Send Whom the Spirit Selects
A church’s best pool for partners (i.e., missionaries/church planters) is its own body, and the best practice for finding them is prayer.
This is one of the key takeaways from Acts 13, the account of Paul and Barnabas being sent by the church in Antioch. What is intriguing is the manner, or way, in which they were selected and sent: by the Holy Spirit through the church’s leaders.
Specifically, it was during worship and prayer that the church recognized this divine “setting apart” and then responded by affirming and sending. While there is probably more that happened procedurally and logistically than we are told in the text, the emphasis is quite clear—it was people within their own faith family that were called by God’s Spirit to go and make disciples of all nations somewhere else. And they did.
This was not, however, the first “sending” to occur in Acts. By Acts 8 persecution had scattered most of the initial church, an informal sending no doubt. And God the Holy Spirit did select specific people from their own midst to go to other places even before Paul and Barnabas departed Antioch (Acts 8, 10 and 11). “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations” was not simply an idealistic statement Jesus made; it was an actual and historical, even prophetic, promise concerning what would happen in the lives of his disciples in multiple ways.
What resulted from this specific formal and informal “sending?” Communities of new disciples. Or, in plain terms, churches. In fact, much of the New Testament is the letters written to the churches planted by the first missionaries. Which is why we believe the end-game of missions (i..e, making disciples of all nations) is church planting. And where do church planters come from? Ideally, from among ourselves.
Today, joyfully embrace God’s passion for his glory among the nations, and humbly submit to his commitment to selecting and sending specific ones from among us to go to other places to continue making disciples of all nations so that churches are planted. This is the heartbeat of a people who are ready to reproduce—a willingness to send whom the Holy Spirit selects.