Linda is a member of our church, and our lone fulltime missionary at this early stage in the life of our church — and she means the world to us. This is her last Sunday with us before returning to China, and so for weeks we’ve been planning this lunch together after the service, as a kind of send-off for Linda, and we’ve been planning for this exhortation to raise the banner for missions, both for engaged senders and actual goers, like Linda.
Of course, it’s been a hard week for us as a church, losing John Carlson and the place where we’ve met weekly since we started in January 2015. The life of our young church has been knit together with the life of Minnehaha Academy since our very beginning. Added to that have been the hard providences of recent months: the abrupt end to the merger discussions this spring, and the tragedy that has struck our family with the Jacobs family. We’re weak. We’re hurting as a church. Shouldn’t we just can the plan to talk about missions and lick our wounds?
No, let’s stay the course. If we wait for the “perfect time” to raise the banner for the unreached peoples around the world, it will never happen. This is indeed a hard season for us as a church. And this is a much more normal season of local-church life than our unusually peaceful and easy first two years. Now is the time, as we are displaced and unsure about even where we will even meet next Sunday, for us to go deep on what it means to be the church.
In this season, as we work on logistics and location, we as your pastors want to rally our church not just to prayer for God’s kind providences for our Sunday gathering space, but beyond that, for what is big and ultimate — for God’s global cause, and how our church plays a part in bringing light to the nations. Wouldn’t it be just like God to make his power for the nations perfect through us right in the midst of our season of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)?
And so we fly the flag this morning for beautiful feet — feet like Linda’s. Isaiah 52:7 says,
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness . . .
“Missions” is the work of crossing cultures and learning languages to plant the gospel among those who otherwise have no access. And when it comes to missions and completing God’s global cause, feet are still important. Where you put your feet matters as much today as ever. With our flurry of innovations, it’s easy to suppose there must be all sorts of ways in which the labor of disciplemaking, which once demanded that we be onsite, now can be done remotely. But the computer will never replace the missionary—because the Commission doesn’t call for mere exchange of information, but for good old-fashioned disciplemaking.
Discipling the nations requires more than dropping a translated tract or piping in a recording, or even a well-produced video. Disciplemaking requires more than a low-bandwidth, user-friendly website in multiple trade languages. Disciplemaking means getting your feet wet, and your whole body, in baptism, and teaching not just what Jesus commanded, but to observe all that he commanded (Matt. 28:19). It means doing the long-term grunt work to entrust the gospel to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). It means older women training younger women holistically (Titus 2:3–5). It means being “among” the people we hope to reach with the gentleness of a nursing mother and the strength of an encouraging father (1 Thess. 2:7, 11–12). It means an eagerness to share not only the gospel, but our own selves (1 Thess. 2:8), providing a life example to imitate (Phil. 3:17), and empowering the disciples to practice what they have learned and received and heard and seen in us (Phil. 4:9). Full-orbed disciplemaking cannot be accomplished remotely. It won’t happen over the Internet.
So our charge this morning is to be the kind of church that answers God’s call to be light to the nations, both with engaged senders and actual goers, like Linda. This is a call for beautiful feet — to cross the room, and cross the block, and cross town, and that God would raise up feet in our own church that cross cultures and cross oceans to extend the message of Jesus to the people for whom he came to die.
Let’s pray together.
Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we want feet like this: to bring good news, to publish peace, to bring to others the message of the one and only true and lasting happiness found only in Jesus Christ. And yet, Father, we confess our hearts are often so sluggish. We fear the unknown, and we despise discomfort. We’re slow to even cross the room or the street for the gospel, much less a culture or an ocean.
Father, we confess it is much easier to be seen on Sunday morning than to live for the unseen all week long. It’s easier to bow our head one day a week than to bow the knee to your lordship with everything we are, and so we confess our faithlessness, our cowardliness, and our frailty, as we confess our other sins to you now in the quiet of this moment.