Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 7, 2016
God still calls and sends people out
our church called seven men and women to the altar. We laid hands on them and
commissioned them to go to Africa. Their mission was to share the love of Jesus
with the people of Siansowa Village in the southern
region of Zambia. The team came back fired up and eager to motivate our
congregation to find creative ways to partner with the three thousand people in
that poor village.
act of “sending forth” people in the name of Jesus reminded me of a story
Doctor Luke tells in the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples in the little
church in Antioch were worshiping and fasting when they heard the Holy Spirit
say, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called
was the first missionary journey of Barnabas and Paul. The two of them, having
found new life in Christ, were sent to tell others the good news of salvation. Luke
says that, “after fasting and praying,” the church elders “laid their hands on
them and sent them off.”
Barnabas and Paul were sent out by their fellow disciples in the church at
Antioch, Luke emphasizes that they were actually “sent out by the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit called them. The Spirit equipped them. The Spirit sent them out. But
the Spirit sent them through the church with the encouragement and prayers of
is interesting that the Holy Spirit spoke to the disciples while they were
“worshiping the Lord and fasting.” The focus of their worship was “the Lord,”
Jesus Christ. It was not on butterflies and caterpillars or the birds and the
bees. While the beauty of nature is a precious gift of God, Christian worship
must always be centered in the greatest gift – His Son Jesus Christ. The life,
ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus constitute the inexhaustible
subject of authentic worship.
the Antioch church fasting is connected to worship. Though fasting is not
commanded by the New Testament, Christians have found that fasting helps them
discern the will of God. Jesus fasted. The early disciples fasted. Christians
through the ages have fasted.
need not assume that the words of the Holy Spirit were audible. When the Spirit
“said” to the worshipers, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to
which I have called them,” we may assume they heard the Spirit’s voice as we do
– in their minds and hearts. However the Spirit spoke, his command was persuasive.
The worshipers were moved to fast and pray, then obey the Spirit.
definition of the word “holy” is to be “set apart,” as in set apart for the
work of God. All Christians are called to be holy, set apart for the work of
Christ. It was not the “laying on of hands” that empowered Barnabas and Paul
for their mission. Then and today the laying on of hands is simply a traditional
practice of inviting the Spirit to fill the recipients with the grace to do the
will of God. The power belongs to the Spirit, not to the hands of those
churches still “send forth disciples” into their communities – and across the
world. Weak and dying churches set up camp and invite people to come to them.
They invite but do not send. The attitude, “We are here if you need us,” will
do little to win the world to Christ.
the church today needs to find new ways to send out believers to share the
gospel with their neighbors. We have all received the mandate to “be his
witnesses” and to “go into all the world.” The Great Commission applies to all
believers, not a select few.
Lord’s command, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” applies to us all.
Unfortunately some of us have perceived this as the Lord’s instructions to
missionaries, not ordinary disciples. We need to re-think this passage. Some
commentators suggest that the Lord was actually saying, “As you go about,
living your daily life, do your best to make disciples of everyone you meet.”
of saying to worshipers as they leave church, “Depart in peace,” we could say,
“Go forth as disciples sent out to share the good news of Christ in the place
where you work, in your neighborhood, in your school and in all the places
where your witness can make a difference.”
Spirit who sent out Barnabas and Paul can send us out and release in us the
same power that birthed the church in the first century. + + +