Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nurturing Your Church into A Sending Community! Part 2

by Mike Fritscher, Pastor Cottonwood Baptist Church

Cottonwood’s journey into becoming a Sending Community has not been instant nor has it been explosive. I think of our Church’s transformation into becoming a Sending People as markers! One of those markers was when Mike Stroope and a couple of his associates came to Cottonwood in January of 1999. The challenge from Mike’s heart to the heart of Cottonwood was one of a pursuit of God’s Glory to the ends of the earth. We came to believe that day God was calling us to declare His glory to the ends of the earth, at home and every place in between.

That Sunday night we began the journey of becoming a sent people. I do not recall the word “sent” being used that night. As a matter of fact it wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that we even began to specifically define ourselves as a sent people! We have churches who refer to themselves as “global”, “Great Commission Churches” or "missional" but rarely do we hear a church refer to themselves as a “Sent People”!

Say "Yes" to God’s Glory!

Nurturing our Church to become a sent people began when we said “Yes” to the Glory of God. We must understand there are regions and places in this world where Christ is neither mentioned nor worshipped. God’s plan has always been to use His people to declare His name to these people! For Cottonwood our “Yes” meant that we adopt an unreached people group where there was little to no access to the gospel and do whatever God called us to do to bring His glory to these people!

Find the People God Is Calling You To!

We knew God was calling us to a people who had never heard of Jesus. We sensed God’s call to a “closed” country in SE Asia where there are 100's of “minority”, tribal groups where the gospel had not been proclaimed. I was invited to go on a trip to this country with other pastors and mission pastors. We traveled the country meeting with leaders and engaging unreached people groups (UPG's). We returned from that country and soon sent a team of eight people who met with four different leaders who were working among four different UPG's. Our team returned and reported their belief that God was calling us to the H people of Southeast Asia. The entire church rejoiced that day believing we were truly answering the call to declare His glory to the ends of the earth!

Start Sending Your People!

We began immediately sending our people to engage the H people. We began to partner with an existing team in the country by sending three families to live among these people for two years. They began to learn the language and engage the H. We also began sending short term teams who would spend anywhere from two weeks to three months working with local H communities. We have sent agricultural, ESL, medical, prayer walking and personnel support. For a number of years we felt this was the place God was calling us.

As the years unfolded, we began to sense God was inviting us to other peoples around the world! As a result of a continued “Yes” to His glory we have targeted other unreached peoples. We have begun to send our people to peoples in Mexico and Africa. We have also said "Yes" to the Navajo of Arizona.

Say "Yes" to the Glory of God in Your Life and Church!

Much of what we have become as a Sent people has been due to the pursuit of glorifying God not only among the nations but among the community of believers in our midst! We must say "Yes" to the glory of God in our individual lives! We are constantly challenging our people to believe God’s glory is to be reflected in their lives regardless of their involvement in engaging the nations. We believe that intimacy with God and others precedes ministry! So we work hard at presenting a transforming word. We teach the Glory of God is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”! Christ comes into our lives to crush the head of the enemy, take away sin, destroy the works of the enemy, and conform us into His image! We challenge our people to put to death the deeds of the flesh, to make sure they are right with God and with their neighbor. We believe as Believers our lives do not hinge on the Great Commission but on the Great Commandment! Jesus said to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself!” Then He said, “On these two commands depend the whole law and prophets!” We ask the question often, “Are we loving our neighbor well?”

We have seen when we promote this Christ-like character of holiness and love, our people are positioned to say "Yes" to anything and everything God calls them to do! Because God has called us to love our neighbor as ourselves we always ask the question, “Who is our neighbor?” The answer to that question for Cottonwood has been "the H people on the other side of the world, our family and church family at home and every person in between." With that answer comes the resounding request of the body, “Here am I, send me!”


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