This is part 6 of a 7-part series.
Missions is my passion and I enjoy writing, teaching, and preaching about it. It is my burden to see that God’s people “exercise a missionary mentality” because as J. Herbert Kane put it, to do otherwise is “to negate the Faith and commit treason to the confidence which Christ has placed in His Church.”
So, I have dedicated a 7 part series of blogs to examine what Acts 13:1-4 can teach us about being “missions-minded.” I pray that you are challenged and blessed, as I am, from this examination of God’s Word.
We have already seen that “A Missions-minded Church”:
Part 1 – Is A LOCAL CHURCH
Part 2 – TEACHES AND PREACHES THE BIBLE
Part 3 – Has INTERCULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Part 4 – Is BUSY IN THE MINISTRY
Part 5 – Is A PRAYING CHURCH
Today’s I want to explore the truth that “A Missions-minded Church is…
Sensitive to the Holy Spirit
“…the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them...” (Acts 13:3)
As we talk about the Holy Spirit, we need to recognize that there are several potential problems which can arise.
First of all, sometimes we forget the main work of the Holy Spirit in this Church Age.
Christ said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:13-14) The Holy Spirit’s main work today is to speak of, and glorify Christ and to show us things to come. The Holy Spirit speaking and guiding in missions is a natural extension of His work in this present age. As J. Herbert Kane points out, “The missionary story is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and is a vital part of God’s redemptive plan and purpose.”
However, there some problems we run into when we talk about the Holy Spirit. Some of our friends have made a too big of a deal of Him. They constantly talk about Him and emphasize His works. They glorify the Holy Spirit. But He does not glorify Himself, He points us to Christ! This is the work of missions!
However, before we criticize those friends, we need to realize that many times we often go to the other extreme and almost ignore the Holy Spirit and His work. But Acts 13 and other passages of Scripture make it abundantly clear that missions (or any type of ministry, for that matter) is dependent on the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit. We must learn to listen to Him!
But are we listening? There is also a potential problem when it comes to our ability to receive what He is saying. As one preacher put it:
1. Some churches are so dead that they couldn’t hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if He did talk to them.
2. Some churches are so worldly that they wouldn’t recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit if He did talk to them.
3. Some churches are so wrapped up in man’s plans (Seeker Sensitive, Market Driven, Purpose Driven, etc.) that they refuse to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.
I don’t know about you or your church, but this serves as a warning to me. If the Holy Spirit is not guiding and empowering my missionary endeavor, I have to ask myself if I am dead, worldly, or too focused on my plans to listen to Him.
The last problem is that the Holy Spirit does not talk today in an audible voice, like He may very well have done in Acts 13. So we must answer the question, “How does the Holy Spirit speak to us today?” Scripture gives us four answers:
1. Through the Word of God.
Remember the Holy Spirit is the Divine Author of Scripture. (2 Peter 1:20). He always leads by His Word and He would NEVER lead us contrary to His Word. So as we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and enabling, we must first search the Word of God. That includes personal devotional time, as well as paying strict attention its preaching and teaching.
Jim Elliot said, “Why do you need a ‘voice’ when you already have a verse?”
2. Through Leadership. (Hebrews 6:12, 13:7, 17)
There is never a time in a Christian’s life when he/she is not under the leadership of someone else. God’s Spirit gifts and places certain men in leadership positions in order to shepherd us. You might even say that these men are not only gifted by the Spirit, but are the Spirit’s gift to the Church. We must submit to them and recognize that they are part of the Holy Spirit’s way of leading us.
I know in my own life and ministry since 1992, the leadership of the local church has been key in directing me in missions.
3. Through Counsel. (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6)
This is often tied in with leadership, but there may be other mature Christians that we seek for counsel. And in this counsel there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14, 24:6)
Recently, I was planning a missions trip and I came across a State Department warning recommending that I shouldn’t go there. Yes, the government is a God-appointed leader in my life, but this was just a ‘recommendation.’ I sought counsel from several missionaries who live in that area, as well as the board of Adelphos-USA, and the leadership of my church. The overwhelming counsel was to go and so I went. I was perfectly safe and God blessed in a mighty way that can only be attributed to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We need to seek counsel.
4. Through Peace. (Philippians 4:7, Colossians 3:15)
This is not magical or mystical. It is somewhat mysterious, however, because the Bible says that the Peace of God “passeth all understanding.” I can’t define it, because no one can. But you know when you have it.
And how do you get it? R.A. Torrey says, “Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.” Speaking of peace in missionary service, Jim Elliot said, “God is still on His throne, and we are still on His footstool, and there’s only a knees distance between them!” Prayer leads us to the peace of God.
And that fits in with part 5 of our series! And it makes sense – even if He talked to the church in Antioch in an audible voice (possible in that day), He did so after they spent much serious time in prayer! And we still get that “peace of God” which keeps us and guides after we spend much serious time in prayer.
And we must remember this peace is not the absence of conflict in our lives and ministry. If we are marching forward advancing the kingdom, there will be conflict. But this peace is inward, giving us strength and confidence in the work of the Lord even in the midst of the outward conflicts we experience.
In my own ministry, I have seen God lead me by giving His peace first of all to my leaders and counselors and later on to me. I have had the joy of leading and counseling others through the peace God has given me. I have been led by the peace of God that only His Spirit can provide. And I have seen God allow me the privilege of harvesting much fruit for His glory in those times.
And sadly, there have been other times in my life, when I have been so worldly, or so proud and centered on my own plans that I didn’t hear, or refused to hear, the Holy Spirit trying to guide and empower me. And besides the turmoil in my soul, those times are marked by disaster, tragedy, and shame.
Oh, how we – churches and individuals – need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as we move forward in the work of God! As Jim Elliot said, “Always seek peace between your heart and God, but in this world, always be careful to remain ever restless, never satisfied, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.”