At Gateway Church in Austin, we are concluded a series called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
Part of following God means not being complacent, not staying where we are in life, but instead, being willing to GO. God wants us to go love others, go show mercy, and go share the love Jesus freely gives to us. But going requires a willingness to abandon our own will and take on God’s will instead. Are you ready and willing to go where God sends you?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message written by Ted Beasley and Calla Parker:
As we’ve been talking about in this series, you have a faith that compels you to go, to venture forward. And Oh the places you’ll go.
In Revelation, John gives us a picture of heaven:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
– Revelation 7:9
One of the amazing things to look forward to about heaven is the community we will have with other Christ-followers. Oceans won’t divide. Neither will race or color or language or poverty or prison camp walls. We’ll see how truly global the movement of Jesus is.
There are an estimated 50-100,000 believers in detention camps, but the underground church is growing in the hermit country. People like Hea Woo are changing the spiritual landscape.
God is at work – pursuing every person on the planet.
From the first century onward, believers have heard the commission of Jesus – Go into all the world. And of the places they went, even dangerous places. In Romans 15, Paul writes:
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
– Romans 15:20-21
He goes on to say that God’s calling him to Spain, the wild and rustic outpost of the Roman Empire.
- There’s archaeological evidence to suggest that Paul made it there.
- Tradition also holds that Peter went to Rome.
- Thomas traveled as far as India.
- Matthew preached in Persia.
- Andrew journeyed to Turkey, Greece and even to the Slavic peoples.
- James, the son of Alphaeus, trekked to Syria where he was stoned, and that didn’t work, so they also clubbed him.
And the stories of the followers of Jesus go on. They quickly spread the word and changed the world. Isn’t interesting how these simple fisherman ended up have a greater impact on history than political leaders. Today we name our kids Peter, James and John, and we name our dogs Nero and Julius Caesar.
Did the early Christians had a kind of wanderlust? They loved to travel? No, they had a heart for the world. And they took seriously Jesus’ last words to them, also known as the Great Commission.
We’re in Matthew 28. Jesus has made several resurrection appearances to his followers over the course of five weeks. He tells them, “Meet me in Galilee, where the whole movement began, I have some important things to tell you. And here, he gives some of his final instructions. You want your final words to be meaningful.
Here’s one of Jesus’ last commands, and it should stick with every believer.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20
This is called the Great Commission. In it there’s a Great Claim, a Great Command and a Great Comfort.
Jesus says that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him. He is in Incarnation of God in human flesh. He lived a perfect life. He demonstrated compassion to all races and classes, even sinners. He healed the sick, raised the dead. He suffered an agonizing death to pay the penalty for our sin. Oh, and he rose from the grave on the third day.
Jesus says, what I’m about to ask you to do comes from the full authority of who I am. I’ve never been more serious. This is straight from God, and it’s not to be ignored.
There’s the most important word of our series again, Go! To the nations. Nations actually refer to the “panta ta ethne” or people groups. This isn’t like two weeks ago, when Jesus sent us out to our neighborhoods and workplaces. He’s telling us to cross a border to people groups who are different from us. Go into all the world and make disciples, or simply followers of me.
First, help them find me. Help get them to a decision point where they mark their faith with baptism.
Second, help move them toward growth and maturity. Teach them what you have been taught.
It’s not a Great Suggestion. It’s not a Great Maybe. It’s Not a Great If There’s Nothing Left to Watch on Netflix. It’s a Great Command. And it’s an expectation of every Christ-follower to be involved taking his message to the nations.
I’m with you no matter what. Nothing in the Christian faith can be quite so intimidating as doing something for me cross-culturally. So I’m making you a promise. If you will move out of your comfort in faith, I’ll take care of you. I have your back. I’ll provide. I won’t let you fall. I am with you to the very end.
Have you wrestled with the Great Commission to Go?
Have you ever put it before the Lord, “What does this mean for me, God? I’m open. I’m apprehensive, but I’m open.
Let’s take a look at how the church is currently doing with the Great Commission. Are we following through?
Consider these statistics from The Traveling Team:
- 86% of non-Christians of the world are not relationally connected to even one Christian. They are the unreached.
- The unreached number over 2.9 billion people.
- Of the 400,000 Cross-Cultural Missionaries, Only 3% Go to Unreached People Groups.
- Only 3.3% of all missionaries to work among the 2.9 billion unreached.
- Of Every $100,000 Christians Earn Only $1 Goes to Sending Missionaries to the Unreached.
- Only .00001% supports work among unreached peoples
We don’t use the word “missionary” that much around Gateway. Culturally, sometimes it becomes associated with historical conquest or annoying people knocking on your door while you’re trying to watch the cartoons on Saturday morning. But we believe in the heart of the meaning. We have a mission, an adventure of faith.
Some of us reject the idea of missionary work because of colonialism, but it’s important to remember that every culture that spread across the world has demonstrated a form of colonialism – not just the Europeans but also the Huns, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and so on.
In other words, don’t let the evil political decisions of others get in the way of respecting the efforts of sincere people who were motivated by love.
So what do you make of the church’s current response to the Great Commission? We all need to personally wrestle with this. The Apostle Paul writes this in Romans 10:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? – Romans 10:13-14
Everyone who calls on God will be saved. They just need to believe. They just need to hear the message from someone. And for someone to bring the message, they have to be sent. Being missional, taking seriously Jesus’ last words to go out into the world, can mean Send or Go. Are you a goer or a sender? Let’s talk about ways of going and sending.
Way to Go #1: Move and Travel Cross-Culturally.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14
Jesus makes an interesting point here. He offers his Great Commission in Matthew 28 before he ascends to heaven. That marks the end of his first coming.
But there’s a second coming. One day, Christ will return and we’ll experience heaven.
But before that happens, someone will have to take his word out to all –there’s that word again – nations. His desire is for everyone to hear, and we’re part of that plan. And we hasten his return when we go across a culture.
I encourage you to look at some of the resources in your next steps guides to research unreached peoples and international opportunities. Read and pray. See if your role as a goer has to do with a draw to a particular people.
Way to Go #2: Build Cross-Cultural Relationships Here
Have you noticed how diverse Austin is becoming? According to the last census, 130,000 foreign-born immigrants have flocked to the creative economy here in Austin – people from Palestine, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and even California!
We’re surrounded by people from other cultures. At UT alone, there are 4,500 international students. Do you realize that of the 600,000 international students in the United States, 80% of them never set foot in an American home during their four years here? (To help with this consider Bridges International: http://www.bridgesinternational.com/ or hosting for the duration of their stay: www.premier-edu.com).
I think about God’s heart of hospitality that is demonstrated in passages like Leviticus 19 –
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. – Lev. 19:34
The point is that “going” need not mean moving your family across the pond or taking a global serving trip.
Way to Send #1: Giving Financially
Many Christ-followers in the New Testament weren’t called to go cross-culturally, but they were called to serve in their communities, as we discussed a couple of weeks ago. But those who didn’t uproot themselves to go far away became senders. The first church to really do this outside of Jerusalem was Antioch, a church that bears a lot of similarities to Gateway. Acts 13:
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. – Acts 13:2-3
God says, “I want you all to take a special role in helping a couple of guys I’ve called to go, Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul). The Antioch church blessed them, encouraged them, and footed the bill for their journey. The predominant biblical model is that a church or individual Christians take that burden off the goer, meet their physical needs, and fund the work they are doing.
Way to Send #2: Prayer
Two weeks ago we were in Luke 10, and Jesus told us to pray that God would prompt goers and senders to respond. But more significantly, we need to also pray for goers while they are away. The prayers of senders, when done consistently, earnestly and sacrificially, move mountains on the other side of the world. We pray for safety. We pray for the work of goers. We pray that God does something miraculous through their service.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. – Colossians 4:3
Paul continually thanks his senders for their prayers, because he knows that’s what’s making the biggest difference. Look in your Next Steps document for more ideas on how you can send through praying.
Gateway is actively engaged in meeting the needs of unreached peoples thru our Global Partner in India, our work with Word Relief in the ME in Syria, Turkey and Jordan, and through our GO! Teams to Nepal and Europe.
So what does this mean for you?
You see, more than anything, our hope for you today is not just that you will be made aware of God’s command to us to go, or that you will be educated on what is taking place around the world. All of those things are good things – but they actually mean very little if we don’t respond.
You see, our RESPONSE is actually necessary.
Barrier #1: I’m too “_______” to go.
Fill in the blank. Young. Old. Poor. Busy. Afraid. New to faith. Far from God. What is your blank? We all have one.
ALL of us have a part to play…. And sometimes our part looks different then we plan.
Perhaps in this season of life you aren’t able to go… then send! Send financially, send prayerfully! One of the requirements for every GO! Teamer is to build a support team of 40 Senders – for prayer and/or finances. Why?
BECAUSE WE VALUE THE SENDER.
We value the power of prayer, and we value the opportunity that people have to respond to God by financially giving towards helping others to go.
Above what we normally give towards Gateway’s efforts, we can give to help others serve overseas through our Go Teams.
Now, perhaps in this season of life you ARE able to go – but you’re believing a lie about yourself or your situation. That you’re not spiritual enough, or you have nothing to offer. That’s a lie! We specifically design our GO! Teams so that everyone, no matter where you at on your journey of faith, can participate in some way. God DOES have a place for you if you choose to respond.
Don’t allow your “blank” to be a barrier keeping you from responding to God’s call.
Barrier #2: I would go, but I don’t know what’s available.
This is perhaps the most common barrier that I hear, not just at Gateway. When people think about going they get overwhelmed, and sometimes immobilized. Despite that fact, however, every year we send between 200-300 people on short-term teams, which we call GO! Teams. The very best place to learn more about our GO! Team opportunities is simply by looking online – www.gatewaychurch.com/goteams.
Because we value sending out teams prepared, our application deadline is typically 5-6 months prior to when teams depart. We typically post teams twice a year – July/August & December/January – so if you don’t see one on there right now that catches your eye… stay tuned!
We also have great opportunity to go globally right here in Austin! Like Ted said, the world is here, and we don’t have to go far to engage them! On our website – www.gatewaychurch.com/refugees – you can find numerous opportunities to serve and befriend the stranger among us. Everything from dropping off cleaning supplies once a month, to mentoring and tutoring, serving at the Hope Clinic, or being a part of our quarterly ladies socials!
Barrier #3: It’s not safe.
You’re right. Sometimes life is not safe. But yes – following Jesus sometimes is not safe. We get this response a lot, both with our GO! Teams AND with our Refugee Connect efforts… specifically with our Muslim refugee friends. SOO often people fail to respond because they are afraid.
Yes. Safety matters – immensely. Please know that we NEVER send GO! Teams anywhere that we know they will be put in dangerous situation… in fact, we have canceled teams before when we’ve learned of security/safety issues. But safety can NOT be out number one concern. Safety is important, yes! But following Jesus is PARAMOUNT. Jesus didn’t say, “everyone grab your deet free bug spray, let’s do this thing!” No – he said “take up your cross and follow me”.
What is your barrier? What is your response going to be?
God’s in the business of exchanging old for new. He makes your old life new. And through you, when you Go to a New Land, Go and Do Likewise, Go and Sin No More and Go Into all the World, he works through you to make this world old to new.
The question for you to answer today in a personal way is, “Are you going to go?”
Not just because God commanded it, but has there been something welling up in you or gnawing at you during this series that you want more in your faith, that it’s time to get out of your comfort zone your easy chair, and join the Lord in this adventure of being active in your beliefs?
Sometimes, in moments like these, God interrupts your life’s plans and prompts your heart to Go. In Acts 16:9, it says that Paul was on a journey somewhere, and had some particular plans for his life, but God gave him a new vision, a kind of picture in his mind of a person from Macedonia reaching out to Paul, and saying, come my way.
Change some of your plans, and take an adventure, and come share the message of Christ with me. And Paul went, and Oh the places he went. And oh the adventure he had. And oh how the old was made new.
- Maybe your call is to trust God more.
- Maybe it’s to be more intentional about serving in your community or being vocal about your faith at work.
- Maybe you were convicted to go and sin no more, to drop some entanglements from your life.
- Maybe today you decided you want to explore going cross-culturally or sending people. Just to follow through on one of those, step out in the aisle.
You don’t need to be sure about what it all means, you don’t need to feel confident. But just to acknowledge the desire, step out.