Recently, we commissioned two cross-cultural missionaries from West Bradenton. They are friends. They are family. We’re sending them to work among a hard people in a hard place. They are the first missionaries appointed to reach this unengaged people group.
It hurts. With God’s mission, we should celebrate the sending, but the leaving hurts. This couple is young—just married. They are faithful—among the best of our church. Most churches would say they are the target, the ideal person to go after and to have in the congregation. Hoarding isn’t sacrificial. Sending is biblical. Following Jesus isn’t easy. He takes you to places where people hate Him.
Sacrifice always hurts. If you give something, if you surrender something, or if you send someone and it doesn’t hurt, then it’s not sacrifice. True sacrifice changes you. When you send the best of your congregation to difficult places in the world, it changes your church. Their leaving creates a void, a hole that must be filled by someone else. It’s a wonderful opportunity for someone else to step up. But what if no one does? Churches that sacrifice introduce uncertainty into the congregation. Remove the platform of comfort in a church and all that’s left is raw faith.
Some pastors get fired because they lead their church to sacrifice. The congregation puts them on the altar. “You’re just not likable enough,” the personnel chairperson explains. Pastors should never give up the cross in exchange for the kingly palm fronds of comfort. The ones that do become the thing they are riding. Sometimes people leave a culture of sacrifice. “I’m just not getting fed,” they mutter politely as they walk away. Why eat manna when you think you deserve filet mignon every Sunday?
The dangerous words of the rich young ruler echo loudly in churches where sending is minimized and hoarding is maximized: “I have kept all these . . .” People in pews can become a pastor’s prized possessions. I get asked “How many are you running?” way more than “How many are you sending?” There are far too many people in this world asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” for churches to count nickels and noses as the end instead of the means.
Recently, we sent two of our best to a difficult place, and it hurts. Several degrees of gospel passion leave with them. Will my church cool off as people like them exit for the sake of Christ’s mission? Probably not, but frankly, I don’t know.
It’s worth ripping up the platform of comfort to find out.
My hope is the Holy Spirit’s fire blazes a trail from our neighborhood to the nations. My hope is that Matthew 24:14 becomes the defining verse of our church culture: This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.