What a joy it is to commission [candidate's name] for missionary service this morning, and to participate in what God is doing to reach the nations! Most of us have heard of the verses in Matthew 28 that are commonly referred to as “The Great Commission”… Go ahead and turn there in your copy of God's word with me this morning... Many times, you’ll just hear verses 19 and 20, but let’s read starting with verse 18 this morning…
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The word “commission” is defined in Merriam-Webster as the “authority to act for, on behalf of, or in place of another”… [REPEAT]… All authority was given to Jesus in heaven and on earth… and then, based on that authority claimed in verse 18, Jesus then commissions all of us, as His followers, to go make disciples of all nations. Jesus commissioned us to be His ambassadors… His spokespeople…
Jesus sends us out to be His FEET… Going wherever He sends us… which may only be as far as our own hometown, or to places that are foreign to us on the other side of the world…
Jesus sends us out to be His HANDS… Selflessly serving others and showing His love, and mercy, and compassion to the world…
Jesus sends us out to be His MOUTH… Proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ… bringing the Good News to those who would otherwise be sentenced to suffer God’s holy wrath for the rest of eternity.
The Great Commission is the charge that Jesus gave to every one of His followers. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are not exempt from Jesus’ commissioning. Sharing your faith to someone at Walmart, or going to another country as a missionary like [candidate], or even being the family that is left at home isn’t for the faint of heart… It’s not easy.
As I was preparing for this morning’s message, I was reading back through my personal journals of the time leading up to our family answering the call to missions, and through our time living in a foreign land. A recurring theme in my journals, [candidate], was me crying out to God… in times of confusion and uncertainty… in times of hardship and need… in times when we felt so completely isolated and alone… in times when we were homesick and were missing our family… or in times when I didn’t feel like I had the skills or ability to even make a difference.
Telling the world’s 7.6 billion people about Jesus can be a daunting, overwhelming, and difficult task. But followers of Jesus have been living out that commission for almost 2,000 years.
According to current stats from the Joshua Project, 41.6% of the world’s population still remains unreached today. That means just over half of the world’s population has been reached with the Gospel. In [candidate's destination country], Christians number roughly 5% of the island’s population. In the more rural part of the island where [candidate] is heading, that percent is even lower.
How many of you have heard of Coca-Cola? Did you know that Coca-Cola has been in existence for around 130 years now? Did you also know that Coke products are marketed and sold in over 200 countries around the world? What floored me, though, was learning that 94% of the world’s population has heard of Coca-Cola and can recognize Coke’s red and white logo, regardless of what language it’s in? 94%!!! More people around the world have heard of... and have access to... a can of Coke than they do to a Bible or a believer who is willing to share their faith with them!
Those stats are startling, but keep in mind that for Coke, all it really takes is a lot of money and good marketing. However, making disciples of all nations takes personal sacrifice and commitment. Jesus never promised a life of comfort and prosperity for His followers in this life… Instead, Jesus tells His disciples in Luke 14:26-27,33…
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. [ ... ] 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Charles Spurgeon put it like this:
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
All the struggle and sacrifice to bring the message of Jesus to those who haven’t heard… Is it worth it? Turn to Mark 10:28-31… and let's see what Jesus says...
28 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
[To candidate]… It’s worth it! [To candidate's family]… It’s worth it! [To the church]… My brothers and sisters… It’s worth it!!!
2. AFFIRMATION OF CALLING
[Candidate], will you please come stand here in front and face the congregation? I guarantee that there will be times over the next months and years when you will feel like you are WAAAY outside your comfort zone… I don’t know, but this may be one of those times as well.
Remember the definition of “commission” is the authority to act for, on behalf of, or in place of another… Jesus trusted each of us to act on His behalf… He commissioned us to be His feet, His hands, His mouth… Today, this church is commissioning [candidate] to act on behalf of [church's name]… By commissioning [candidate], the church is affirming that they see evidence of your walk with Christ, and they are sending you to be an extension of [church's name] to the people of [destination country]… to be the feet, hands, and mouth of Jesus on their behalf to those whom the Lord places in your path.
[To church]... If this is truly your desire, church, please respond with “Amen”. [wait for response]... Praise the Lord!
3. CHARGE TO THE MISSIONARY
[Candidate], please turn and face me.
You are being sent out as a representative of your Lord and Savior, your family, and this church. For the next months and years, you will be a stranger in a strange land. When we lived overseas, we felt like we always had to be “on” every time we left the apartment. The people of [foreign country] are typically very polite, but what they consider polite may not always match what you’re used to here in southwest Georgia… and they were always observing us… what we might say, or do, or even what we may buy at the store. Mostly, it was out of curiosity, but sometimes, they were watching to see if we really practiced what we preached. We were setting their perception of who Christians are, and how Christians interact with the world around them. With that in mind, I have 5 charges for you as you go and serve.
My first charge to you is the most important one… ABIDE in Christ… Keep your relationship with Him as your FIRST priority. The enemy doesn’t want you there, so stay close to Jesus. Be intentional and protect your time that you spend alone with your Savior! Jesus did this same thing... He spent time alone with the Father. Don't fall into the trap of busyness or trying to meet the expectations of others at the expense of your own relationship with Jesus. If you remember nothing else from this morning... remember to ABIDE in Jesus!
My second charge is to be BOLD and COURAGEOUS to lift up the name of Jesus and proclaim His truth as those opportunities present themselves. There may be times when you keep quiet and then kick yourself later. If that happens, don’t be afraid to cut yourself some slack, and use that as fuel to be more courageous the next time.
Third, strive to do all things in UNITY with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to conduct yourself in ways that glorify God. You will be living alongside other believers, and worshiping and ministering together. But they may not have the same understanding of certain Scriptures as you do. They will probably worship differently than what you’re used to. Ephesians 4:1-3 says…
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Number 4… I’m going to tell you upfront… you will face trials and struggles. There may be times where you stumble and fall. My fourth charge to you, [candidate], is to maintain your hope and TRUST in God when those trials come. TRUST God… TRUST in His goodness… TRUST in His lovingkindness… TRUST in His grace and mercy and forgiveness… TRUST that He desires good for His children.
Lastly, when you’re busy and stressed, or you’re focused on the task at hand, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re not alone on this mission… You are an extension of this church… Many others have also sacrificed so that the name of Jesus can be lifted up in [destination country]. This final charge is to REMEMBER with prayer and thankfulness your church and those who are partnering with you in this mission… to keep them informed of what you see God doing in [destination country]… and how they can be praying specifically for you and for those God has placed in your path. You and your church are a team even though you are oceans apart… Don’t allow yourself to get so busy that you stop communicating with your team back home.
4. EXPRESSION OF MISSIONARY COMMITMENT
[Candidate], with those charges in mind, will you commit to love the Lord, your church family, your fellow co-laborers in the field, and the people of [destination country] selflessly and unconditionally as a missionary? [wait for response] Amen! Go ahead and have a seat in front.
5. CHARGE TO THE CHURCH
Church, you’ve heard my charge to [candidate], and his/her commitment. Now, it’s your turn. This is a big step of faith for [candidate] and for [candidate's] family.
They need you, church!!!
I have 4 charges for you… First, and most important… PRAY!!! Not those little, “Thank you God for the food” type of prayers either… THEY NEED GENUINE, PASSIONATE, INTERCESSORY PRAYER!!! [Candidate] needs your prayer… [Candidate's parents/family] need your prayer… The ministry in [destination country] needs your prayer… The [name of people group(s)] people need your prayer! I know the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Pick a time of day and set an alarm to remind you to pray. Maybe organize a prayer calendar… Whatever it takes to cover them in prayer.
My second charge is to ENCOURAGE!!! Let [candidate] know that you prayed for him/her… Let [candidate's parents/family] know you prayed for them… Let the church and other missionaries in [destination country] know you prayed for them… Send a message, an email… record your prayer (either audio or video) and send it as an encouragement. Visit in person, or by phone or video and pray with them live. Let [candidate] know every week that s/he’s not alone… that you’re thinking of him/her and you’ve got his/her back. I can’t tell you enough how much of an impact you can have if you will do this!
Third… BE THERE!!! There will be times when [candidate] has a need, or his/her family is in need, or there is a struggle or trial they’re going thru… I charge you as the church family to be there in their time of need… Take care of them… Love and support them with the resources that God provides... especially over the holidays. Don’t leave them to struggle on their own!
PRAY… ENCOURAGE… BE THERE… and my fourth and last charge… TRANSITION GRACEFULLY… This is where a lot of churches struggle in my opinion. When [candidate] returns from [destination country], s/he’s going to need some space and s/he’s going to need your patience and understanding while s/he processes all the things s/he experienced while in the field. I got overwhelmed just walking into a grocery store after we got back. It takes a little time to re-orient yourself. Nothing’s changed much for folks here, but [candidate] may need time to readjust. When s/he’s wanting to talk about his/her experiences, be a listening and empathetic ear. Don’t put expectations on him/her to jump right back in to doing the things s/he was doing right before s/he left. Give him/her time to recharge his/her spiritual, physical, and emotional batteries. Help him/her TRANSITION GRACEFULLY back home.
6. EXPRESSION OF CHURCH'S COMMITMENT
[Candidate], please come stand up front again. [Candidate's parents/family], will you please come stand up here with [candidate] as well? Brothers and sisters, if you are willing to commit to love and support this family by PRAYING, ENCOURAGING, BEING THERE, and helping them TRANSITION GRACEFULLY… would you please stand with me now and say "Amen!"? [wait for response] Thank you for your commitment!
I'd now like to have a time of special prayer for [candidate] and his/her family. Let's all come down and lay hands on them and pray as the Lord leads you. When I sense that we are coming to a close, I'll voice a final prayer in closing. [PRAY]