Sermon Title: “Being Sent
Scripture: Jeremiah 1:1-10 (ESV)
Speaker: Mike Barnhart
Date: June 29-30, 2019
Location: Gateway Church
Good morning, Gateway! My name’s Mike Barnhart, and I’m the pastor at Princetown Church, which is located about 20 miles outside of Albany, NY.
It’s truly an honor for me to be here with you today.
I had been part of Gateway’s staff for the past ten years, serving in various roles. Until--just 7 months ago--Gateway sent me to be the pastor at Princetown.
Today, I’d like to do two things:
Since you’re the church that sent my family and me, I want to give you a brief update about how things are going in NY.
Also, I’d like to look at some Scripture that offers us teaching about “Being Sent” from God’s perspective.
Here’s a few things I learned in my first seven months in NY:
In 2013, the Barna Group did a survey to determine the most “post-Christian” cities in the United States. The term ‘post-Christian’ refers to people meeting 9 of 15 criteria, such as “don’t believe in God,” “don’t participate in a church,” and “don’t donate money to a church.”
Do you know where Albany, NY landed in the survey?
Albany--which is just 20 minutes down the road from the church where I serve--came in 1st.
In 2013 [just 6 years ago] Albany was ranked the most “post-Christian” city in the United States. WOW! That beats out Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), New York City, and San Francisco!
Three years ago, New York City was one vote short of passing a law that no church could meet in a public building, such as a school. That would mean about 1,000 churches have to close their doors in the state.
You might be wondering what all this means for the Next Generation. Well, kids are NOT growing up with a biblical worldview. This is true across the country, but even more so in NY. I spoke with one mom from Princetown Church, and she shared that of the over 60 elementary students in her child’s grade at school, her child is 1 of 3 who attend church. That’s about 5% of elementary kids going to church. Most kids are growing up without a biblical worldview. They don’t know the names, “Abraham, Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul, or (most importantly) Jesus.
From what I’ve heard, those percentages are actually high compared to other percentages.
I’ve read that only 2.5% of people attend church in the capital district of NY.
Because the culture is so “post-Christian,” feelings of guilt, shame, or conviction are much less prevalent. People don’t tend to recognize sin for what it is.
The positive is that people tend to be a bit more transparent about their sin. However, they first need to be convinced about what sin is.
Needless to say at this point, many modern church methods just don’t work as well in NY, if we’re serious about reaching the lost. People don’t just show up for cool lights or good music or because the pastor’s preaching a great sermon!
Although some who are simply looking for a different way to do church may be reached through an attractional model...Reaching the lost is going to be most effective through building relationships.
One example of this is a young mom named Christine.
My wife (Sara) met Christine at church one Sunday. She’s the daughter-in-law of one of the members at our church. After her mother-in-law had been inviting her for quite a while, she finally showed up. She decided she’d give it a try.
Sara initiated a conversation with her and they ended up talking about many things…
What’s in the Bible?
What needs to happen to be saved?
Sara prayed with her & invited her to our Small Group.
The very next day, Christine showed up at our Small Group. As us Barnhart’s do--we had the agenda for the night all mapped out. We were ready to go with the meal, the study, and the discussion.
As the group sat around our living room, Christine spoke up somewhat timidly...”Can I ask a question…?”
And that’s when it all started...
Christine asked question after question about what it means to follow Jesus.
I shared the gospel with her.
The rest of the group’s eyes were opened as their jaws dropped at what they were seeing.
Christine said, “I need Jesus. That’s exactly what I need!”
Christine received Christ.
Now, there are several ladies who are walking with Christine on this new spiritual journey.
Christine is just one example of the type of people we’re encountering in NY.
It’s a people who are desperate for hope.
They’re searching everywhere for it.
They want to be cared for where they’re at in life.
They’re not typically open to showing up at church until someone’s invested in them & loved them with the love of Christ.
That’s why--just three months into my time at Princetown--we started a small group called “Disciples Making Disciples.” It’s a group that intentionally trains and sends out disciples to make disciples.
The goal is that we would not simply make disciples by addition--one at a time...but, that we’d make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.
The key with this group is accountability.
Each week, everybody in the group commits to an “I Will…” statement. It’s just a simple commitment that we’ll do during the week.
For example, it could be…
“I will pray everyday for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the lost around me.”
“I will find one person this week, who I can ask, ‘What’s the greatest hope in the world?’ with the goal of starting a spiritual conversation.”
Then, at each meeting, we follow up…
We ask how our “I Will…” statements went.
We do a short Bible study and pray for one another.
We create new “I Will…” statements.
Actually, it’s pretty simple.
If you’d be willing to commit to praying for our ministry in NY in one way...pray for this group. Pray that we’d be faithful to making disciples who make disciples.
To this day, being sent to NY has been one of the most bitter, sweet experiences I’ve ever had. I love Gateway! And, I love obeying God’s call on my life! For me, I got to a point at Gateway where I sensed a strong call from God to Go and Be Sent. So, I did.
I remember wrestling with feelings of…What if I’m not capable. What if I cave under the pressures. What if...what if...what if. I just wasn’t confident that I could do it.
In fact, I’ve experienced those feelings often in my life.
I remember (years ago) when I was first asked to lead a small group.
I remember when I was faced with the decision to move to Findlay and work with college students.
I remember when I was asked to become the campus pastor at a new Gateway campus called North Main.
Every one of these times…
I felt like I wasn’t capable.
I felt like I was too young.
I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cut it.
But in everyone of those situations, God took my inabilities, insecurities, my youth, and my doubts...and He did what He wanted to do.
God proved Himself faithful again & again & again.
It wasn’t me...It was God’s grace in me.
Have you ever experienced these sort of feelings?
Have you ever sensed God’s call to Go...His call to Be Sent?
To serve God in a way that you just didn’t feel qualified to do??
Maybe you doubted you were the one to do it??
I’m sure--in one way or another--you probably have.
Maybe you’ve been attending a Life Group for while…
You’ve enjoyed hanging out with your friends in the group.
You’ve learned a lot!
Your life has started to change--in a good way--because of the habits you’ve developed from the group.
Maybe just recently, your LG Leader asked you to consider leading a group.
You can’t help but get anxious about it...thinking, there’s gotta be someone else more qualified.
“There’s no way I could do that!”
Or, maybe it’s something different, like...
You’ve been asked to serve in a ministry or help with an outreach.
Maybe you’ve been asked to be on the worship team.
Serve as a Kidway Group Leader.
Someone’s told you that you would be a good missionary or pastor.
Whatever it is... you can’t avoid the insecurities and the feelings of inadequacy.
Today, we’re gonna look at a guy in the Bible who was called by God to Be Sent, but he wasn’t confident that he could do it.
Go ahead and turn in your Bible to Jeremiah 1:1-10.
The words will also be on the screen or on the Gateway App, so you can follow along.
Jeremiah 1:1-10 (ESV) - 1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me (that’s Jeremiah), saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah has been called out by God to serve Him as a prophet. God tells him that he’s the one to do it.
Look again at how Jeremiah responds:
Jeremiah 1:6 (ESV) - 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”
Jeremiah doubts that he’s the one to do it.
He tells God that he doesn’t know how to speak and he’s too young to be God’s chosen prophet.
In reality, Jeremiah probably has a good point here.
God’s asking him to go to the nations as a prophet, and he’s saying “I don’t know how to speak. I’m too young & inexperienced.”
I don’t know if you know this or not, but effective public speaking skills are pretty essential for a prophet. Prophets were people who would speak to others on behalf of God.
But, God wouldn’t take “No” for an answer.
Look back at God’s response to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 1:7 (ESV) - 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Listen for My call.
Go where I send you.
Speak what I command you.
Because God--the Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things--He called. He’s commanding Jeremiah to become His chosen prophet. Therefore Jeremiah’s gotta go.
But, there’s more…
Here’s the great thing…
...God doesn’t just give Jeremiah a command.
...He doesn’t just tell Jeremiah that He’s gotta go.
God equips Jeremiah to Be Sent.
He provides all that Jeremiah needs to do that job!
God does that for you too. When God sends you to live on mission for Him...He equips you.
And, it’s because God equips us that we don’t have to be slaves anymore to the insecurities, inadequacies, inabilities, and doubts.
With God, we can do what we can’t do on our own.
Here’s what I want you to see from this text today:
Because God equips the called, be sent.
God’s call & His equipping can’t be separated...they’re linked.
God provides more than enough for those He calls.
It’s because God equips those He calls that they must be sent.
Here’s the deal:
You--if God’s calling you...He will equip you...guaranteed!
And, because He equips you, you must be sent!\
Now, I realize that some of you--because I just got really personal with you about this--your heart just started beating a little faster.
You’re not so sure about what all this means to be called.
You don’t know where you’re supposed to go...and why?
And, you’re struggling a bit to really believe that God’s gonna give you EVERYTHING you need.
If that’s you, you’re not alone…
Many of us struggle with doubts and fears about Being Sent. Let’s take a few minutes to look at how God equipped Jeremiah. As we do, we’re gonna see several ways God also equips us to Be Sent.
I believe that if you hang in there with me through this, you’ll be able to walk out of here today with a little more confidence about responding to God’s call in your life.
The first way we see God equipping Jeremiah is by how God knows him. This is also true for us:
1. Because God KNOWS you, be sent.
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) - 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
This verse explains how God knows Jeremiah in several ways. We’ll get to those in a minute, but first…
Why do you think God tells Jeremiah this? Why is God trying to convince Jeremiah that He knows him?
Was it because Jeremiah didn’t know who made him? Was it because Jeremiah didn’t recognize God’s active nature in his life?
I don’t think so.
All evidence points to Jeremiah having a relationship with God.
He was the son of a priest...So, he was a pastor’s son.
He’s born in the village of Anathoth, which is between Jerusalem and the edge of the wilderness...So, he was right in the midst of Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel). He was among God’s people.
And he recognized God’s voice when God came to call him.
So, why did God need to convince Jeremiah that God knew Him??
I think it’s because Jeremiah needed a reminder (like all of us do).
Here’s the truth:
When we know (without a doubt) that God--the Creator and Maker of all things--knows us...we live differently.
When we’re really convinced that God knows us and understands us...it’s a lot easier to trust Him.
Let’s take a couple minutes to see how God knows Jeremiah:
God tells Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”
This means that God Himself fashioned Jeremiah together. God knit him together in his mother’s womb.
God didn’t just know Jeremiah...God created & formed him.
This is key…
When you make something…
Build a shed
Bake a cake
Paint a picture
...whatever it is…
When you create something yourself, you know it.
You know why you put each piece where.
You understand every part.
And, you care about it.
It’s the same with God...He made Jeremiah...He made you.
God knows you.
He knew you--even before you were conceived.
He understands every part of you.
He cares for you.
God knows you better than you know yourself.
Then, God tells Jeremiah: “Before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Consecration means to be ‘set apart.’
This means that--even before Jeremiah was born--God had a plan for his life.
God’s got plans to do something big with Jeremiah.
God’s calling Jeremiah to be a prophet--to speak the truth of God with boldness to the people of his time.
While Jeremiah was being carried around in his mother’s womb, God was making preparations for his salvation & ministry.
Do you know that God’s gotta plan for you?
Not only does God have a plan for you, but He’s had a specific, particular, and definite plan for your life since long before you were even born.
God knows you. He knows you far better than you know yourself.
He knows you. He loves you. He’s gotta plan for you.
If you’re here today, and you’ve never admitted that God’s known you since before you were born...that’s where you need to start.
You’ve gotta be confidently convinced that God--in the most true & intimate way--knows you.
He knows your heart & passions before you experience your desires.
He knows the way you think before you think it yourself.
He knows your abilities & skills.
He knows your weaknesses.
He knows your health.
He knows who you’re becoming--the trajectory of your life.
God knows you.
He knows you. He loves you. He’s gotta plan for you.
When the Creator & Maker of all things calls you out to do something...you do it.
You do it because you can trust Him.
You can trust Him because He’s the one who made you.
You’ve gotta know that your life didn’t start with you.
It didn’t start with your dad & mom.
Your life...your salvation...your ministry...your purpose starts with God.
Therefore...you can trust God’s call on your life.
Maybe God’s calling you to step out of your comfort zone and become a Life Group leader. You don’t think you can do it…
...Remember, God knows you.
Maybe God’s calling you to fill a leadership role in Kidway. But to do it, you’d have to commit to showing up every week. You’d have to set aside some of the things you like to do on the weekends to answer this call.
...Remember, God knows you...He knows what’s best for you.
God equips you. He equips you fully & completely.
Because God KNOWS you, be sent.
The second way God equips Jeremiah to be sent is by God’s presence with him. It’s true for you too...
2. Because God is WITH you, be sent.
Listen to what God tells Jeremiah in verse 8:
Jeremiah 1:8 (ESV) - 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
If God were saying this to you...what would you think?
I know what I would think…
Who’s ‘them’ and why am I gonna be afraid of them?
What am I going to encounter that You need to tell me not to be afraid?
What am I gonna need to be delivered from? What do I need to be rescued from?
God didn’t spell things out for Jeremiah. He didn’t give him specifics about where he’d go or what he was gonna do. He kept everything pretty surface-level.
Instead, God simply commands Jeremiah to not fear ‘cause He’ll rescue him.
I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that--even if it were God--I’d be struggling a little bit. Even if I chose to go & do what God commanded, I’d be having some major second thoughts.
When I hear these words--”Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you…”--I’m not exactly emphasizing the fact that God’s with me in my mind. No...I’m thinking about how I might need to be afraid.
I think that’s probably natural for all of us…
When God approaches you with an opportunity to serve Him in a new way or to go somewhere unknown to you AND God says, “Don’t be afraid ‘cause I’m with you”...
I’m just taking a guess, but you probably don’t naturally think…
Oh, God’s with me. I guess whatever I encounter will be alright.
You’re probably plagued with fear & doubt & anxiety.
You’re probably thinking...How can I get outta this??
If that’s you, don’t worry. That’s natural for most of us.
But, even though we may feel that way…
Even though our first inclination may be anxiety or doubt…
God’s telling us, “Don’t be afraid ‘cause I’m WITH you.”
It doesn’t matter what you’ll encounter (that’s why I didn’t tell you all the details)...
I’m bigger. I can handle it.
I’ve got this for you…’cause I’m with you.
When my family & I moved to NY last December, I expected challenges. I didn’t know what it’d look like, but I knew it would be tough. And it was…
I’ll spare you the details because everyone’s transition challenges are a bit unique, but I remember just before preaching my second Sunday at Princetown…
Although I acknowledged it for months, it finally began to sink in that I wouldn’t be with my Gateway family each week.
Although you’re still our spiritual family...our relationship with you (at Gateway) looks different now.
As excited as I was to meet and get to know this new family of Christ-followers in NY...I was grieving the transition from my Gateway family.
I remember asking God: “Why did I do this? What are You trying to do in my life?”
And God said…”Remember, I’m with you. I’ve been with you before. I’ll never leave you. I’m with you.”
Do you know that, Church?
God’s with you.
There’s a reason God tells us--in His Word--”I’m with you” 118 times.
He wants us to know it. He NEVER EVER wants us to doubt it.
No matter where you go or what you do.
No matter what God calls you to do...when you go, He’s with you.
In Christ...Nothing...absolutely nothing can or will separate you from God.
Maybe God’s calling you to go somewhere you’ve never been before…
It could be committing to serve regularly at the City Mission.
Knocking on a neighbor’s door to introduce yourself and share Christ.
It could be going on a missions trip.
Or, maybe...When Gateway opens its new campus on September 29 in Bowling Green, will you go? Maybe God’s calling you to be sent.
If He does...you can trust that God’s with you. He won’t leave you.
Because God’s with you, be sent.
The third way God equips Jeremiah to be sent is by God empowering him. It’s true for you too...
3. Because God EMPOWERS you, be sent.
Jeremiah 1:9-10 (ESV) - 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
We see here that God wasn’t asking Jeremiah to go and figure everything out on his own. God’s gonna lead him & guide him.
Jeremiah didn’t even have to speak on his own behalf...God gave him the words.
God rules the nations of this world by His Word. God appointed Jeremiah to boldly proclaim God’s Word, and he’s given the spiritual authority to do so.
The Lord instructed Jeremiah to be a bold prophet, not because of his preaching ability or because of his age & experience.
God didn’t call Jeremiah because he had some sort of degree from a prestigious school or incredible skills that God wanted to tap into…
No...God called Jeremiah to use him as a vessel...he was called to speak God’s own words.
God will do this as He sends you too.
As He sends you, He empowers you.
God sent my family and I to a new place, with a new people.
As we arrived, we learned quickly that the culture was very different, but we also realized that people are people...People are the same everywhere.
And God is equipping my family and I to love & care for this new community of people...to point them to Christ.
I’m learning that God’s always faithful to give me the words to speak, to close my mouth when I shouldn’t speak, and to help me share Jesus’ grace with those around me.
I’ve just gotta remember that I don’t have what it takes. I’ve gotta rely on God’s equipping in my life.
It’s the same for you.
God will equip you for whatever He’s calling you to do.
As He sends you, He’ll empower you.
If God’s calling you to serve in a new way...to take on a leadership role…
...He’ll empower you to do it.
Maybe God’s been nudging you to consider being a pastor.
It’s gonna take a lot of time & sacrifice to get through the training & schooling.
But, if you sense that’s what God’s asking you to do...He’ll empower you.
He’ll give you the words. You can be sure of that!
Maybe you’re being sent to help launch that new BG campus.
...He’ll empower you to do it.
Just as Jesus was sent by the Father into this broken world for you...you--as a Christ-follower--are being sent to proclaim the only hope we have...that’s Jesus.
You don’t need to be in vocational ministry to do this.
Your mission will be different than mine...
It may look a bit different from the person next to you...
But, you’re being called by God to be sent.
He’s sending you to share the life-altering grace of Christ with others who don’t yet have it.
Don’t make excuses...Don’t be afraid.
God knows you.
God’s with you.
God empowers you to do what He’s calling you to do.
You can be confident of that. Gateway Church, Be Sent!
Gracious Father, we confess to You today that sometimes we get so caught up in the daily routines of our lives or the worldly blessings that give us comfort that we just don’t deeply & prayerfully consider how You might want to lead us.
Our hearts are too often centered on ourselves. We don’t pay attention to Your call. We don’t believe that You’ll provide for our every need.
But, You do.
Jesus, thank You for knowing us.
Thank You for always being with us.
Thank You for empowering us.
It’s because You’re faithful to equip those You call that we can be sent for Your glory!
Now, help us Holy Spirit. Guide us into all truth...that we would obey Your call...that each one listening today--as individuals, and collectively as Gateway Church--would be sent.
In Jesus’ name we pray.