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Coop's Column- Spirit at Work: Sender

This Good News - as every lesser piece of good news - is meant to be shared. And shared everywhere, always, by all who believe it.

The single, overarching purpose of these columns is to highlight the role that the practice of worship—more specifically, Christians worshipping together in congregations—can play in helping them to keep their bearings in life—to steer their course by careful intention. To be sure, other Christian practices matter, too—thinking correct thoughts about God, nurturing right feelings toward God, and living obediently before God, for example. But careful doctrine, healthful emotions, and right actions, however important their roles in serving to mature Jesus’ disciples, are less important than worship. Worship lies at the throbbing, nourishing center of every Christian’s relationship with God. Thus, when a congregation gathers on Sunday morning, each member of the assembly is under joyful summons to bring her or his entire person—mind (right teachings), emotions (right feelings), and will (right actions), not less than everything—into vigorous, whole-hearted worship. Genuine worship combines all other ingredients into a single act of devotion.

In recent columns we have been focusing on the crucial role of the Holy Spirit, the presence and power of the risen Jesus, in the lives of pilgrim believers. The Spirit makes Jesus present to them as they journey; the Spirit empowers them to live as God intends. In today’s column we focus on the Spirit’s work as Sender.

God’s Word is clear: The Triune God is a sending God. The Father sent his Son into the world: “God so loved the world that he sent his Son …” (John 3:16). The Son, in turn, performs a double-sending. First, he sends his Spirit upon his followers: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Thereafter, he sends them forth into the world as heralds of his Good News: “Go … and be my witnesses” (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8). The Spirit, in turn, from age to age, sends believers across boundaries with the Good News—indeed, to the ends of the earth. The entire Trinity works together to make the Church reflect God’s very nature—to be missionary.

How fitting, therefore, for the venerable New England divine, Rev. Timothy Dwight, to remind Yale’s graduating seminarians of their central identity as “sent ones.” That very identity forms the chief calling of every preacher—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

But not to preachers only does the Spirit sound forth the call to spread far and wide the Good News. To the entire congregation—to each and every member, without exception—the Spirit gives serious summons to participate in the glad task of serving as “sent ones.”     

There is no place in any congregation, therefore, for “associate member missionaries”—people who bear Christ’s name but refuse to herald it. This Good News (as every lesser piece of good news) is meant to be shared. And shared everywhere, always, by all who believe it.

When the Spirit was poured out upon the church at Pentecost, those who in fear had once barricaded themselves behind locked doors now went forth boldly to bear witness to the risen Jesus. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). To shed fear and summon up strength to witness boldly requires congregating together. For there—in the congregation of God’s people assembled together before his face—believers declare their conscious dependence upon God, and receive fresh, generous renewing from the Spirit. Only then can they go forth with the courage that heralding requires.
The Spirit keeps on bidding believers to cross boundaries when they go forth to proclaim the gospel. The mission of Jesus’ earliest followers was not just to Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria; they were to go to “the ends of the earth” (cf. Acts 1). To us, too, the Spirit comes with the command to move beyond our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria. Our missionary vision must extend to the farthest extremes of those who differ from us.

And how best to report the Good News when we do go forth? Again Scripture is clear: The Spirit’s favored (and most effective) means of getting the Good News out is through models of those who believe it and live it faithfully—in other words, through the uncomplicated witness of Christians’ well-lived lives.

One need not be smart or savvy, powerful or famous, winsome or witty, to show forth the gospel’s transforming message. How extraordinary the life and witness of ordinary saints can become when—but only when—the Spirit empowers them.

So, as Donald English, former British Methodist, never tired of repeating: it’s not more gospel salespersons that the world needs–it’s more free samples.

Spirit-anointed free samples.


Holy Spirit, empower your church to have eyes to see those who long to return home, ears to hear their cry, and bold, discerning wisdom to declare to them the Good News. Use your people to prepare them to meet you at the great Day of Redemption that is coming with your Son. Amen.