The Table is entering a new season. It’s a season of prayer and outreach. Our friend Alvin Vandergriend came by a few weeks ago and laid a foundation of thought for us. He spoke on the power of prayer. That may sound like an overused cliché, but it’s true. When we pray on behalf of someone else, what we are doing is laying our requests at the throne of power, the throne of the powerful one. God hears our prayer for our friends and reigns down His blessings upon these folks. When we pray for another person, we are partnering w/ God in creating connections b/t that person and God, even if they claim they are not open to JC. God then creates bridges of connection b/t us and those we pray for. This is the call God is giving our church this season, to pray intentionally for 5 of our neighbors, to join in what God is already doing in His mission of reaching the lost and lonely. How does this sound?
It sounds good but there’s a potential problem. The potential problem lies w/ in us. When we think about blessing our neighbors, often either we believe or act like it is OUR calling to serve. We feel some sort of obligation to serve. We feel like it is on us to bring about results. We may believe that God is calling us to bless others, but we act like it is OUR’s, and therefore we rely on our means to bring about change. We rely on ourselves, OUR energy, OUR gifts, OUR ideas, and we replace the good news w/ OUR activism.
We are starting a 4 weeks sermon series in Acts 13. In this series, we will be looking at Acts 13, and asking the question, “Why are we on missions?” In the weeks to come we’ll learn that we’re partnering w/ God on mission to preach words of life and confront lies, to encourage and bring wholeness, and to bring the good news of salvation. But, tonight we will be looking at Acts 13:1-3. So, as we read this short passage, look for an answer to the question, “Why are we on missions.” Acts 13:1-3:
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Looking at v. 1, made me wonder what v. 1 had to do w/ the rest of it? The names of these leaders in Antioch are interesting b/c of their diversity. Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Simeon was also a Jew, probably from North Africa; whereas Lucius, having a Latin name, probably came from a Greco-Roman paradigm; Manaen, being associated w/ the court of Herod Antipas, came from the upper class; and, Saul was the former dogmatic enemy of the church. I believe that Luke includes these leaders to show us 2 things. 1st to say the church would no longer be a homogenous organization, but a fellowship that goes beyond economics, race, or status; it’s a place for everyone. 2nd, Luke gives us these names to show us that when God called Saul and Barnabas into missions, He was leaving behind competent leaders to carry on the local mission. God and His HS were still residing in the local church.
Next Luke tells us in v. 2 that these leaders and the church were “ministering to the Lord,” or “Worshipping,” as the NIV translates it. While they were doing this, God speaks to the church, and tells them set Barnabas and Saul aside for the special work He had for them of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. The fact that the church was fasting shows they were in a time of intense devotion, anticipation, and prayer for missions. If this was true, why would they be praying this? And, getting back to our series question, why were they on a missional track? Simply put, they were praying about missions b/c they were called by God to do so. Who prompted them to set Barnabas and Saul aside? Who were they waiting on? Why were they on missions, b/c God had called them. It was not an idea that came from the church and was not driven by their energy. They were on mission b/c it was God’s idea. God’s energy would supply it, and it was His voice that set these 2 aside. So, why are we on mission, b/c this is what God would have us do. b/c we are called by God.
The church in Antioch was waiting for the Lord’s direction, and for me that’s the good news. The good news is not that I should buck up and get the job done, that I should just put in more hours or worry. The Good News is that God goes before us to bless others. Just as this church was not rushing their own agenda into God’s call, we are in no rush either. Just as this church had confidence to pray and send their folks out, we are confident that this season of prayer and evangelism is from God.
So as you consider what 5 people God would have you pray for, we all can resist the temptation to make His call OUR call, and know that God goes before us. We can rely on His leading and not our efforts. After all we are called to focus on Him not the mission. Yet as we focus on Him, we end up on mission.
I want to invite us to rest in this assurance of God’s leading. I want us to take our time and pray intentionally about who God is calling us to bless w/ our prayers. I want us to stay loose and listen to the HS. Maybe 5 is the wrong number for you; maybe it’s 3, maybe it’s 13; maybe they are folks nearby, maybe they’re far away. We are not concerned about numbers. We’re not doing this to increase attendance at The Table. We are concerned about following the call of JC, focusing on Him, not what WE think He wants.
So be assured tonight, that this is God’s work. After our 3 birthday we will begin praying specifically for the people God has laid on our hearts. But for now, our concern is simply resting and asking who. This is His mission, and we are His.