What is it to be sent? As a church? As an individual Christ-follower? Is the conviction of being sent something reserved for traditional missionaries? Or is the idea of “sentness” something fundamental to the Christian life no matter where you live or what you do?
A couple Australian church planters have argued in their recent book that, “sentness is not only the proper organizing principle for our churches; it’s also the foundation for our individual discipleship. Formation is not for any other purpose than for mission” (Hammond & Cronshaw, Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians, 23; buy on amazon.ca).
One of the most compelling texts on our “sentness” is found in the gospel of John. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples are huddled behind locked doors in fear of the religious authorities. Then Jesus appears to both bring comfort as well as to comission them: “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). What is amazing is that our “sentness” is based on Jesus’ “sentness” (which the Greek emphasizes more than our English translations). Our sentness as the body of Christ is based on the prior sending of Jesus.
One of the areas I believe we are sent to is our neighbourhoods, where we live. This means at least two things. First, we are all sent into our individual neighbourhoods. We are called to love our neighbours, and while Jesus redefined “neighbour” to mean anyone we come across who is in need (see Luke 10:25-37), at the very least it also means our actual neighbours. Understanding ourselves as sent into our neighbourhoods, means living with a certain “gospel” intenionality. The command to love our neighbours is a call to build relationships of responsibility. This means getting to know their names, being helpful to them in practical ways. They are not our projects; they are our neighbours, and we are called to love them.
Second, the building in which we gather weekly to worship is also situated in a neighbourhood. So corporately we also have neighbours, and together as the church, we are called to love them. This can be as simple as watching where you park on Sunday mornings, to the church as a whole participating in the life of the community in a positive way. For instance, participating in the Greenfield community garage sales with our “Boot Sale” was a very simple way to engage in the life of the community. And our chairty hot dog sale raised almost $450, which was split between disaster relief for Nepal and the Community League’s “Abundant Community” initiative.
So, as we are enjoying our neighbourhoods this summer, I encourage you to see yourself as sent into your particular neighbourhood. Sent to bear witness to the good news of the gospel in both deed and word; sent to be a blessing to your neighbours, and sent to seek the peace — the shalom — of your neighbourhood.
— Pastor Tyler