Living Sent 2023
written by Neal Thornton, Senior Pastor (May 24, 2023)
Hey, church! How can you leverage your summer this year? I know one way—by taking advantage of a church-wide online study on The Missionary Task! I’ve been looking forward to this study for some time, as we do it again this year. We’re calling it “Living Sent.”
Seeking to live on mission for King Jesus is close to my heart, as I trust it is yours. I’m always eager to learn and apply lessons for a missional lifestyle so I can leverage my life for him. Here’s a question I try to continually ask of myself: How can I live my life to make the greatest kingdom impact possible? Let me encourage you to do the same.
The Missionary Task
For several years now we as a church have been talking about the Missionary Task, outlined by the International Mission Board. You can access a copy of the IMB Foundations material here. (For the Missionary Task, see pp. 73-102). You can access four key monthly pastoral letters of mine here. I have attempted to show that The Missionary Task is not just for missionaries, but also for churches. As I wrote recently to our church, the MT can be used as a frame for ministries, a lens for partnerships, a map for gatherings, but also a pathway or pipeline for making, moving, maturing and multiplying disciples.
Each component represents a core missional competency for the multiplication of the church (e.g., Discipleship – Teaching the Bible). Therefore, churches do well to train their people to be proficient for such work. As missionaries are trained in the elements of the task, so should every Christian be generally equipped to leverage their life on mission as well. The church becomes a body of local missionaries (we can’t miss that point), each equipped with the core competencies of multiplying their life and ministries. We make missionaries out of members.
Rationale for the Summer Study
But knowing the task is not sufficient for life change. The task must be applied. As we know, information + application = transformation. We therefore need some vehicle to apply the task to our life. That’s why for the second summer in a row we’ll launch an intentional, strategic online summer series. Last year we studied components 1 and 2, “Entry” and “Evangelism”, which we dubbed “Building Relationships” and “Sharing the Gospel.”
This summer, beginning May 28, we’ll take another ten-week sabbatical (through July 30) from corporate Sunday night services to dive into the Missionary Task. This year we’ll look at components 3 and 4: “Discipleship” and “Healthy Church Formation.” We’re calling them “Teaching the Bible” and “Serving the Church.” We hope this study helps us become all the more equipped to live on mission wherever the Lord takes you.
Allow me to share a little about the content (and creators) for each week as we prepare for the study.
Part 3: DISCIPLESHIP - Teaching the Bible
Jesus did not command his disciples to push programs or concoct experiences, but to “teach, didaskō (Gk: διδάσκω) them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). The church may have many ministries, but its first ministry is teaching the Bible. For disciples to make disciples, they must first learn to do so with nothing more than a Bible in their hand.
Segue: the topic of “Baptism” was the last week of the former competency, “Evangelism: Sharing Jesus.” Now we begin “Discipleship” with what to do with a freshly baptized believer. They are to show up on Sunday!
Week 1: See You Sunday (May 28) — Jonathan Waggett
Gathering with God’s people is the first fundamental step in Christian discipleship. The church gathers as a community of people to worship God publicly through prayer, song, preaching, ordinances, and fellowship with one another. The Christian life is one lived in community, exposed to God’s Word. That starts on Sunday.
Week 2: Bible 101 (June 4) - Stephanie Womick
Second to the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Bible is the most important asset a disciple has for growth in the Christian life. It is a great privilege to own a Bible, that it may be read, studied and applied to all of life. New believers need a healthy introduction to the nature and story of Scripture to begin their Christian life with success.
Week 3: Study the Text (June 11) - Sterling Tharrington
Whether it's while listening to a Sunday sermon or participating in group Bible study, Christians must learn how to handle their Bible for themselves. Such an effort begins with a simple understanding of interpretative principles for every passage. One gains great confidence in the faith when the Bible comes alive in personal study.
Week 4: Transformed by Truth (June 18) - Haley King
Bible study is not an end, but a means. We study our Bibles that we might be transformed. Truth applied and thus obeyed will always lead to a changed life. To be sure, Jesus noted three proofs of genuine discipleship: Obedience to his teachings (Jn. 8:31), love for fellow believers (Jn. 13:35), and the bearing of spiritual fruit (Jn. 15:8). As we learn to study our Bible, let’s be sure we see signs of growth.
Week 5: Membership Matters (June 25) - Neal Thornton
Christians need a healthy church. Their Bible cannot be obeyed without it. As they are commanded to be baptized, they are also to study and submit to Scripture within a covenant community of other believers. As they will discover, the church is not only the primary means through which the Christian life is lived, it is the only means by which one can have their confession and conduct validated as being in accordance with biblical Christianity. We are to help people assimilate into the body of Christ.
Part 4: HEALTHY CHURCH FORMATION - Serving the Church
Having studied and applied the first three components, we now pursue component four as we do what I like to call “making the turn.” (See graphic) Missionally speaking, it is at this point that a group of disciples begin to form into a church. That first takes place when a disciple begins to recognize that he or she has a ministry. In short, the disciple is not merely growing but giving. The investment made in them is now beginning to bear fruit and build up the church.
But for churches like ours, who have already formed and are thinking about missional competencies for their own people, we need to double down on the gift sets of every individual Christian. Each one of us brings something to the table as our own personal contribution to a healthy church. To know and leverage your ministry will not only build up the church, but serve as a means of multiplication.
Week 6: Observing the Lord’s Supper (July 2) - Jimmy Newkirk
The ordinances remind us that we are a part of a spiritual community. In baptism, we signify our new life in Christ with a single act of obedience, whereas with communion, each Christian sees himself a part of a greater whole as they signal to the world and to one another their identity with Christ. Once baptized, it is through communion that the Christian is truly assimilated into the church and ready to serve. (1 Cor. 12)
Week 7: What Is a Healthy Church? (July 9) - Jesse Danner
The IMB has identified twelve characteristics describing healthy, sustainable churches. Think of these marks as twelve discipleship diagnostics. Healthy Christians make for healthy churches. And we note: healthy churches grow, and growing churches multiply. Thus, disciples should seek to cultivate each of these marks in their own lives. Try this humbling thought: How healthy would my church be if everyone was me? Thus, we must define “church health” and train ourselves to that end.
Week 8: Calling All Servants (July 16) - Justin Wilson
If there was ever a label that every Christian should be proud to wear it is “servant.” It’s been said we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving other people. Jesus came to serve and proved it from washing feet to bearing a cross (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-20; Phil. 2:1-8). The NT makes it clear that the serving heart of Jesus should be in every one of his disciples.
Week 9: Finding Your Place in Ministry (July 23) - Tom Stallworth
God has spiritually equipped every believer with talents and giftings to serve his church. Every believer has a ministry. (Eph. 4:12) In fact, serving the church will teach us more about ourselves than any other task. We learn how God has wired us.
We simply discover our gifts by serving. Perhaps these questions will help us along the way: What do I like to do? What am I good at? How has God used me to make a difference in the church? Or perhaps: What’s a need I can’t ignore? What’s a desire I can't shake? What’s an ability I can’t hide?
Week 10: Leadership Potential (July 30) - Neal Thornton
There are leaders and followers. Churches have both. As people continue to serve, those with leadership potential will rise to the surface. To be sure, one is never ready to lead until they are happy to serve. Those coming through the ranks of service will show their leadership potential through a healthy mix of character and competency. Such is first modeled by pastors and deacons. (1 Tim. 3:1-13)
Life in Community
Like last summer, this study will be online based (no Sunday night gatherings). We’ll deliver two forms of content on our website each Saturday. First, a one-page lesson and discussion guide will be available each week, suitable for individual or group use. Second, a short video will drop on Saturday, ready for Sunday use or throughout the coming week. It will highlight key features of the lesson and pertinent applications. Be sure to get both via our website.
As you study, let me encourage you to do so in groups. If you are interested in opening your home for just one night a week, please contact Pastor Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org with a time and date you’d like to meet (it doesn’t have to be Sunday night!). Remember, theology is best learned in community. Leverage your summer and your home for growing in The Missionary Task.
As John 20:21 tells us, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’”
Happy summer, church. Blessings to you.