On Mission: Globally (Rom. 15:8-21)
I hope you’ll join us the next four Sundays. I’ve been looking forward to this for months. Four guest preachers who will also lead workshops each Sunday over lunch. Special curriculum for Karis Kids. Devoted times of prayer. A one read through John Perkins’s great book. I’m excited. Join in with us.
We’ve devoted last week and today to talking Karis vision. Last Sunday, I talked about our mission locally. This week, we’ll look at our vision globally. And we’ll start by looking briefly at the end of the book of Romans - this time in chapter 15. Next week, with our guests, we’ll get back into the book of John.
Romans again is Paul’s letter where he lays out the gospel of God more clearly than anywhere else. As I said last week, we see our need, Christ’s work, and our response - faith. But there is this shift when you get to chapter 12. The apostle moves from what God has done to how we should respond. And things get much more practical.
However, in the last couple of chapters, Paul also gets very personal. He pours out words of encouragement, as we saw last week in chapter 16. He lets us peer into his heart, as we see here in chapter 15. We see his passion.
But, first, imagine if Paul said this to them. Focus on your local church. Your needs. Your wants. Keep the lights and the heat on. Put on the programs they want. Take care of your palace and your people. Care for your sheep only. Pursue your good. That’s enough.
But imagine him going even further. Think mainly or only about Rome. What does your city need? Run after that. How can you reach the people around you? Figure out how to do that. Put your time, talent, treasure there - alone. That’s sufficient. Your church. Your city. Here and now.
But that’s not what we hear Paul, inspired by God’s Spirit say. Right? He looks far beyond the church of Rome and the city of Rome.
We see the Apostle’s heart for the world. And he sets an example for us. Of how we should view our calling together. Of how we should look at the nations. And what we should do to serve them together. Let’s look at that now. I want you notice six things with me this morning.
Paul’s Heart for the Nations
First, his model. Look at verses 8-9. Why is Paul a servant of the world? Because Christ His Lord was. Jesus came and served to show God’s word was true to the “circumcised.” That is, the Jews. And He also came and served so that Gentiles would believe. Paul chooses to do the same. He, too, would pour out His life - like His Lord.
Second, his purpose. Why did Jesus do this? Why does Paul? So those non-Jews, those Gentiles, so that all the nations, would sing. As verse 9 puts it, “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” So that all the nations of the world would turn from things that don’t satisfy - to Jesus who fully does - and worship. Paul then quotes four Old Testament passages that prophesied this.
Third, his power. Paul doesn’t shy away from the fact that his ministry had borne fruit. But he makes things really clear. God is the one who had truly done the work.
Rom. 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
Rom. 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed,
Rom. 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.
Paul has taken the gospel from Jerusalem - all the way to Illyricum, what’s now modern-day Albania. Paul has “fulfilled the ministry” Christ has given him. It’s not as if he himself or any of his associates had planted churches in every city. But they’ve left mission outposts spread throughout the land. And this had only come, as verse 19 says, “by the power of the Spirit of God.”
Fourth, his motive. Paul does this ministry, says verse 16, “in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Picture Paul as a priest. He goes to the temple. He approaches the altar. He brings a sacrifice. What’s his offering? Gentiles he’s reached through the churches he has planted. He offers them up to God - in worship. That’s the apostle’s motive in his ministry.
Fifth, his message. He carries the “gospel of God,” as we just read. The good news of Jesus coming to live and die and rise - and for us. Paul proclaims this gospel and calls the nations to believe. Certainly. But not just that. In verse 18, he says Christ has worked through him to “bring the Gentiles to obedience.” He calls the nations toward changed lives. To submit to what Jesus the King asks. Paul proclaims this message, he says, “by word and deed.” He talked it. He walked it.
Sixth, his goal. Back to verse 9. So the nations again would “glorify God.” By His power. For His glory. That’s the ultimate goal of mission. And that’s Paul’s, as well.
But let’s take this further. Yes, Paul wants everyone - including Gentiles - to give glory to God. But he has a specific calling from God - to take Jesus to those who haven’t heard - that they would give glory to Jesus. Hear verses 20 and 21:
Rom. 15:20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation,
Rom. 15:21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”
That’s a noble ambition, huh? That those who had never heard of Jesus would come to give him glory? That’s Paul’s desire, his goal.
On Mission Globally
Now those six things should also well up and spill out of our hearts, also. We should be moved by our model. We should give our lives like Jesus, and here, like Paul - our examples in mission.
We should be gripped by this purpose. To see the nations of the earth worship Christ. That should also consume us and drive us as a family together.
We should be rooted in His power. As we’ll see soon in John 15, apart from Him, we can do nothing. Any good we’ve done has come through Him. Any we’ll do will only come by His Holy Spirit.
We should seek similar motives. Worship. Not reaching others in some effort to earn something from Christ. But sharing Christ out of our deep love for Him. As an expression of worship to Him.
We should proclaim the same message. Yes, that all should believe. But also that they should obey. The kingdom of Christ is here. Bow before King Jesus. We have to say that. We have to live that.
We should have the same goal. To see God glorified among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We should long for, and pray toward, unreached peoples coming to sing the praises of Jesus.
This is Paul’s heart. And that heart should beat among us, as well. We should be on mission - globally - together.
That means we should be about planting churches. I’ve had many people over the years say, “I’ve never been in a place that talks about church planting so much.” Praise God for that. But why? It’s what we see in the book of Acts. It’s what Paul and all his friends gave their lives for. Seeing gospel-centered churches planted and multiplied.
The church is God’s plan A. It’s His method for reaching the world. The early church shared the gospel with individuals. But those who believed were brought together into churches. Families of believers that could then reach the communities around them. Local churches. We should be passionate about church planting. The Lord is. And I think, by His grace, here in Karis, indeed we are.
This means we should be about developing leaders. If you flip through the book of Acts and read closely in his New Testament letters, you’ll notice that Paul was always pouring into men and women. He took them with him on his journeys. He built them up in the gospel of God. He showed them how to do gospel ministry. He left some behind to carry on the work. He sent others out to launch new works.
Gospel-centered church planting movements require gospel-centered leaders. And we have to be in the business of training them up.
Yes, church planters. What we think of traditional missionaries. We’ve done that through our internship program. But also men and women to fill lots of different roles. Folks who may never stand in a pulpit but who can share Jesus in the marketplace.
We have to prioritize raising up leaders and then, we have to do what’s really hard - send them out. Send out our best. By God’s grace, I think we’ve done that here in Karis. The Lord has been good to us in this regard.
Our vision is that we could be involved in church planting in every region or time zone of the U.S. and every continent around the globe. And as we seek to go to the nations, putting special emphasis on unreached people groups.
Our even more bigger prayer is that we wouldn’t just send checks or emails to people we haven’t met. Not that that’s a bad thing in every circumstance. But that we could have people we know and love - people we’ve trained and sent out - on the ground - brothers and sisters we can partner with for years ahead. Again, our goal is gospel saturation. That the whole world would see Jesus for who He is and bow down to Him as Lord, giving Him glory.
Our Progress, Our Prayers
Well, let’s talk a bit about what God has done. And what more we can ask Him to do. In the U.S., we’ve planted churches in Jefferson City - with Tony and Rich down there leading well now, in Fayetteville, Arkansas with Ryan and Melissa Worley, and most, recently, we sent a group to Morganton, North Carolina led by Billy Glosson and his wife, Hannah. They’re in the process of gathering a core group for the plant, Coram Deo. Rooted Church, our Arkansas plant, is actually celebrating 3 years this very morning.
We’ve been a part of launching many other churches across the U.S. through our partnership with Acts 29. Inner-city Camden, New Jersey. College-town Bloomington, Indiana. Those are but two examples.
Around the world, we’ve developed strategic partnerships in Brazil and Japan. We worked for some time with Restore Brazil, a church planting organization based in Rio, where four former Karis members now serve. Eric Papp and his wife and daughter are with us today. We’ve also sent Jessica Fleshman. And most recently, Barry and Kim Still joined them in Rio de Janeiro.
In Japan, we work with a church planting organization called Soma. Drew and Meg Glosson, who spent several years with us here, are there just outside of Tokyo working with a church called Soma Fuchu. This morning, we’ll also out send Jeremy and Leanna Grove to that work. They’ll head out this February to Fuchu.
In addition, we’ve had the joy of sending Kyle and Rachel Herrington to North Africa. They’re there, in the heart of the Muslim world, risking everything to proclaim Christ, with the IMB. They’re reaching out specifically to an unreached, nomadic tribe there.
So God has blessed. We’re a part of pursuing the nations. And we’re also involved among unreached people groups. The Papps will transition soon to an unreached part of northern Brazil. I’ve already mentioned North Africa. But Japan is one of the most unreached nations in the world. Less than 1% of the population are Christians. But we’ve got Karis boots on the ground. I’m excited to visit the Glossons and Groves there later in the year. We have a team heading down to Rio here in a matter of weeks.
These are exciting partnerships. I’m so grateful for what God has done. But I’m also excited to see what He’ll do. We want to send out more planters. As I said last week, Fulton is a priority. We’re excited to pursue another continent as soon as we can. We’ll continue to pursue more interns. We’ll look into other opportunities. Including more here in the United States. But as we do, here are some things you can do.
What You Can Do
First, pray. Pray for the people we’ve sent. Pray for those we haven’t yet. For missionaries you haven’t even met. Look at the fields, as Jesus teaches us in the gospels. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Ask the Lord, He tells us, to raise up workers for that harvest. Ask God to bring us leaders we can train up and then release into that harvest.
Second, go. Pray for them. But pray also for you. Maybe God would call you to the nations. Maybe He’d take you to an unreached people group. Ask Him to open up your heart. Ask Him to guide you. Go! Yes, in your neighborhood. In our city. Like we talked about last week. Go here. Make disciples.
But also be willing to go there. To make disciples of all nations, as Jesus says. Consider a short-term trip to investigate God’s call. And to cultivate a deeper heart for the nations.
Third, give. As families like the Papps and Groves raise funds to go to the nations, sacrificially give to help them get there and stay there. Give as folks in our church go on short-term trips - where they support these folks but also test the waters for themselves.
But let me verbalize something potentially awkward. Give to what’s going on there. But don’t neglect giving to what’s up here. Remember the importance of our general budget. Not only does a significant portion of our budget go directly to these folks - it does - but our budget prioritizes training leaders like these brothers and sisters so we can send them out.
I know we have a number of folks here who have served in the military. Most of us certainly know of people who have. Do we support the troops while they’re on the ground? Giving them the resources they need? Making sure they’re adequately armed?
Or should our funds go to the needs on the bases? To training soldiers for battle? For getting them ready to go? Of course, we have to do both. And it’s the same in the church. This is the base. This is where we train leaders. Let’s fund the mother-ship well. When we send those leaders out, let’s resource them well there, also.
Fourth, dream. Dream with us. Where might God call us next? Where is a pocket of need? Where could God be at work? Right here? Over there? Don’t forget that this epic partnership with Brazil came about in a pretty simple way. Ryan Davis coming to me and saying, “What do you think about Brazil?” Dream with us. Join in as we seek to see the world saturated with the love of Jesus.
Righting the Ship
Many years ago, I decide to take the boys on a camping trip. They were pretty young. I’m guessing maybe Hadley was 8. Kylen was probably 4. We set up the tent and got a fire going. We began grilling some hot dogs. I got a dog loaded up on a stick and handed it to Hadley. I then began getting one ready for Kylen. While I was doing that, Hadley moved a camp chair over by the fire and started heating up his dog.
Well, I looked up, and I thought his chair was too close to the fire. I then noticed he was leaning in it a bit too much. Sure enough, before I could say anything, he rolled that chair right into the fire. There was my son, laying right in the middle of the fire!
Well, thank God, I didn’t freeze. I took the plate I was holding - the one with Kylen’s food on it - and I chucked it on the ground. I ran right over there and yanked him out. I threw him to the ground and tossed him around. But the boys asked the funniest question after it all was over, “Dad, why did you throw the hot dogs on the ground? Why didn’t you set them on the table?” It cracked me up.
You know, we in the church can sadly do the same thing. We can worry about the dogs on the plate when we’ve got people around us in the fire.
Last week, we saw Paul mention a man named Narcissus. People think a church met in his house, but he likely wasn’t a believer. I joked, “Wouldn’t that have been something if Narcissus got saved? What a story that would be!” But what might happen if the church got saved? Right? If God’s people in America stopped acting so narcissistic? If we stopped arguing about carpet colors and quit complaining about the music and looked out our windows and got out of our doors and thought about the world? What if we threw down the hotdogs and jumped into the fire? We’ve got to right that mothership, family.
Last week, I used a predictable basketball illustration. Here’s another. You’re welcome. It’s like we’re in the locker room grooming. We’re ironing our uniforms. Styling our hair. And we’re not coming out for the game. Or maybe it’s worse than that. Maybe we do come out and play, but while we are, there’s a war going on outside. The church has been playing games for far too long in America? When are we going to repent of our narcissism and think about the nations? Like Paul does here?
We’re far too concerned with the here and now. How to take care of our own. How to make people our happy. In this historical moment. But the Lord wants us to get beyond that. He wants us to think about the kingdom, about the future. he wants us to have a bigger, broader vision. Maybe there’s someone here today - for the first time - someone we don’t know - who we’ll send one day on mission globally. We have to long for that. To pray for that. To plan for that. The kingdom. The future.
On Mission: Globally
As I said last week - and no surprise - we’re not perfect here in Karis. We have a long way to go. We’re frail. We’re fallen. We’ve made mistakes. We’ll make more.
But God has blessed. He’s used us. And we know He’s growing us and renewing us, as well. We believe He has more things He wants to do among us. His Spirit is alive and active in our midst. You’ll see that in the rest of our time here this morning. I want to invite you into our life together. Into a life that wants to spread His glory among the nations.
We’re on mission globally. We want to see the world saturated with the love of Jesus. As Habakkuk puts it, we long for the day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” And we want to be instruments God uses to bring that vision about. Will you join us?