Title: Follow Me – A Commissioning Service
Text: Acts 13.1-12
Introduction: Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re at T-minus and counting! There is excitement in the air. I’m pumped. If you’re not, we need to pray for you. This small congregation has surrendered itself to the Lord in the area of missions and God is doing mighty things! What, you say? Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about? Let ‘splain!
In Early August of 2011, I saw that the Executive Director of the SBTC was planning on issuing a challenge to Texas Baptist. Here’s what the Article read: Grapevine, August 9, 2011.
GRAPEVINE: The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention granted $1 million from reserve funds to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and encouraged churches in Texas to “embrace” 1,000 of the 3,800 unengaged people groups identified by Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board.
With over half of the world’s 7 billion people having little or no access to the gospel and the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups having no one telling them about Jesus, the IMB encourages local churches to begin with church-wide focused prayer.
This challenge would be for churches in Texas to embrace 1000 UUPG: Unreached, Unengaged People Groups. I had no idea what this was. So I had to do a little research. I called the convention headquarters in Dallas and ask them what this challenge was all about. I found it interesting that the folks there new very little of what the challenge was going to be. They could only tell me that we would hear more about this in the coming days.
Here’s what I eventually found out: A UUPG is an unreached, unengaged people group. There were at that time over 3800 UUPG’s in the world. The Classification of a PG or A people group: is a group of people bound together by a common Language and culture. What makes them common is that the gospel can move within this group unhindered. However, when the gospel encounters boundaries and barriers that hinder its transmission – then evangelism stops. The people within the boundaries would be called a people group. Now, when less than 2% of a population within a specific people group are Christians, then they are considered unreached. As of yesterday, according to the Joshua Project, there are 6564 unreached people groups. They may have churches, pastors, missionaries, Bible studies–but there is less than 2% of that population is considered Christian–then these people are unreached.
A population is considered unengaged when within that people group there is no pastor, there are no churches, there is no Bible study, they have no missionaries working among them. So A UUPG is a people group that has no missionaries – no Bible studies – no pastor and less than 2% of the population is considered Christian. The latest number I could find on Unreached, Unengaged People Groups is that the # has dropped over the last 4 years from 3800 UUPG’s to 1,568 people groups.
Well, a presentation was made to the church–and it appeared to me that the church embraced this challenge. We set our sights on keeping this before the Lord in prayer. Where would he have us go? Who would he have us Focus on? We began by looking at three areas of the world where our current missionaries were serving: Africa, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. One by one we were able too narrow the field down to a focus on East Asia. Then, we looked at three UUPG’s located near some missionaries we know. After nearly a year of prayer, we found our people.
In October 2013 we sent a vision team to look for this UUPG. It was a long journey, but very rewarding. After three days of travel as we pulled into a local village in the mountains, we saw with our own eyes the people you are looking at in pictures on the screen.
This vision team came back and reported to the church that it just isn’t practical to send teams each year. What we need is “boots on the ground” there, to coordinate our efforts – to be there to receive our people on short-term mission trips. Let me show you something cool.
What you are looking at is inside a brochure entitled The Top 31 UUPG’s ***** ***** *****. Go down a few pages to our UUPG. That picture and that information is accurate with what we found and saw.
Today that brochure becomes inaccurate! Because, listed in this group is our people. The people group we’ve chosen. Today we are going to commission two of our very own people to go as missionaries to this UUPG. Indeed, they are no longer called an un-reached, Unengaged people group. Today they’ve become a UPG – simply an unreached people group. And with the blessing and favor of our God, in the coming months and years, we will remove that final U. They’ll simply become another People Group of the world.
Transition: And this brings me to why we’re here today – to commission this couple that we’ve asked to serve on the mission field to help us engage and reach our UUPG. Let’s open our Bibles to Acts and take a look at what a commission service is all about.
In Acts 13, we see a church being successful – we see a church doing and being what a church is supposed to be doing and being. We see it from the inside and we see it from the outside. How do I know it was successful? How can that be measured?
We find these people were so Christ-like in their deportment that the community around them called them Christians, or Little Christs. I’m sure they heard: they’re just like their Lord.
Then, in our passage, we see them doing the work that a church has been called to do.
Observe the church at Antioch. You’ll find two areas of work:
- The Work of the Church in obedience to the Great Commission.
- The Work of the Holy Spirit in light of the Great Commission.
Transition: Let’s look first at the Work of the Church. Allow me to put it in the form of a question:
What precedes going on mission?
- The Work of the Church in obedience to the Great Commission.
Let’s look at their Spiritual Leadership: rd v. 1; note: names; Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, Saul (Paul); What are they doing? We find 4 actions on the part of the Leadership: Worshipping & Fasting, then, Laying on of hands and sending them out.
- Worshipping – there are 4 words in the NT translated worship
- προσκυνέω: to kiss the hand; meaning to bow;
- σέβω: this deals more with attitude toward someone; As in to ‘revere’ someone or something; This is something that happens to me when I hear a testimony. I’m moved inside, at the greatness and kindness of God. He amazes me.
- θρῆσκος: Thray-skos; It’s like three in spanish w/ kos on the end; Col 2.18; every other time this word is used, it is translated It has the connatation of ceremonies;
- λατρεύω: Eng.: liturgy or liturgical; it mean service and is used to describe the work of the priest in the Temple. In other words, worship is an action – it’s not passive. I could lead you in a responsive reading time. Give thanks to the Lord our God and King. His love endures forever. For he is good he is above all things. His love endures forever. This is the word being used here. These men were leading their congregation to Worship the Lord.
app.: we often think of worship in the 1st two manners: bowing, reverence; but we don’t think of our worship in terms of our service. These leaders were worshipping the Lord in their service to him; Cont. reading v 2-3;
- Fasting & Prayer: I have asked the elders to join with me in fasting and praying for you today. I think most people consider our work to be done in the office or in meetings and in planning things, etc. Acts 6.1-4: 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This should be our priority.
- According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and Hebrew Bible, the word ‘prayer’ in Acts 6 can also be translated ‘worship’. It is a picture of someone bowing on their face before God and offering supplication. That same word is used in our passage in v 3;
- Ministry of the Word is preaching and teaching. Paul warns Timothy time and again to keep a close eye on his doctrine, making sure his preaching and teaching is sound and healthy.
I have two reason for placing an emphasis on this today.
- It is a reminder to the church of what the elders are called to do.
- It is a lesson of what you’ll be doing.
exp.: your basic function is to serve as a church planter – the Bible calls this an Apostle. We’re commissioning you today to go to our UUPG and ultimately, plant a church. Our hopes and dreams are that you’ll share the gospel; people will be saved under the gospel; they will be discipled under the gospel and they’ll be obedient to the gospel and serve faithfully the gospel; leading many to Christ. Wah-Lah, that’s a church! You’re doing the work of Paul. You’re being sent out to plant churches in the midst of our UUPG. And on the Great Day as we’re gathered around the throne, we will see members of our UUPG there next to us worshipping God. Many of them your friends – people you’ve prayed with and taught.
Look back at v3; here’s a third action
- Laying on of hands: BTW: this is a participle also. Lit.: fasting and praying and laying their hands on them. According to Hebrews 6.2, this was an elementary doctrine in the early church; it basically conveys the idea of blessing and commission. It was seen in Scripture when Jesus was healing people and when people were receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul experienced both when Ananias laid his hands on Paul – his sight returned and he was saved. Not only that, but he received his commission at the same moment. He was told he would be Christ’s witness to the Gentiles and kings and to the children of Israel.
Transition: Leadership is seen in their worship, or service, their fasting and prayer, their laying on of hands and then sending them off.
- They sent them off. Breaking this down grammatically, this is the verb. The work this leadership group did was they sent them off on a mission. They way they did this is described in their worshipping and praying and laying on of hands. The word here in the Gk isn’t your typical word for sent them on their way. You see that in v 4. The Holy Spirit is actually doing the sending in this passage. The literal translation, the literal wording for what they did is they released them or they set them free.
App.: Mom and Dad, in your position as leaders, this is what you’re supposed to do: set them free. Like doves in your hands, throw them up to the Lord and let Him send them.
– Now, we’ve seen the work of the church, mainly through the leadership at Antioch. I’m sure others were there participating, worship, praying. But now, I want to focus in on the most important part of what is being done. And in doing so, I’m going to turn my attention to this young couple. I’ve asked the question: What precedes going? The answer is the work of the church through its leadership. 2nd, question…
What involves going? The Work of the Holy Spirit in light of your calling. You experienced this in His calling you to this service. In this section I’ve outline three actions on the part of the Holy Spirit. Rd v 2; #1…
- The Holy Spirit Calls – here’s a tip: Don’t go if you’re not called. Because if you do, you’ll go alone. (Those who went up to Ai in Joshua ) v. 2
- The Calling is the only thing that sustains you when:
- The Journey is long; v. 6; 1st they traveled by boat. Then they crossed the whole island (which is 100 miles long and some 60 miles wide).
- Facing opposition v. 8; you’re headed to a place you’re not wanted by some people; You’re sure to face opposition. Without the Holy Spirit’s call, you won’t make it.
- The Calling is the only thing that sustains you when:
- Some will abandon you; v. 13; you know the story… this damaged the relationship John Mark had with Paul for many years.
Ill.: My prayer chair: I’ve have felt the struggle of those who hate me even from within the church. I’ve been asked to consider leaving: You sing well, you lead worship well and you’re a great preacher, so why don’t you grab your guitar and hit the road. The funny part of that story is that woman became one of my biggest supporters and loved me like a mom loves her son. At the end of my ministry there I would drive out to her house and drink coffee with her, while watching the sun come up.
App.: at those times, when people abandon you, when they insult you – even from within the church – you’ve got to go back to your call. I suggest you get a prayer chair – or something that takes you back to that calling. When you feel unsuccessful, that’s ok – you weren’t called to be ‘successful’ – go back to your calling. I could go on and on; however, let’s move on… #2
- The Holy Spirit Commissions – v. 4; the word here is accurate; whereas the church released them or set them free, here the Holy Spirit does the sending. A couple of notes:
- I think its interesting that they went to Cyprus because that is where Barnabas was from (Acts 4.36). I’m sure he had a desire to see his people saved. He was also familiar with the Island and the people.
I’m glad you served here first. Your ministries at Calvary and the ***** ***** has demonstrated your passion for ministry. Many people just want to go, but don’t serve where they are first.
- Sent w/ a mission; a task to do on behalf of the Holy Spirit. This is vitally important: you cannot go where the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead; you must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Acts 16.6-10
He will protect you. He will open doors for you. He will close doors for you. He will go before you. This is a 3rd time we see the Holy Spirit in this passage; look at verse 9
- The Holy Spirit Empowers – v. 9; understand that your work, what you do – must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Look at a couple of different areas:
- For Preaching – v. 5; proclaiming the Word of God – taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these lost people. You need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. No matter how smart you are, no matter how eloquent you become in their language, no matter how gifted and talented – if the Holy Spirit doesn’t empower you then you’re just bring them your best dog and pony show. You might as well take your unicycle and bowling pins to juggle. But, if the Holy Spirit of God empowers you, then the powers of darkness will be defeated.
- For Teaching – v. 12; people will get saved as you teach in the power of the Holy Spirit. You must pray that God will take your limited human teaching and exalt it to a place that can be used by you. Don’t worry so much about being creative. Do worry so much about being witty and cute. Concern yourself with the written word of God.
- 1 Timothy 3.16 – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
- Once you’ve led some people to Christ, they must be discipled. Dallas Willard, author of the Divine Conspiracy and Hearing God has said that success in ministry is having a vital relationship with God and the capacity to pass it on to others. That capacity comes from the Holy Spirit.
Church – give me your attention for a moment. Pay careful attention to what I’m about to declare, because I’m going to ask you to affirm it with your voices and with your bodies when I’m done.
Commissioning Service for Our missionaries
Minister: Beloved, today we recognize the ministries of this couple and consecrate them to a special task in the service of Jesus Christ. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit shall abide; so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
Missionaries, please stand.
Minister: In humble reliance upon divine grace, do you make it the supreme purpose of your lives to give of yourselves unreservedly over the course of the next two years to the work of Christ in your appointed field among this People Group?
Missionaries: We do.
Minister: Missionaries, in the name of this congregation, Calvary Baptist Church of Tyler, TX, I commend you to this work and pledge to you our prayers, our encouragement, and our support. May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you, that in this and in all things you may do God’s will in the service of Jesus Christ.
****Bring up two chairs: have the couple stand and face the congregation.****
Minister: Beloved, I commend to you this couple whom we this day have commissioned to be God’s servants as a part of the continual sharing of Christ’s great commission on Earth. If you agree with what I’ve said – if you promise to regularly pray for this couple, to encourage through letters, emails, gifts at times of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, to continue to support them through giving and even going to be with them when possible – will you signify your pledge by standing to your feet.
Missionaries, Look at that support for you.
Church, you may be seated.
Minister: Prayer of commissioning (Elders, other missionaries, the church)
**the names and the places and the people of our UUPG has been removed for security reasons.**