Being sent is one of the big themes in John’s Gospel. Jesus is identified as being sent 42 times! The word sent appears 53 times in all. I believe if you set time aside to meditate on each of these verses the reality of what it means to be sent will seep into your being. Jesus prayed in John 17:18; “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Our sent-ness is meant to mirror his sent-ness! Think about this as you look up each of these verses in your own time.
Traditionally ‘Missionaries’ & ‘Ministers’ have often carried in their hearts a strong sense of being called & sent. I want us to see that every believer needs to carry in their hearts an equally strong sense of being called & sent - we are all missionaries & ministers of a kind! God has us where he has us for his apostolic purpose. If we want to be like Jesus, if we are truly his disciples then an important part of our lives is being sent as he was sent! We need to see that our Lord came from heaven to earth as a missionary & that means if we follow him there is an apostolic purpose behind every aspect of our lives – our parenting, our work, our friendships, our grocery-shopping, our hobbies & interests & our corporate worship times. Everyday we follow Jesus the Sent One & as he said to his original 12 disciples; “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” So this sent-ness brings both intention & urgency to all we do.
Following Jesus is not all about mission but mission is a vital part of following him. Jesus also wants to deal with things in our hearts; he wants us to become more like him in everyway & grow in relationship with him. Yet note how Jesus did this with his disciples in the Gospel’s. He called the disciples to follow him as he went about his mission. Every day they followed a Jesus who was on a mission - we follow the same Jesus today. As they followed him they heard him preaching, seen him working & got to know him. He also included them in various ways as well as taking them aside to teach them further & deal with silly disputes among them.
From the day he called the 12 the action never stopped – all the teaching, following, challenging, correcting & growing was done in the context of being on a mission with Jesus. As the Gospel’s close & the book of Acts begins this only continues as his disciples are given the Great Commission & clothed with power from on high to be his witnesses. As Jesus ascends & the Spirit descends the mission continues & broadens & small churches are planted & established all over the known world. Then letters are written to those small churches & part of the purpose of those letters is to teach Christians in different settings how to live as sent ones in their everyday lives. Take 1 Peter for example where Christians are called to "live such good lives" as citizens, employees, families & churches, highlighting that mission is not only for the ‘professionals’ but for every believer. All of us are called to live everyday with the mission of Jesus burning in our hearts because like those first 12 disciples every day we follow a Jesus who in on a mission.
Most of us find it easier to think about being a missionary across the ocean than in our own town or area. However how would our thinking change if we imagine ourselves together in a different setting - as part of a mission team sent to establish a church in a small town in Italy say? If God called us to be long term missionaries in such a context we would learn the language, culture & context. We would also see employment & voluntary opportunities as a way to engage with local people & support the mission. (Remember, not every missionary is a preacher, pastor or evangelist; many are doctors, nurses, teachers, administrators, builders & people with various trades who simply have a heart to reach a people group with the gospel. In fact in closed countries it is almost essential to have another reason for being there apart from mission).
The truth is we have all been called to establish a church in a small town in the west of Ireland. Most of us already have a head start in terms of language, culture, employment, family, friendship & community connections etc. What we need to see is that our mission is just as real & important as if we were sent to Italy together. Perhaps we just need to change how we view ourselves & the opportunities our work & other connections already present. Think about it this way: How would viewing yourself as part of a church planting team change how you view everyday life, work & relationships?
The responsibility of mission & ministry is given to all believers & most of that responsibility is worked out not in our times together but in our everyday lives. To follow Jesus is to follow the missionary God whether that means in our home town or to the Amazon Jungle. Jesus may not be physically with us like he was with the 12 but he has sent his missionary Spirit to empower us to play our part in his mission today. For this reason no matter what our daily routine is like we should be filled with a sense of sent-ness – a sense of apostolic calling. This call to Christ's mission is less about organising more things for us to do & more about helping us see what we already do through the lens of the missionary heart of God. In light of this one way we should view our New Testaments is as a mission handbook for everyday life – for it clearly tells us how to live our whole lives for the sake of Christ's mission.
Below is a link to a helpful resource to explore this further in your own time
Small Town Mission by Aaron Morrow
John Fitzsimmons, pastor at Amazing Grace Fellowship