There are two components to being a church that makes Sending Apostles a priority.

The first component is nurturing, encouraging, and equipping people at Providence to become Christians who are open to hearing—and, then, saying Yes—to God’s call to go and serve others in Jesus’ name.  The second component is supporting people from Providence and beyond who have been sent out in Jesus’ name to share, in both word and deed, the good news of God’s abundant, generous love.

Basically, then, Sending Apostles is a matter of both raising up and holding up our fellow believers so that, together, we can respond to God’s invitation to participate in His redemptive mission in the world. 
   We raise up people who will go out in the future. 
   We hold up people who are out there now.

On Sunday, February 23, we have the privilege of welcoming to Providence Diane McNary, one of our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship global missions field personnel.  Diane and her husband, Shane, minister with the Roma people in central and eastern Europe.  One of the Roma groups they work with is located in Slovakia.  If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because the McNarys hosted a mission team of Providence students and leaders last summer in Slovakia.  They helped train and prepare our missionaries for their work beforehand—Dianne traveled here to lead one of the orientation sessions with our team last spring—and then invited them to come alongside them in their work with a Roma community in Telgart, a village in the mountains of Slovakia.

Providence holds up apostles like the McNarys in their ministry when we support global missions through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  The McNarys help Providence raise up apostles in our midst when they encourage and equip our people who are willing to be sent out to serve in Jesus’ name.  Partnerships like the one we have with the McNarys allow us to do more and go further much more effectively as apostles of Jesus Christ than we ever could otherwise, acting on our own.  I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Diane to Providence.

It’s not just about our Cooperative Baptist partnerships, though.  We have a long history of holding up apostles from Providence who are serving around the world in the name of Jesus—apostles such as David and Naomi Coward (in Indonesia) and Carrie Lee Arant Daniel (in western Canada).  We also have a long history of raising up apostles from Providence to go and serve.  Our WMU is constantly at work raising awareness and highlighting opportunities for fruitful, life-changing mission work in Charlotte and beyond.  Each year, we send mission teams of adults and students to serve in places like Slovakia, Quebec, and New York City.  These short-term experiences give our short-term missionaries an opportunity to make a Kingdom difference in the lives of strangers who might, over the course of a week or so, become friends.  When we support our Financial Plan for Missions and Ministry, we make these experiences possible for our students and adults.

Providence also invests in theological education for new generations of men and women who are responding to God’s call upon their lives.  Sarah Blackwell, a divinity student at Gardner-Webb University, is serving this year as a volunteer community missions intern helping us build our Bless Charlotte relationship with Families Forward.  At Providence, we encourage our young people who are wrestling with a sense of call to explore the possibility of ministry as a vocation.  In 2019, Providence Will funds helped send Addison Aycock to the Summer Youth Academy at Duke Divinity School, a week-long program for high schoolers considering the ministry.  Each week in RAs, GAs, and Mission Friends, we teach our children about what it means to go where—and when—God sends us out in Jesus’ name.  This kind of intentional education plants seeds that will, eventually, produce new apostles.

My great hope is that, over time, Providence becomes even more intentional about sending apostles—that is, raising up people who are ready and willing to be sent, and holding up people who have already been sent—to share good news in Jesus’ name.  There is a tremendous need for churches like ours to step forward and make room in our programs, our facilities, and our annual financial plans to promote this kind of spiritual formation.  Sending apostles—one of our five Providence Will priorities—doesn’t just happen.  It’s the fruit of much prayer and preparation and … well … prioritizing.

Wouldn’t it be a blessing for Providence to become known as a “sending church” that takes the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) seriously enough
to put them both into practice on a regular basis?  It’s fun to think about.  It’d be even more fun for us to move together in that direction and see what doors God opens next.

May the peace of Christ be with you!