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FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME - used 5 times - , , , )
, this parrallels the usage here in 3 John.
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I want to tell you in all sincerity, that my goal this morning is to give you a gift. The desire and prayer that has been forming in my heart over the last few months as I have prepared for this time is to pass on to you a gift that was given to me.
I received the gift I am talking about when I read four little pages at the back of very important book. The book is the Missions Classic, “Let the Nations Be Glad” by John Piper. I hope everyone here will read it. The four little pages at the back are by John Piper’s longtime co-Pastor and a current Dean of the Bethlehem College and Seminary, Tom Stellar. Stellar’s little four page chapter is called, “The Supremacy of God in Going and Sending.”
The gift this little chapter gave to me was a vision for sending international missionaries in a “manner worthy of God.” I don’t remember if I read this little chapter just before or just after I became a local Church Pastor, but as far as I can remember the vision of these four little pages to form a local Church that would send international missionaries in a manner worthy of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit has been with for my entire local church ministry.
To my mind the gift of having a vision for sending missionaries in a “manner worthy of God” is the gift that keeps on giving. Sending missionaries in a “manner worthy of God” has given my life a God given sense of significance. What could be more significant that having the priviledge of sending and sustaining the army of Lamb who are out win all of the people from every tribe, and every tongue, and every nation that the Lamb has bought with his own blood. A vision for sending missionaries in a “manner worthy of God” has connected me to some of the most exemplary people I have ever had the chance to meet in my life. There’s Matt who recently asked an Imam if he could teach the Bible without apology through the Mosque and after we prayed the Mosque said ‘yes’. There’s Andy whose convictional plodding transformed an oversees Church with corrupt leadership to one with a healthy plurality of godly indigenous Elders. There’s Lisa whose evangelistic gifts and cultural wisdom dance through the streets of one of the most lost nations on earth. I would not have known these people unless I had been given a vision for sending in a “manner worthy of God”. Sometimes I walk down the hallways at Immanuel and I hear the sounds of our missionaries over skype talking to our staff and I think I would not know these people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, unless I had read those 4 pages. Not only has a vision for sending in a manner worthy of God given me the joy of significant work, and the joy of gospel friendships, but it has also allowed me to taste more of the joy of answered prayer. I remember sitting in a meeting with two other Pastors. We all saw that our missionaries needed more care, but we were frustrated that none of us had the time to do it. We were frustrated, almost mad at eachother, and then we decided we better pray that God would provide for the missionaries we believed he had called us to care for in a manner worthy of God. Later that day, after our frustrated prayer, a man stepped forward and said he would like to donate enough money so we could hire a missions Pastor to help us to care for those we had tried to send out in a manner worthy of God.
Stellars 4 pages are based on 4 verses from the shortest book in the Bible, the book of 3rd John. In those 4 verses John commends a Church Leader named Gaius for the care he has given to gospel preachers. He not only commends Gaius for His care in the past, but he calls him to care that is worthy of God in the future. John’s 4 verses to Gaius could be applied to to itinerant preachers we send out as local Churches, they could be applied to Church Planters we send out as local Churches, and they could certainly be applied to international missionaries we send out as a local Church. In our ministry we try to apply these words to all three groups, but this morning, remembering that you can never say anything, I want to apply this passage to International Missionaries. If someone wants to come up to me after this sermon and say, “You should have brought this or that emphasis out of the text, I’ll just remind you of the words that that late Elder DJ Ward said from this pulpit, ‘Brother, when you preach the text you can bring out that emphasis.” Anyway, there is so much we could say but I want to limit my applications to sending and supporting relationship of the local Church with the International Missionary.
Let me begin with 5 simple observations from the text.
Local Church Faithfulness Includes “Many Efforts” for the good of gospel missionaries. Of course you can see that in the text. It is the central thing that the Apostle John is commending in this Church Leader Gaius. He says in verse 5, “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are.” Gaius had received itinerant preachers from John. He had cared for them. Of course he knew these men were faithful since they had come from John but he did not know them personally, they were strangers in that sense. None the less he exerted many efforts towards them. Undoubtedly he provided them with a place to stay, food to eat, perhaps money for their journey home. We can imagine sheets were changed, a market was visited, maybe a kid gave up their room, a trip to the bank was made, the spiritual gift of hospitality was prayed for and exercised. And we notice he did not do one thing, but he did many efforts for these laborers in global Christ’s field. This the Apostle John calls these many acts faithful. Faithful New Testament leadership is more than just preaching, praying, appointing Elders, and discipling the saints, it includes a commitment to the care of those who have been sent out. Throughout the NT we see those sent out being cared for. The Phillipians sent money to Paul. Timothy transported Paul’s cloak and his parchments. Just like the women in supported our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully out of their own means, it is a mark of NT faithfulness to support those sent out to advance the gospel of Christ. Let us beware of any definition of faithfulness that stops at the walls of our local Church, NT faithfulness calls us to care for those who have gone out beyond our four walls, we are called to “many efforts” on their behalf.
New Testament Church Life Included A Pattern Of Hearing Missionary Testimonies. Not only were these missionaries treated well, they were given an opportunity to talk about it in front of the whole Church. Notice that they “testified to” Gaius’ “love before the Church.” The whole Church that John Pastored heard about the love of this sending and supporting Church and they heard it from the missionaries who had been sent and supported. It was a common NT practice for travelling preachers to get to speak to the local assemblies. They would tell the churches what they had seen the Lord do. In when Paul and Barnabas were sent “on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenecia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.” Notice they did not bring great joy to the brothers by preaching the Word (though I am sure they did that too), but notice the joy came from hearing about the advance of the Word, the conversion of Gentiles, this testimony became a source of great joy in Phoenecia and Samaria because they got to hear detailed conversion stories. It is amazing how theology is never dry when it is fleshed out in biography. When theology becomes testimony it has a unique power to bring joy to Christian souls. We all John had no greater joy than to hear that his children were walking in the truth, well joy is meant to be shared with entire congregations as they get to hear the testimony of gospel missionaries. Again, New Testament Church Life included a pattern of hearing Missionary Testimonies.
There is a right way and a wrong way to send gospel missionaries. Notice that John calls
Gaius to send these brothers out in a manner worthy of God. Perhaps we should say there is a worthy way and an unworthy way to send out gospel missionaries. This word worthy is not talking about Gaius being worthy of God, it is not speaking of being good enough for God. He is talking about something very different. The most potent way I know to express this word worthy comes from another time it is used in the book of Ephesians. The word, significantly, is used at the mid point of the book of Ephesians. Paul has just described the might work of God for the Ephesians, what he has done for them in calling them to Salvation, how he chose them, and redeemed them, and sealed them, and illumines them, and raised them from the dead to be the very temple of God and now he says in chapter 4, “Walk worthy of that” Walk with equal weight to what I have already given to you. I have died for you husbands so love your wives in a way worthy of that. You get the idea, to walk worthy means to live a life of equal weight to all that has been done for us by our GodF, and here John says, “send missionaries out” in a way that is worthy of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This does not mean Missionaries always have to stay at a five star hotel, they can stay in the kinds of homes and hotel rooms the Bethlehem born Lord Jesus stayed in but them be cared for that acknowledges them to be ambassadors of the Savior of the World. The right way to send missionaries is to send them in a way that is worthy of God himself!
4. Faithful congregations will only be eager to support a particular kind of gospel missionary.
A reason is given for why these missionaries are supposed to be supported, two reasons actually. First, they went out for the sake of the name and second, they accepted nothing from the Gentiles. To go out for the sake of the name means to go out to make Christ known. You are not trying to get a missionary biography written about you, you are trying to write Christ onto thousands of hearts. You are not, like John Wesley, “Going out to see the heahen saved, when you yourself need to be saved.” You are not going out as work which will earn you a place in heaven. You are going out because there is one name under heaven by which men can be saved. You are going on for the sake of the name by which there is forgiveness of sins, and the name that is above every other name. And finally, you are not going out to get money. Now, many would think if you are trying to get money why would you be a missionary. Well its true that there have not many in the history of the world have become millionaires by becoming missionaries, but being a missionary can be a place where lazy men collect a steady check or regular love offerings. The mission field, like the Pastorate can be a phenomenal place for lazy men to hide. They are always strategizing, always finding the soil hard, always fund raising. The kinds of men that Gaius was called to support were not simply willing men, certainly not just breathing men in warm bodies, but they were men of a central gospel passion and willingness to embrace gospel sacrifice. They were a particular kind of man.
Third Culture Kids/ They go out for glory (BM)
5. Faithful gospel missionaries and faithful local congregations enjoy a sweet spiritual fellowship in gospel work. Notice that John lays down a command, a duty if one can still use that word. They ought to support that kind of man. Not all kinds of men are to be supported but there is a duty to support a certain kind of man, one who goes out for the name and who is not in it for gentile money is definitely someone who should be supported. When a congregation or a member of a congregation supports this kind of men, then they are involved in what John calls ‘koinonia’. Or as our text translates it, they are ‘fellow workers’. Or as the CSB puts it, coworkers. Of course we are not secular co-workers, just two autonomous people walking hand in hand. No, we are spiritual co-workers, people in whom the Spirit of God dwells walking lockstep, hand in hand, arm in arm with others who have the same Spirit. When a congregation helps a missionary they are all under one father, following one Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In short there bond is not merely organizational, but it is organic, or better it is spiritual, sustained and nourished by the Spirit of the Living God who binds their hearts, minds, time and wallets, in a common cause.
Those are my five simple observations from the text. Now if I could I would like to share 4 common experiences from the field of gospel missions. Now, someone might say, how can you a local Church Pastor in the United States of America tell us about the experiences on the field of gospel missions. I’ll give you two reasons real quick. 1. I can’t, so I emailed all of our people at Immanuel who are on the field, studying the field, or heading to the field and asked them what they thought about how my observations from 1 John applied to what they had seen on the field. I got back dozens of emails that inform what I am about to say about, 5 common experiences from the field of gospel missions. 2. I have been a co-worker with many of these dear saints for over 15 years.
It is not uncommon for local Churches to exert little to no efforts to support gospel missionaries. I was in Indonesia a few years ago and I remember talking to one lonely missionary whose Church barely had any contact with him. I spoke to a sister who spent a year in India as a single woman and her sending Church had almost no contact with her. The breakdown in communication between a sending Churches care and their missionary can be gradual. One brother who grew up in Papua was part of a sending Church that was really involved in their first term, less involved in their second, and in their third they barely even heard from them (AW). More than one missionary I heard from reported that this lack of care from a sending Church can result in a distorted view of the Church and consequently missionaries who want to see converts but who do not understand the power and the glory produced in local congregations (BM).
We’ve been guilty of this too…
It is not uncommon for local Churches to exert little to no time towards hearing the testimony of gospel missionaries. Of course when Churches forget about missionaries it unlikely that they will them welcome them back to teach or preach, to share what God has done. On top of that many missionaries have a list of things they feel they cannot say when they return to their home fellowships. They cannot always talk about how ordinary their lives are, how hard their lives are, about the demonic activity happening upstairs in their home that resulted in them finding their child upstair in bed choking like there was someone with their hands around their neck.
It is not uncommon for local Churches to send out men and women who are unworthy of the being gospel missionaries. I am not quibbling about Churches sending out new believers on short term trips, or growing believers to play support roles on missionary teams. What I am talking about is sending out lead gospel missionaries who do not have the character to thrive in their local Church at home let alone lead a group of new Muslim converts to maturity. I am talking about sending those who cannot teach the name, cannot teach the doctrines of the faith to go lead movements oversees. Many Churches will send anyone who is willing to go, but the calling of a gospel missionary is much higher than willingness. There is a heart burning for the name, there is a character able to resist money. If we take Paul and Barnabas as examples there is an ability to teach that must be required. A vision for being a wise master builder of the Church that must be expected and many Churches send out those they would never have preach on Sunday mornings to reach the lost of Sumatra and Sudan. These things ought not to be so!
It is not uncommon for many Churches to miss out on the spiritual fellowship they were meant to enjoy. One of the great joys of the Christian life is the joy of fellowship. In fellowship we share in the joy we have in our relationship with Christ with eachother. As we believe the truth of God’s word we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ and when we partner with each other in his mission then we experience what it means to pray ‘Our Father’ we become co-laborers with Him. But when Churches do not select those whose heart burn for the name to support and then those are sent out are not supported with zeal in a manner worthy of God, then their partnership becomes merely organizational, merely structural, it is like a cut flower, they might echange a little bit of money to keep the other person in another country but there is no warmth no love, no fellowship with all the richness that implies.
What a tragedy that so many Churches exert so little effort, hear so few glorious testimonies, send such unworthy missionaries, and taste so little deep fellowship in the mission of God which the Holy Spirit is a partner with us in. I believe God wants to do more in our midst. The President of our missions board has trumpeted a vision for local Churches leading the charge of local missions, and these 4 verses say Amen, my heart says Amen, and I have three aspirations for the future I want to share with you.
1. I long to see Churches that exert many efforts to send in a manner worthy of God. As I look out in front of me I see a great army of future Pastors, future counselors, future deacons, future Oaks of Righteousness in the local Church, I see future worship leaders and I long to see this army rise up with many efforts to send and support the army of God on the foreign field. You may be here with no official title, no position, but you can get a skype account and you can talk to the missionaries your Church has sent out. You may say, the missionaries our Church has sent out are strangers to me, well pick up the phone and give those strangers a call. Soon they will be brothers and sisters you have wept with and laughed with. Anyone here can be the one who goes to every prayer meeting, and says, ‘let’s not forget the missionary’. You can email your missionaries and ask them, “how can we pray for you tonight.” Many missionaries have become so self reliant they wont respond, but keep emailing. Email them and then pray for them, and then tell them you prayed for them, and then ask them how God and answered then go back and tell the prayer meeting you are apart of how God answered prayer. Some of you have the spiritual gift of care packages, send them off, send them often, tell them they are not forgotten. Send them their favorite food, we had one missionary whose favorite pop was Dr. Pepper we tried to make sure they got some every time we visited. Send those gifted in counselling to be with them, just to listen, when they tell you their marriage is strained quit don’t freak out on them and make them feel like their going to get kicked off the field, unless there is something scandalous. Weep with them, these soldiers have been navigating culture, learning new language, raising kids, missing home, and being humbled everytime they open their mouth. Most of us just feel bad at communicating with our spouses, first term missionaries feel bad at communicating with everyone. Send preachers over to equip the nationals they are working with, but then spend time with them speaking God’s word to them in their heart language even as they sacrifice to speak someone else’s heart language. And send your knowledge. I love how much this seminary sends out professors to the nations, may I encourage you to go more and more. Let us not talk about how missionaries in the olden days were sustained without all this help. Well that is half true, it also true that they often almost lost their minds. We should realize that planes and international travel have come on the scene of human history for the completion of the Great Commission and we should use them to spur our brethren on. Oh may God move us towards many efforts of love towards those we would send in a manner worthy of God.
2. I long to see Churches send out men with a passion for the name who are not in it for the money. Even with all the efforts we can put into missionaries and sending them in a manner worthy of God, it is still a brutal calling. It will kill you, or at least call you to die everyday. It is vital that we send our best, many if not most missionaries never make it past their first term, it is vital that we send our strongest trees that they will not easily be cut down. We see in this passage that not all men were to be supported. Only those whose concern was for the name, and whose heart was not in it for the money. We see in that the Holy Spirit selected the Churches best to go out for the sake of the name. Our own fellowship has resolved not to send someone to be a missionary team leader unless we would allow them to serve as an Elder at home. If we would not call them as a Pastor we will not send them as a missionary. We assess their lives verse by verse through . We send them Don Whitney’s 60 questions to ask a prospective Pastor, we send them questions to discern if they understand the dynamics on the mission field, the kinds of contextualization they will face. We do all this and then our congregation votes to send or not to send. The goal in it all is to send our best, we want to send people we would gladly call our people to follow. We want to send those we ought to support. What would happen if instead of sending as many missionaries as we could, we sent the best missionaries we could, and what would happen if we sent as many of the best missionaries as we could.
Many who come home are not to blame!
3 I long to see Churches experience something more than denominational ties with their missionaries. I long to see them experience real Spiritual Fellowship, co-laboring in the Spirit of God. Testimonies!
Jesus died so we could walk with Him, so we could know Him, so we could have fellowship with Him. He did not die so we could simply be in the same organization as he is in. He wants to know us as Shepherd, friend, Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. He does not simply want us to work in the same building as he does, he wants us to know him. And when we work together it is more than denominational affiliation he is after, it is more than organizational unity. What he wants for us is fellowship, working together in the power of the Spirit, in the character of the Son, to the glory of the Father. That is His desire for us. In order for that to happen two ingredients must be in place, the right kind of missionary and the right kind of Church. The Church must be fixed on Christ and eager to send in a manner worthy of the gospel. The missionary must be fixed on Christ and eager to advance the cause of the name. Such Churches and such missionaries experience a true working together, a true fellowship. I love the story of J.O Fraser. Fraser came after Hudson Taylor and was a missionary to the Lisu people of China. He labored among them and saw little fruit, and what fruit he saw failed, he recognized increasingly his need for prayer, so he wrote to his mother who had a little prayer meeting for him back in England. He said, “I want you to know that I am rolling the burden of prayer entirely onto you, it will be your burden to carry in this work.” Imagine if they had said, “forget that”, but they did not do that, they prayed, and Frasier witnesses to the Lisu and thousands were saved and they became a missionary force to other people groups in China. Our work is connected. We have a woman who was having a deep struggle oversees she was really having a hard time in a war torn country but she was being sustained. 3 days
Exhort the young men! Examine yourself! How would you assess a single women!
Presentation of the culture - preach! Preach Romans!!
You meet with 2-3 not 8-9, you meet with
The gift I am giving is fellowship with Christ, sharing in his sufferings, and rejoicing in his victories.
your academic knowledge will be used. There is room for scholars on the field!!
When this spiritual fellowship is restored the money will flow!!
TESTIMONY IS THE SOIL OF THE MISSION FIELD!!
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