give glory the Father in heaven (Matthew 5.16). Said succinctly, we serve as an act of worship, and others worship as we serve.
So, let us embrace the possibilities to share how God is using us. We do not do this to brag or receive human praise; rather, we share because God has chosen to use us and in our obedience the world is changed, and He is glorified. If you recall our key verse from earlier this year, Habakkuk 2.14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” That will began to happen as we serve more out there and celebrate that service more in here.
Our strategy is comprised of the acrostic JOURNEY. Each week, I share a letter that fits with the message and provides some clarity for how the message and our church’s purpose intersect. But our JOURNEY begins as individuals. We begin our lives apart from Christ and for those that choose Jesus, we eventually take that fork in the road that leads us to Christ, but we always still have further to go. That distance to travel to be complete in Him (Col. 1.28) is our growth which is captured by the idea of a JOURNEY. More will be said about this connection in our upcoming series on the church, but for now, let me briefly share a couple of areas of service that some people have embraced related to being missional.
Again, Kenya gets a lot of attention and many contribute money to that each month through the piki offering. Other larger donations have been made recently and we are now almost able to repair the well at Lesurwa so they can have fresh water. But remember missions is not just about “over there,” it is about when and wherever.
This summer we have had people serve in VBS. Maybe it was helping serve meals, or maybe it was donating food. That can be a simple donation, or with the right mindset, that can be missional.
We have recently concluded No Hunger Summer. In all honestly, we did not help as many children and families as we had hoped, but 33 different children (and a total of 39 different individuals) consumed 190 meals (not counting VBS week). Our church had a part in that.
Each Tuesday, someone from our church delivers Meals on Wheels to various individuals around Fairfax. Serving in this way is an element of missions.
Each Monday, a group of ladies and a couple of men help convert plastic sacks into bed mats. But to do that, we need sacks. And some may simply drop off the sacks, but with the right mindset dropping off plastic sacks can be missional.
Being missional can also include bringing supplies for the food pantry or the youth group or cooking a meal for someone or making a visit to the hospital or calling someone who was missing from church or Sunday School or sending my abbreviated sermon notes to someone who is homebound. Again, all of these ideas, and more, can just be something we do, or they can be missional. It is about our mindset and our heartset.
What’s Next? The Challenge
Moving forward I want us to consider how we can fulfill two major initiatives. I am certain some may disregard one or both of these ideas, but if we are going to be a large church in a small town, we need to extend our influence (which is the essence of the word “large” in the vision).
So, first, our next Hub Sunday will be scheduled for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. But that week we will only meet here briefly. Instead for everyone who is able, we will honor the name of that weekend by finding some way to labor for the Lord on that Sunday morning. We will call it, “Labor for the Son Day.” I realize that not everyone will be able to labor physically, so I invite you to this building to pray for those who are out serving in some way. The prayer is an important part of the service – praying for opportunities to serve, opportunities to proclaim Jesus, and even for the safety of those serving. To accomplish this, we need to have our eyes and ears open to possibilities. As you see a need or hear of someone who needs some assistance, make a note and let me know. We will compile a list and then meet here that morning to “go” and be servants within our community. We will celebrate these and other opportunities during Hub Sunday at the end of September.
The second challenge will wait until the end of September before we seek to engage. This town has two entities that keep this town afloat from an economic perspective – the hospital and the school. We can seek how to serve the hospital at a later point, but while our church is very active in VBS and is the host of God Squad each year, if we want to make a difference in the lives of the families in this community, we need to be engaged with the school. Two of the last three years, the president of the school board has been a member of our church. The current superintendent is a professing Christian. Can God make a partnership out of this? Absolutely. But the question is, if we are sent in this direction, will we go? We will have the opportunity to make that decision at the end of September. But, in some way, we must respond to our being sent.
If we truly Exalt the Savior, we will go.
If we truly seek to Equip the Saint, we will go.
If we truly desire to Evangelize the Sinner, we will go.
So, the question isn’t if we are sent. The question isn’t if we should go? The question is when are where is God calling us to go? And within the us, how do you fit into that call?