When Jesus gives parting instructions to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel, his first command is to “Go” (Matthew 28:19).  Go out into the world and make new disciples for me.  Go and baptize new believers in my name.  Go and teach people to follow my example in their everyday lives.

Clearly, Jesus does not intend for us to sit still and wait for the world to come to us.  Sometimes we act like that’s the case, but in the New Testament, followers of the risen Christ are almost constantly on the move.  In fact, the earliest recorded name for the Christian faith was, simply, “The Way” (Acts 9:2)—which, in and of itself, implies motion and direction.

Providence is good at going and doing and moving along the Way of Jesus.  We have a long tradition of sending apostles out into the world to share the good news of God’s love in both word and deed.  Equipping and supporting those who feel called to go in Jesus’ name is one of our Providence Will strategic priorities.

Providence will send apostles—and, in 2019 alone, we’ve already done that five times.  We’ve sent mission teams to Quebec in April, to serve alongside French-Canadian Baptists doing evangelism by meeting the needs of their hungry neighbors; to New York City in May, to serve with our partners at Metro Baptist Church in feeding the sick and neglected; to Paris in July, to present the gospel in song at an international choir festival; to Slovakia in July, to build relationships with young people in the local Roma community
who are routinely shunned by their neighbors; and to the Mexican border in August to provide comfort and aid to refugees who have come through the legal process seeking asylum in this country.  That’s a lot of apostles sent!

In the book of Acts, though, coming back is an important part of being sent.  When Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch from their first missionary journey together, “they called the church together and related all that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).  In other words, when these apostles returned home, they gave a mission report to the church.

On Sunday, September 15, our five Providence mission teams will do likewise.

Sharing with the church all that God has done in this way is important for many reasons, but I’d like to focus on two in particular.  First, for those who went, it’s a blessing to bring back stories not only of God at work in different parts of the world, but also of the people through whom God is at work in different parts of the world.  Praying with fellow Christians who don’t speak the same language but all love the Lord.  Enjoying a meal and a conversation with a new friend who’s homeless.  Sweating at a worksite alongside volunteers from another country.  Learning what it’s like to try and be a faithful follower of Jesus in a culture that’s hostile
to Christianity.

These are life-changing experiences that often must be shared in order to be fully realized.  So, those who went need to talk.

Those who stayed, meanwhile, want to hear about what happened, especially if they supported the mission financially or prayerfully.  What was it like there?  What did you see?  Who did you meet?  What did you learn?  How are you different because you went?  How are the lives of those you met there different because you went?  How did God use this church’s gifts of money and prayer to further the kingdom of heaven here on earth?

Not everyone can go—but everyone can be a part of Providence’s missionary efforts.  Those who stayed need to know how they helped make a kingdom difference.

I hope you’ll make time on September 15 to come celebrate—and give thanks for—the good work that God is doing beyond Charlotte through Providence missionaries.  We’ll begin at 5:00pm in the Fellowship Hall, and then share a simple meal afterwards.  And who knows?  Maybe when we do this again next year, you’ll be one of the apostles we’ve sent out in Jesus’ name who’s come back to share good news.

May the peace of Christ be with you!