Reframing the sending paradigm
So from Acts 13 we note that:
- God the Holy Spirit selected Barnabas and Saul
- God the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul
- God revealed his plan to the church
- God issued the call within the context of ongoing church ministry
- The church sent Barnabas and Saul on their way
- The Holy Spirit sent Barnabas and Saul on their way
I’m not sure when or how the shift took place,…
but it seems to me that we in the United States don’t follow this pattern very closely.
Perhaps it is because we value independence and individualism too much?
The prevailing paradigm works something like this:
- An individual senses a desire to represent God in the harvest fields
- That individual’s desire grows
- The individual begins to think of that desire in terms of a “call” from God
- Eventually that person approaches church leadership and shares their “calling.” (At times this step may be omitted as the individual goes directly to a sending agency.)
- The church/agency may or may not try to determine the legitimacy of that “calling.”
- Upon validation of the “call” the individual moves forward with training, support raising, and other preparations for going to the field.
- The body of Christ is called upon to support the individual’s “calling.”
In our one and only biblical text describing the sending process…
it is the church (evidently the leadership in particular) that hears God’s “call” regarding those to be sent.
Then because the church is obedient to the sense of “calling” that they ascertained from the Holy Spirit himself,…
they partner with God the Spirit in sending out laborers.
The whole project, if you will, is a partnership from the get-go.
When the Spirit identified Barnabas and Saul as the intended goers…
it was already obvious to the other church leaders that they were qualified…
because they had been engaged in ministry together.
Barnabas and Saul did not have to try and sell their sense of “calling” to their brethren.
From the beginning there was a mutual sense of responsibility and of ownership in the task.
Obedience was a community response…
so there was no sense on the part of the sent ones that they must obey their “call” whether or not the rest of the church ponied up.
Not quite the way we tend to do things nowadays, is it?
How much better would it be if we reframed our paradigm to line up with the original?