Sending Our Best
This past Sunday I taught in our Essential Doctrines class about stewardship, and in preparing for the class I was reminded of a basic, yet oft-overlooked and potentially paradigm-shifting truth:
We are responsible for (and will be held accountable for) the stewardship of EVERYTHING we have, not just our money.
Our money, of course; but also our time, our family, our home, our plans, our retirement, our gifts, talents, passions and hobbies, our relationships, and, most importantly, the gospel itself - all of these are given to us by God, not to be ends to themselves, but to be stewarded by us to bless the world and advance God's Kingdom. I said on Sunday that we are to be conduits of blessing, not cul-de-sacs (and as John Piper reminds us, those conduits don't need to be gold-plated; copper will do just fine).
The same is true for our church - we are stewards of the blessings of God - and besides the truth of the Gospel, the most important thing we have to steward is YOU.
Our church is filled with talented, gifted, passionate, mature followers of Jesus - praise God for how He has blessed us! But we cannot keep you here. We would be too much like the wicked and slothful servant if we simply buried all of you here in our own ministries and our own church-saturated town. Some of you need to leave.
Don't misunderstand me - It's not that we don't want you here. I'm not trying to recruit all the non-givers and email-complainers to "go out on mission" so you'll leave our church. It's quite the opposite: we want to send our best. And it's going to hurt.
Since we know that there are places in the world like Boston, Massachusetts, with 14,000 people per square mile, 3% Evangelical and very few gospel-preaching churches to speak of; countries like Cambodia, where 99.3% of the 16 million people living there are considered unreached with the gospel, having no access to the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ...
since we know these things, and we have the gospel in abundance, churches in abundance and mature, equipped followers of Jesus in abundance, I see no better way to steward our resources than to send our best people out from here to places without churches or where churches are struggling, places with no gospel witness - where those people can then steward their passions and gifts and talents and resources in those places where it is needed most.
A recent example of this is our dear friend, Emily Espy. When Emily heard us start talking about the city of Boston, God began speaking to her heart. She felt strongly that she was supposed to end up there, and since she knew her passion and desire was to teach middle school and invest in a low-income community, she started praying about the possibility of moving to Boston, teaching there and plugging into one of our partner churches.
You may not know this, but it is no easy thing for a southern girl to bust her way into the school system up North. Emily sent out dozens of applications, made lots of phone calls and multiple visits to the city, but nothing seemed to be working out. She knew God was calling her there, and was planning to just move and see what God would do, but He had other plans. On her most recent trip (just last week), Emily walked into a school she had applied to and (she can give you more details if you want to know them) was interviewed for, and later offered, the exact job she had been hoping for - middle school math in the Boston Public School (BPS) system. She had been told that getting a job with BPS in her first year, moving from Georgia, was actually impossible. Now when people ask her story, she gets the chance to boast in the God of the impossible.
It will not be easy to say goodbye to Emily - she has been a great friend to our family, a babysitter extraordinaire, an intern, part of our worship team and a wonderful volunteer at church and community events we put on. She helps my family and our church family a lot, and we will miss her.
But that is exactly why I am so excited to send her to Boston! What a joy to say to that city, and to our church-plant partners, "Hey Boston, you're about to get one of our favorite people - she will love and serve your community as a teacher in the Boston Public School system, she will serve your church-plant, and I bet she'll even babysit. We love you, Boston, so we're sending you Emily."
Now, of course, some of us need to stay, as well. We are not trying to abandon the cities of Watkinsville and Athens. But let's be honest - compared to most of the rest of the world, these towns have enough churches and Christians to see the gospel continue to spread and disciples made. What about other towns and countries? Have you made yourself open to the possibility that God might be calling you elsewhere?
Let me invite you to do two things right now:
1) Pray for Emily Espy as she prepares to move to Boston. She is working on getting an apartment and will be starting her new job on August 1st. If you want to help her get there, check this out
2) Pray and ask God if He might want you somewhere else. There is nothing more "Christian" about moving to Boston or moving overseas, but there IS something more obedient about asking God regularly and being truly willing to go anywhere and do anything, anytime. Are you praying that way? Are you willing to go?