Devoted to the Mission

Learning About The Importance Of Church Planting.

George Wright
Jul 12, 2020    44m
Have you ever wondered, what is the importance of church planting? Before Jesus ascended into heaven the last thing He told his disciples was to go into all the world and share His Gospel. Church planting is a critical step to reaching those who have not yet heard the good news of the gospel. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 Shandon, this really is a very special day in the life of our church, and this is the day that we've been praying for really, for several years. As we had the opportunity to commission one of our own, one of our very best, from our team here at Shandon to go and plant a church in the city of Pittsburgh. And so it's my privilege to welcome Billy Judge, who has been our college pastor here at Shandon, who is now the senior pastor of Steel City Church in Pittsburgh, getting ready to launch out. Billy, thanks for being with us today, man. I so appreciate the opportunity to hear a little bit more, and to pray over you. So tell us how you are doing man, how are things going?

Billy Judge: 00:40 Hey, doing good. It is still really weird to own that term senior pastor. I still feel like I'm the college pastor at Shandon some days, but we're excited and we head out in two weeks.

George Wright: 00:50 Oh man, we're thrilled for you. And church, this is a privilege to be able, not only to hear from Billy, but to pray over him today, and commission him, and send him out. There are members of their team that are already on the ground in Pittsburgh, and Billy and Sarah and their family are going to be moving real soon. So Billy, why don't you just tell us real quick, what are y'alls plans just in the near future? How are y'all getting ready to launch out and get settled, and then what
comes next once you land in Pittsburgh?

Billy Judge: 01:19 Yeah. So first off I'm Sarah and I feel like we are late to the party that we planned. Most of our team is already in the city, they're moved in. Still waiting on a few others, but they're meeting their neighbors. In fact, one of our teammates had their neighbor babysit their kids yesterday, and they've known each other for like three weeks, and so that was just really cool. But we'll move on July 20th, we'll land in the city, and August will be the first month where all of our team is together for the first time in person ever. So we're really excited just to give each other hugs, and elbow bumps, and all the things. And we're calling August connection month internally with our team, and I know it's a prolific name, but the goal of connection month is simply to connect with as many people as possible in the city. And so we're going to do that organically in our neighborhoods, but we're also going to do some program things. We're going to have two vision nights at the end of the month, and a couple of connection nights in our homes throughout the month, and so super excited about connecting with as many people as possible. And then after Labor Day, we're going to launch our first round of what we're calling city groups. These are our open small groups for people who are either mature in their faith, or even exploring their faith for the first time. And so connection month in August, and then city groups, connection groups, after Labor Day.
George Wright: 02:39 And so those city groups, will they go throughout the fall, they go to the new year. I mean, what's the goal of all that?

Billy Judge: 02:46 Yeah. So we have two types of groups that'll be happening simultaneously. The first are city groups, which are groups for people to explore their faith with the people of God. We hope that they see John 13:35 on display, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And so we want people who are disconnected from Jesus to interact with the people of God, those will happen indefinitely. And the goal is that as those groups grow, we'll multiply them, and our hope is that that's how we grow our small group ministry. But simultaneously, kind of underneath those open groups, we'll have what we're calling discipleship groups. Which are those groups for people who are mature in their faith, kind of a deep dive into the Bible marked by accountable relationships, scripture memory, accountability, and so super excited to have those two groups going on indefinitely. I mean, we're starting the church backward without a gathering, and so our goal is to grow those groups out. And when we have a critical mass, we'll launch a service.

George Wright: 03:46 Well, it really is beautiful, I know those groups will then serve as the foundation of the church. And really just building the launch team, so to speak, so that when you do go public with worship services, you will have a group of people that are already there, they're already connected, they know one another, they understand the vision and the mission, and that really is beautiful. So what is your goal then for having services? When are you hoping to go public with services?

Billy Judge: 04:12 So we have a long runway, our goal even before COVID, was August of 21. And so there's two natural times that people naturally get back into the rhythm of church. It's New Years, right, because people have their resolutions. And it's back to school, just because summer's done and people are ready to get back into their rhythm. We thought that since we're moving in August, or we're landing in the city in August, that January would be too soon. And now with the COVID-19 restrictions in the city, August of 21 is looking more and more like it was the right decision. So we are going to do some preview services peppered throughout the year. so our hope is that our first one would be this October. We're holding that with open hands, just like we're holding things with open hands here at Shandon. And then our second hope is that we would get to do a mid-December Christmas preview service, maybe call it Christmas with Steel City or something like that. Yeah, so we're looking at a long runway, and one of my favorite quotes that I've heard from a church planting coach is, what you win them with is what you win them to. And so we want to win people, not with a service, but with authentic relationships, with Bible study. So that, like you said, when we launched that service, people are sticking around and not just coming, checking us out and then leaving and going on to the next thing.

George Wright: 05:30 Man, it's awesome. Well tell us about this launch team, because you said several of the team members are already on the ground. Several of the team members are from Shandon as well, which has been such a privilege for us to be able to send out this team together. So how many people right now are on the core launch team, and how many folks are from Shandon?

Billy Judge: 05:48 So right now we have twenty-five adults and eight kids, and about half of them are from Shandon, which is just amazing. And here's, what's crazy, my biggest prayers we've been building out this launch team has been simple. Lord, don't give us the most people, give us the right people. And so he really has answered that prayer, we have who I think are the right people, and many of you know, the people who are on our team. We know the Richards, we love Chris and Rachel. We know Steve and Becca Dirks, who were on staff here at Shandon. We know the Abernathy family, who've served all throughout our church. We've got some recent college grads on our team. And I do want to give a shout out to Meredith and Levi Wright, who actually moved a year ago after they graduated Shandon college ministry up to Pittsburgh, knowing that we were kind of headed this way.

George Wright: 06:36 Yeah, they've been plowing the ground.

Billy Judge: 06:37 So they've been our pioneers.

George Wright: 06:39 Yeah, that's awesome, it's so awesome. Share real quickly with the folks here at Shandon, what is the vision for Steel City as y'all land on the ground here in a few weeks, and as the team comes together for the month of August, what is the vision you're casting? And then what are you praying for? How can we join you in praying over these next weeks and months as y'all get established in the city?

Billy Judge: 07:03 Yeah. So Pittsburgh is a city of 300,000, people, 2.3 million in the Metro area. But in that doughnut of the city, 40% of the people are identifying as not religious at all. So we're moving into what's the second most irreligious area in the nation, behind Portland, Oregon, and so we really do want to see a gospel explosion. The way that we're talking about our church, is that Steel City Church is a multigenerational church, that loves college students. Similar to Shandon, right, we're a multigenerational church that loves college students. But we don't just want to be one church, we want to be a church that raises leaders from the harvest. That people would come to know Jesus, go through our discipleship pathway that we would get to send, just like Shandon, church planters, not just throughout the city of Pittsburgh, but across the world and across North America to strategic university centers. And so our hope that 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road is that we would have a multitude of churches that Steel City is grandfather, or great-grandmother to in the future. So that's how we're thinking about it.

George Wright: 08:11 Man, that's beautiful. Well, how can we join you in prayer over these next weeks and months? I mean, what are some specific prayer requests for your family, for your team, just for the launch? I mean, what can we pray for you?

Billy Judge: 08:23 Yeah, so I'll share a few. The first is we're planting a church in a pandemic.

George Wright: 08:30 Yes, that is interesting.

Billy Judge: 08:32 It is interesting. But what we have to remind ourselves of, is that churches have been planted in pandemics all throughout history, but this is a unique time because there's some social pressure that we're having to navigate. There's COVID-19 restrictions, and in Pittsburgh right now, gatherings are limited to 25 people, and our launch team is over 30 people. And so we're just having to navigate some logistics and what looks like for us, and what it looks like to bring people into that and to love our neighbors as we do it. So just some wisdom would be helpful there. I think for our launch team, we still haven't met each other in person yet. And so we have zoom fatigue. I think we do love each other, but there are some days where it still feels like it's the first day of school and we're feeling each other out. So just pray that the Lord would bind our hearts together in ministry in a really beautiful way. And then lastly is for my family, this has just been a crazy time of transition for the Judge family. We've wrapped up our time at Shandon, we have a newborn and a toddler we're moving to a new city. And as you know, we've been walking through something really hard as Sarah's dad was diagnosed with cancer back in October, and we think that the end is nearing. And so we're having to think about what it looks like to say goodbye to him and grieve a man who we've loved for so many years. And so prayers as we just navigate all this transition and grief. But also the excitement that is ahead is something that we're really looking forward to as well.

George Wright: 10:02 Wow, there's a lot there, and we're going to pray for you right now. And I do want to ask the people of Shandon, if you would commit to be praying for Billy and Sarah, for the launch team of Steel City, for all those who were involved over these next few weeks and months, especially as they do come together for the first time as a team. These are critical days for this new church, and we are thrilled to stand in your corner, we're thrilled to be with you, but we know that the only way this goes to the glory of God is if we are on our knees, begging God to do a mighty work in the city of Pittsburgh through Steel City Church. And so I want to ask you to be praying, commit to pray for the Judges and for Steel City. And Billy, it's a privilege now to commission you, and to send you out. I mean, this is what we see modeled in scripture over and over again, as the Lord is establishing the church in the new Testament, and his new church plants are taking off mainly through the leadership of the Apostle Paul and the early disciples. There was a time of commissioning for these new churches, a laying on of hands, a prayer, a blessing, Lord to use this for your glory, and so that's what we're doing here today.

George Wright: 11:14 And so Shandon, I would ask that you just join me right now in praying for, and commissioning Billy, as they launch out into the city of Pittsburgh. Let's pray together. Father God, it is such a privilege to stand here, to sit here, with a dear friend, a dear brother that I personally love so much. And I'm so grateful for all that he has invested and poured into the life of Shandon, specifically through our college ministry, but the influence of Billy and Sarah in our church has been so great and it's been beyond college ministry. And we are so grateful for what you have done through their example, and their witness here, as a member of this team. And Lord, we know that this calling on their life is from you. And so Lord, we pray that you would bless them and anoint them as you have placed this mantle of leadership on their shoulders to go and establish a new work, to go and pioneer a new territory for the sake of the gospel in the city of Pittsburgh. Lord, we pray your hand and blessing on Steel City Church. And we pray your hand and blessing on this launch team, that is many of them are already on the ground, and they'll all be joining together as Billy has shared in the month of August, Lord, would you bless that time, would it be sweet fellowship, and fast relationships, and deep roots together for the sake of this vision? I pray for unity among that team, as they get to know one another and love one another. I pray that you would give them clarity of thought, and clarity of purpose, as they joined together for the sake of Steel City Church and the gospel advancing in Pittsburgh, bless them. Lord, I pray for Billy and the team that you give them wisdom navigating these very strange days. It is an unusual time to plant a church, but Lord, we know that you are in control and we know that you have set apart this time for this church to land in the city of Pittsburgh. And so I pray that you guide them through the restrictions and the guidelines, and all that they're doing as they seek to interact with neighbors and connect with others in the city, give them wisdom to know the best way to do that and to provide a great Christ-like witness every step of the way. And Lord, we pray for Billy and for Sarah, these have been challenging days as they prepare for this transition. And we're so grateful for the growth of their family personally, and what you're doing in their household. But we also recognize this is a season of grieving, grieving as they move to a new place, and as they say goodbye to many good friends. But also, Lord, in a very personal way, grieving as they're walking through this very difficult season, as a family, thinking about Sarah's dad, Lord, we pray for him that you would comfort him in these final days. We're so grateful for his witness, and his legacy, in their family. And we pray for Billy and Sarah, and Sarah's family, that as they grieve and as they walk through this time, you would comfort them, you would show them your love and your grace in very special ways, and you would use this to draw them even closer together as they lean on you. Lord, we are asking you to establish a beautiful work of the gospel in the city of Pittsburgh, through Steel City Church, Lord use this church for your glory. It is our privilege to stand with them and to them out, we believe that you are at work for great things. And we ask your spirit to empower Steel City Church, to point many people to the good news of Jesus Christ. And we pray all this in Jesus' name, amen. And church, we just want to encourage you to continue to be praying for Billy and Sarah and for Steel City Church in the days ahead, these are really exciting times for us as we get to be involved with this new work that God is doing in the city of Pittsburgh.

George Wright: 15:23 I want to ask you now to grab your Bible, and we're going to step into the word of God for a few moments here this morning, as we kick off a new series from the Book of Acts. And over the next few weeks, we're going to be looking primarily at Acts chapter 2, but today, especially in light of this commissioning of Steel City Church, I want to step into the very beginning of the Book of Acts, Acts chapter one. And we're going to begin in verse 1 in, so I'm going to read verses 1 and 2 to get us started. And it just because this is our custom, but also because we want to be reminded that the word of God is our authority as a people of God, and the word of God is the foundation on which we stand as a church. I want to ask you to stand with me as we consider the word of God and look to the Holy scripture here today. Acts chapter 1, verse 1 and 2, It says this, "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen." And you may be seated if you are standing with me, and thank you for standing as we consider what the word of God says.

George Wright: 16:43 What you see here in the beginning of the Book of Acts of the apostles, is a continuation of what the Apostle Luke wrote in Luke's gospel. What you see in Luke's gospel is the story of Jesus' ministry, and his time on earth. And in the Book of Acts, Luke picks up the story, right as Jesus is preparing to ascend in heaven to be seated at the right hand of the father. And so this is now the beginning of the church coming out of the ministry of Jesus, following the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. What we see at the beginning of Acts is so incredibly important because Luke is writing, saying, there have been many proofs that come about because of the ministry of Jesus and the proof of his resurrection. This is not just one man's personal story, this is not just one man's eye witness account, but Luke goes on to say here in verse 3, that Jesus is presenting himself, and has presented himself, in many different ways to many different people after the resurrection.

George Wright: 18:02 Look at Acts chapter 1 verse 3, it says, "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom. Now here, Luke is showing us that there is evidence, eye witness accounts, of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this is so important for us to recognize that the word of God is saying there are many different people, not just the disciples, not just the apostles, not just Luke, not just the writers of the scripture, but many different people who saw the resurrected Christ with their own eyes. For 40 days, Jesus walked the earth and interacted with people after his resurrection, before his Ascension. And there are eye witness accounts all over the place, even as Luke is writing this letter, that could say, yes, we saw Jesus alive.

George Wright: 19:09 The same thing is also shared by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In First Corinthians chapter 15, look at what the scripture says. First Corinthians 15 beginning in verse 3, "For what I received, I passed onto you as a first importance. That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the 12. After that, he appeared to (listen to this) more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, (Paul writes) though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James then to all the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to me also as to one abnormally born."

George Wright: 20:00 So here's the scripture speaking in light of scripture, speaking to the truth and the reality that many different eye witnesses saw the resurrected Christ. Luke says there are many proofs. Jesus walked the earth for 40 days, interacting with people, revealing resurrection power to many different people. Paul says, Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time, in one large gathering, the resurrected Christ was seen by over 500 people. And Paul says many of them, as I write this letter, are still alive, go ask them, go ask them of their personal experience. And this is why the scripture makes this so clear, because if what we're going to see about the church is really based on the truth of the gospel, and if what we're going to recognize in the power of God establishing the church is the reality that the church today gets to walk in, it is all built on the resurrection of Jesus. It is all built on the fact that we worship a living savior, the tomb is empty. And so as Luke records, the early days of the church, he starts by saying, I want to make it crystal clear, Jesus is alive, and many people saw him before he ascended to heaven. As Paul is writing to the church at the beginning of the missionary movement, he says, I want to make it clear, First Corinthians 15, Jesus is alive, and many people saw him. The church is built on the risen savior, and the power of the resurrection that defeated sin and death once and for all.

George Wright: 22:00 But Luke also shows us in Acts chapter 1 verse 3, what the focus of the resurrected Christ was all about. He shows us what Jesus was teaching and preaching in those 40 days after his resurrection, before he ascended into heaven. And certainly we can conclude whatever the resurrected savior wanted to talk about is of the utmost importance. What was Jesus talking, about and preaching about, and teaching about in his final days before he ascended to heaven? Look at verse 3 again, "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom." On this day, where we're getting to send out one of our own, and commission Billy and this new church plant Steel City Church in the city of Pittsburgh, we are reminded that the church of Jesus Christ is to be focused on the kingdom of God, this is of the utmost importance. This is what Jesus was teaching his followers all about before he ascended in to heaven. In fact, you see this run all throughout the ministry of Jesus in his time on earth, Jesus is continually saying the kingdom of God is of the utmost importance. The people of God must be focused on the kingdom of God. Jesus wants to make sure his disciples, and his bride, the church understand, that God is building his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And the church of Jesus Christ is to be focused on the kingdom over and above ourselves, over and above our small C church, we're to be focused on, and prioritizing, and loving the big C church. For we are reminded that God is doing far more than we can even see or understand or grasp in one local church. He’s invited us into something that is happening all around the world. As the church, the big C church is advancing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

George Wright: 24:51 Now, one of the great privileges of church planting is that churches are planted in partnership with other churches. For a church plant to take off, and have the resources, and the support, and the prayer focus that is needed for the church to be established in a new area, churches must come together to plant new churches. That's been one of the great joys for us in being involved in the plant of Steel City Church. We're joining together with the North American mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we're joining together with other local churches to help plant this new work. We want to give you the opportunity real quick to hear from a few of these other leaders who are involved in this church planting effort, so that we can all be reminded, church planting is a kingdom priority. Check this out.

Unknown: 25:49 We'll greetings, Billy and Sarah and the Steel City Church, Riverland Hills Baptist church is behind you. And we are so proud and excited to be a partner of what God is doing in your life in Pittsburgh. We're also very excited to be partnering with Shandon Baptist church and other churches. I love the kingdom of God growing and expanding, and I love the fact that we can do so much more together than we could ever do apart. We're praying for you guys at Steel City Church. We are so excited for how God is going to use you as you move forward. We can't wait in the months to come, and the years to come, to come up to Pittsburgh and to be a part of what is going on there through the work of God. And we are proud to be supporting you financially. So, thanks for obeying God, we love you guys and wish you the best

Unknown: 26:36 Billy, we here at Lake Murray Baptist could not be more excited and more honored to partner with you Steel City Church. You need to know that we're going to be praying for you. We're going to be praying for you, and your family, Sarah and the kids. We're going to be praying that the Lord would support you, strengthen you, and give you all the wisdom you need for this task. We've been so thrilled to hear about how he's brought together the team. We'll be praying for your team that God will use you in Steel City Church, in Pittsburgh, to change that city for the name of Christ. We're going to support you in every way we can, brother. We love you, we are thankful for you, and we are with you.

Kevin Ezell: 27:13 Hello, Shandon Baptist. I'm Kevin Ezell, president of North America Mission. And I am so happy to add my voice to the many who are sharing words of encouragement today, Billy and Sarah, we are so excited to be partnering with you and to be supporting Steel City Church in Pittsburgh. And to the Shandon Baptist family, thank you. Thank you for your heart for the gospel, and for sending your own people to the mission field. At NAM, we are grateful to partner with you and to join in the effort to reach North America for Christ. And I can't wait to see all that God does, and how he uses Billy and Sarah and everyone who's a part of this new work. I mean, God bless you, and enjoy your special day. Pastor George, thank you, thank you for your passion to reach the world and to reach cities like Pittsburgh. You've already invested so much time in doing that, I'm just grateful for your heart, and grateful for the way you lead your church to be a model to others to follow.

George Wright: 28:21 Church planting reminds us that what God is doing to build his kingdom, is bigger than one church, it is a kingdom effort. And Jesus wants his church, his people to be kingdom focused in all that we do for you. See, if the mission is going to be accomplished, it's not going to be accomplished through one church. It's going to be accomplished as churches join together, as the people of God come together for something greater than ourselves, for something bigger than we could do on our own. And here's the reality, if we are not focused on the kingdom, we will not plant churches, we will hoard our resources, we will not partner with other people outside of ourselves, we will be focused only on what we need and what we want. And if that is our focus, if we do not have a kingdom priority as our focus, over time, we as a church will wither and die. Because the work of the ministry that God uses, and the work of the ministry that God blesses, is kingdom ministry. We all need to be reminded that what God has invited it has to be a part of as a local church is far bigger than just ourselves. Jesus' heart for his church, is to be kingdom focused in all that we do.

George Wright: 30:11 Now we go back to the scripture, Acts chapter 1 look at verse 4 and 5. It says, "And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem." Remember this is Jesus interacting with his disciples before he ascends into heaven. But told them, "Wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Here, Luke is giving a preview of what we will read about in Acts chapter 2, what is called the events of Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit of God falls on the early disciples and empowers them to then establish the beginning of the church. This is an unbelievable scene that Luke is talking about, but isn't it interesting that Jesus specifically says to his disciples, I want you to be kingdom focused. I want you to recognize I'm giving you a mission, but as I give you a mission, and as I tell you to be kingdom focused, I want you to stay in one place until the spirit comes. Why in the world would Jesus tell them to wait, when this mission is of the utmost important?

George Wright: 31:46 Well, here's what we see, the power of the church is the spirit. The power of the church is the Holy Spirit at work through the people of God for the glory of God. Now I realize some people get nervous when we start to talk about the Holy Spirit, are we going to start jumping over pews and swinging from the lights? Some people only want to talk about the Holy Spirit, and wonder why we're not jumping over pews and swinging from the lights. The Holy Spirit at times can be one of those topics that can feel a little confusing, or maybe can make people a little bit nervous. Why are we not more charismatic and Pentecostal? Or man, we're way too charismatic and Pentecostal. And people have opinions all across board when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Here's what the scripture reveals about the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, a member of the triune God, is all about exalting Jesus. The Holy Spirit is all about elevating Jesus. The Holy Spirit is all about pointing to Jesus. And the Holy Spirit never competes for attention over and above Jesus. The role of the spirit of God is to elevate and exalt Jesus Christ so that Jesus can be put on display. And the spirit of God empowers the church, the people of God, to exalt and elevate Christ above all else.

George Wright: 33:36 You see, you can't grow a God honoring, mission minded, gospel centered, Jesus exalting, people loving, church apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. And so Jesus makes it very clear at the beginning of the church, I have a mission for my people, I want my people to be kingdom focused, to recognize that God is at work to do something bigger than yourself or anything you can do on your own. And I want you to see at the very beginning that the only way the church advances this mission is through the power of the spirit of God. Leadership is important, wisdom is essential, strategy and planning, and ministry tactics, and programs, are all beneficial in the life of the church, but none of that matters without the power of the Holy Spirit. We can't grow a church, only God can grow a church that truly exalts Jesus, and advances the mission. It is a mysterious, spiritual thing that only God can do. And so Jesus says to his disciples, you must wait until the spirit comes so that you can recognize that all that I have called you to be about can only be accomplished through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

George Wright: 35:24 Now here's the beautiful gift, and here is when it's so awesome for us in the church today. From the time of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, the scripture reveals that every person who is a follower of Jesus Christ receives the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. We don't have to sit and wait for the spirit to indwell us as the people of God. At the moment of salvation, the scripture shows us, that the spirit of God indwells the life of the believer, and empowers the believer to live the mission. So the question for us today is not have you received the Spirit, if you call yourself a Christian? The question for us today, if you call yourself a Christian, is, are you listening to the Spirit? Are you trusting the authority of the Spirit to guide you to live the mission? Are you seeing the power of the Spirit at work in your life as you yield to the authority of the Spirit and live the mission, as we say here at Shandon, wherever you are and wherever God takes us? Will we listen to the Holy Spirit as the spirit guides us to live in such a way that elevates and exalts the name of Jesus above all else?

George Wright: 37:05 We close today in Acts chapter 1 verses 6 through 8, where we see this great call to the mission. Look at the scripture, it says this, "So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The church has a mission, and the mission has been made clear. I love the interaction that we see here in verses 6 and 7, as those early disciples are saying, now, Jesus, is this the time when you're going to restore Israel to power and prominence? Is this the time when you're going to establish the kingdom that we want you to establish? And Jesus says, hold on, you're already getting distracted, you're already missing the point. It's not for you to know the future of what God is going to do. It's not for you to try and play the role of the sovereign God, only God knows the future. It's your responsibility to trust that God is in control, and as you trust that God is in control, to recognize God has given you a mission. For as long as there is breath in your lungs, you let God be responsible for the future, and as you trust him, you have been given a mission. It's not for you to try and predict it all, it's not for you to know it all, it's for you to live this mission that I have laid before you, Jesus says. And the mission is to be a witness of the good news of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God takes us. To leverage who we are for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God takes us. This is our mission straight from the word of God, to go and live our lives in the world, around us, to be a witness of the gospel, to tell the story of what God has done for us in Christ, to share the good news of what Jesus Christ has done that we can never do for ourselves. Leveraging who we are, and what we've been given, for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God takes us.

George Wright: 40:15 In the midst of all these uncertain times, in the midst of all that we're walking through that seems to be truly unclear right now, the church has a beautiful opportunity to live the mission. We get to live the mission as we send those that we love out to new works of ministry. But we also get to live the mission, don't miss this, right here at home. As your neighbors are navigating uncertainty, there is an opportunity to share good news. As your family is navigating uncertainty, there is an opportunity to be a witness of the hope that we have through Jesus Christ. As people that you work with are facing challenging times, there is an opportunity to listen well to what they're saying, and then to share the good news that we have as a witness of Jesus Christ. Church, God has given us an unprecedented opportunity, in these unprecedented times, to be a witness of the gospel, right where we are and wherever he calls us. Because people are longing for hope, and people need to see that there is hope in Jesus. Will we be witnesses empowered by the spirit, living for the kingdom, to the glory of God?

George Wright: 42:11 Pray with me as we close our time together. Heavenly Father, it is such a privilege on this day, really a historic day in the life of our church, as we send out one of our own to the mission field, send out one of our own as a church planter to establish a new work in a city where there is great need. Lord, we are excited to be involved in what you are doing, we are excited to partner together for the sake of the kingdom. And Lord, as we think about our individual lives, and our individual opportunities, for those who are followers of Christ, I pray Lord God, that you would give us very clear vision to see how we can be a witness of the gospel right now, right where you have planted us. Oh, how we thank you that you have empowered your church with the Holy Spirit, so it's not up to us to be creative enough, or smart enough, or have the perfect response every time. Lord, the Spirit empowers us to be a witness. And so I pray, Lord, that we would yield to the Spirit, that we would trust the power of the Spirit in our lives, and that we would elevate and exalt Jesus to those around us. Give us the words to say, give us the opportunity to say those words, and the open door to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 43:44 Father, as I close, I pray specifically for those who are joining us today, who have never received this good news of Jesus Christ in a personal way. I pray that today would be the day that their eyes would be open, that they would recognize their need for the savior, that they would recognize the gift of what Jesus Christ is offering them in the forgiveness of sins, through the power of the cross and his resurrection, and I pray that they would trust their life to the risen savior. Oh Lord, how grateful we are for the gift of salvation that saves us from sin, that covers us in grace, that forgives us and invites us into a new life, lived for the sake of the greatest mission the world has ever seen. Use us, Lord, for your glory. How grateful we are for this time. It's in Christ's name we pray. Amen. God bless. We'll see you real soon.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206