A couple of weeks ago we made yet another exit and yet another entry. Our recent years have been full of packing, loading, unpacking, settling in, leaving friends and family, and meeting new friends and family. Among the most beautiful of Jesus’ promises is the assurance that whatever family we leave for his sake will be compensated a hundred times (Mk 10.29-30). Of course, this makes no sense if we think that Jesus is suggesting our loved ones are replaceable or that he is offering some sort of equitable return for sacrificial discipleship. Since he is not, we are challenged to experience a reality that certainly cannot make sense outside of the Kingdom. And although we should not be, we are surprised to find that, at every congregation of God’s people, there truly is “new family” to love.
The experience takes on another dynamic, however, when sending is added into the mix. My life as a whole has involved a fair amount of moving and new churches, and subsequently, new family. So, what made our Shiloh “sendoff” special was not simply that we were so loved and encouraged. That was what made our entire stay in Tyler special, as it does for so many who remain there. Beyond that, the intention to be a foreign “missionary,” a sent one, only transforms into reality at that moment when the church sends you. Some were worried that the sendoff service would be a little anticlimactic, since we were actually sent off to Tennessee, not Peru. One could note that sending is a process that, in our case, very much includes the next six months of preparation. More than this, my point is that commissioning does happen at a moment in time, and that is what Feb. 17, 2008 was about at Shiloh.
The mission of God stands at the center of his Kingdom, until it is fulfilled. There is no mission without sending, and so the blessing, the deep spiritual privilege of sending and being sent, is to be allowed an active place in the mission of God. What an amazing experience to be loved and sent. I find myself meditating again on John 17, grateful as ever for Jesus’ words. Yet, perhaps there is nothing more humbling than being the focus of a month of prayer and fasting and the recipients of a commission that entails responsibility for the witness of the gospel. As we desire to express here our love and thanks to the Shiloh family for everything so far, I am most thankful that we made it through all of that “focus” on us while leaving God at the center. Our sendoff was special to us because it was humbling, and it was a privilege, and it was about God’s greatness. It continues to be.