One of my biggest regrets as a pastor was sending out the first missionary from our church plant. No, I didn't regret the act of sending, nor am I retrospectively anti-missions. What I regretted was that we sent a young man who was not ready for missionary work, and worse, a young man who was far too spiritually immature for the spiritually intense work that lay ahead of him. Predictably this young man's one-year missionary term was cut short and our relationship with the career missionary who hosted him was irrevocably damaged.
In the midst of the implosion of this young man's missionary journey I heard a sermon by Mack Stiles in which he said something like this (I am paraphrasing): When you send missionaries from your church you should be sending people that you have a hard time letting go of, people who will be sorely missed. In other words, you need to send your best people! I realized at that moment that we had not sent out our best, nor had we tried to. Quite frankly this young man had shown glaring signs of spiritual immaturity, and for some in our church who were exhausted by some of his behavior, it was a relief that he wanted to go away to the mission field. But as a pastor I was foolish to send him, and worse, I was selfish for not praying for my best and most spiritually gifted members to be sent out.
Yesterday I had lunch with some guys who were helping nail downs some more specifics regarding our Church Planting Center (CPC) that we, Lord willing, are going to launch in August. You'll be getting more information in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, I am praying for men to be raised up from our churches who are called to plant new churches, or who feel the burden to replant churches that are dying. What I am asking you to do as pastors and lay-leaders in your churches, is to pray with me that God that will pluck some of the best men from our churches and put this call on their hearts. In other words, I am asking you to send your best.
I know that there are some great leaders being raised up in our CBBA churches and quite naturally you want those leaders to remain at your church to help grow it and strengthen it. But I hope that, by God's grace, you will hold on to those men lightly with the sincere hope that God will indeed call some of them to plant or replant churches. I am asking for CBBA churches to have the disposition of the church in Antioch. We read the following in Acts 13:2-3:
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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
I can only imagine that there were some in Antioch who thought sending Barnabas and Saul was certifiably insane. Had God really asked them to send out their most encouraging member and their most astute theologian? Couldn't the Holy Spirit have chosen a couple of people who were less important? But God chose those two men, and therefore the burden was laid upon the Antioch church to send their best. And they obeyed!
So, brothers and sisters, pray with me that God will send out the best from our CBBA churches and in doing so that we will see an explosion of healthy church planting and bold church re-planting in our association.
Yours in Christ,