Summoned and Sent

Being back in America I’m still sometimes struck by the size of things. Burgers are huge, grocery stores are filled with every product that could be desired, we have instant and easy internet access to vast world of downloadable and deliverable goods and churches and ministries have buildings the size of large corporations and sometimes operate very similarly.

I recently read an article that talked about a ministry with a 70,000 square foot ministry center, weekly satellite broadcast television, audio/video media, books and booklets and over one hundred videos and DVDs, and hundreds of audio teaching albums series. While I don’t think any of those things are necessarily wrong, I think we’ve taken on an attitude that distances us on a personal level from being the bearers of good news. All of our leaflets and DVD’s and radio broadcasts surely do bring life to many, but they also act as tin cans with string between, passing a vital message through dull channels that dilute and diminish the impact and impartation of life.

I think sometimes instead of messengers of the gospel of peace, we act more like trees who plant their roots in a land of plenty and a place of comfort and then stretch out our branches further and further outward from us beckoning the world to come and partake. In another analogy it makes me think of Bert and Ernie, the Sesame Street characters who go fishing and Ernie catches fish by shouting for them to jump into the boat. In many ways it seems like we’re afraid to make it personal and in order “cast our net wider” we largely resort to methods that allow us to send out disconnected and un-contextualized messages of hope to whoever might be able to catch on to them.

Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” This verse identifies a key issue in our approach to “bringing” God’s life to the world. The problem is our arms (or voices) don’t reach that far. We build a base and think that the bigger and wider and deeper it is, the more we can impact the world. Our big buildings and land-locked ministries are weights that keep us grounded and unable to fly. In the book of Romans Paul expounds on the verse in Isaiah by saying, “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!””

Jesus sent us out. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). To reach the world we must go out into the world. Sheep among wolves are in danger. There is risk and peril involved.

Another interesting note is that Jesus never created a home base. He never planted himself where the resources were so that he could gather them and distribute them to those in need. “The son of man has no place to lay his head.” He traveled and brought endless spiritual resources to places of utmost poverty, and each of those places of poverty became like an oasis in the desert.

Mass media and American prosperity have brought about many significant advances in our ability to spread the gospel and communicate with each other, but we’ve become so intrigued by the possibilities that we have neglected the human connection. There’s no way around the nitty gritty, leg-work that must be done by individual humans. We can’t take the easy way and throw videos and websites and radio programs out and hope they’ll get caught. Jesus was God in the flesh. God with skin on. Are we giving people God digitized? And if so is that remotely effective or personal? The very good news of the gospel is that God made it personal enough to him to go himself and make himself like those who were suffering. Will we make it personal to us? Will we make ourselves like those who are suffering? Even if they’re prostitutes? Even if they’re gay? Even if they live too far away to be reached by a radio program or brochure?

Here I am! Send me!