When my family moved to Dahlonega to start Creekstone, some of the “earliest adopters” of this grace movement were the staff and students of Campus Outreach at UNG (then known as NGCSU, the Saints not the Nighthawks).
Former Campus Director, Andy Woznicki had just become the Area Coordinator.
Nate Nix was the new Campus Director.
And Jeremy Moore was a Senior.
Andy would go on to join the Creekstone staff, serving with us for seven years.
Nate would take over the role of CO Area Coordinator.
Eventually, Jeremy would become the CO Campus Director at UNG.
Our ties, not only with the organization but with the staff and students of Campus Outreach have been long and strong.
They say you can’t plant a church with college students. Well, that may be true on the financial front. But we did plant a church with a college ministry, whose students served faithfully and enthusiastically, volunteering wherever there was a need.
Students have been our greeters. Students have staffed our nursery. Students have played in the band.
Yet, as many of you also know, Campus Outreach Atlanta has decided to consolidate its ministry from multiple campuses to one central location at Georgia Tech.
The result is that, even though the UNG chapter was the most thriving CO in the region, the ministry will not be on campus next year.
Most of the staff will be leaving Dahlonega this summer for other opportunities, with the Nix and Moore families moving this coming week.
And so we are having to say, “Goodbye.” And goodbyes are really hard.
Yet we have built the necessity of goodbyes into the DNA of our church. From the beginning, we envisioned Creekstone’s ministry to be a dandelion that grows seeds on the stem and allows the Spirit, like the wind, to blow the seeds where he will, sovereignly planting them elsewhere to grow, bloom, and multiply the impact of our ministry.
Like a dandelion, Creekstone is a sending church. We are a dandelion of grace.
I think of folks we have sent like Cory and Tommy Jones and other leaders like the Haddons, Emrichs, and the Woznickis.
I think of the numerous cadets who are now commissioned officers in the Army.
We have sent two Ranger chaplains.
I think of former CO staff, Tom and Rachel, Caleb and Katie, Kira, Hannah, Brittany and James, Daisy, Sophie, Brett, Schenk and former students like Casey, Evan, Nikki and literally hundreds more.
We have former members who have been blown from Dahlonega all the way to Greece, where Joe and Hannah Nowland serve as missionaries.
Creekstone members have been sent to Maryland, Colorado, Montana, California, Washington State, Indiana, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, New Hampshire, Alabama, and all over Georgia.
As a dandelion of grace, we will never know the full impact of our ministry on the world.
Nevertheless, it is always been hard to say goodbye.
Providentially, today’s sermon in our 9 month, 30 message series in 1 Corinthians is about sending.
Let’s read it and be encouraged as we celebrate God’s work among us, say our goodbyes, and send our friends to where the Spirit is blowing them as seeds of grace.
Paul has written an admittedly hard letter to the Corinthians. While framed in love, the letter includes a number of moral rebukes and theological corrections. In our passage, Paul reveals his intent to send a younger pastor, Timothy, to visit Corinth as a follow up to this letter.
1 Corinthians 16:10-11
10 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
In these two verses, there are three things about sending that I think will help us today.
The first concerns…
One problem concerns those who are sent.
In verse 10, we see that Paul expected Timothy to fear the unknown. After all, Paul had sent a hard letter to the Corinthians. Would they cast their anger at Paul on Timothy and treat him with contempt? It could be an awkward encounter.
There is always a degree of fear in being sent. Fear of the unknown. Fear of how our kids will transition. What unforeseen challenges will we have to face? What tears and sleepless nights lie ahead?
We experienced those fears when moving to Georgia from Mississippi. Moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. We moved from a home we owned in a small farming town to a rental in the north Atlanta suburbs, not knowing where we’d move when our lease ran out.
Then there were the fears inherent in moving to Dahlonega. Would anyone show up? Would our kids have friends? Would our funding run out?
The friends we send today will face these fears as they are sent from us to Athens, Johns Creek, and the center of Atlanta near the Tech campus.
Yet, in addition to the problem of fear, there is the problem of how sending feels to those who send. It feels like a devastating loss. A loss of friendship for us and for our children. Folks whom we love are being pulled away from us.
In this way, sending feels like straining a muscle. At the moment of sending there is the acute pain that something that is supposed to be connected is being pulled apart.
We feel this today as our hearts are tender. Sore and aching.
Even though we know that just as time heals pulled muscles time heals the acute pain of sending. Even though, the pain is real.
But the pain is not without purpose.
As Paul says in verse 10, the purpose of his sending Timothy is to “carry on the work of the Lord.”
Sending is about extending. With Timothy on the ground in Corinth as Paul’s personal representative, Paul’s work in Ephesus could be extended to Corinth in a much more personal way.
We see this in biology, too, with cell mitosis, as cells divide and multiply. As you’ll see in the image, first, DNA is replicated. Then the cells go through process of division, where they are separated and eventually multiply.
This is how the human body grows. It is how business grow, as a store extends its reach to another store, from 1 to 2, then 4 and 8 and 16. This is also how the work of the Lord is extended.
This is how the gospel has always spread.
Gospel DNA is replicated.
Then gospel mitosis takes place, as gospel life is multiplied and extended personally, with flesh and blood people being sent.
It is one thing for a cell to split. We don't feel that.
It is something else for a church family to be split. We do feel that.
But it takes some of the sting away when we realize that this is part of God’s purpose in extending his work. And we trust God’s sovereignty in that.
This is why we are calling this a “sending Sunday” as we say goodbye to our Campus Outreach staff. This is no accident in the plan of God. Whatever the human reasons that led to this Sunday being necessary, God has designed it to be a purposeful part of how his kingdom will be extended. So, we are doing what God is doing.
We are sending.
Yes, there are problems with sending but there is a purpose for sending. Finally, we need to see...
For Paul and Timothy, places like Jerusalem, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Corinth would be on the map of their sending travels.
Typically, when we think of sending, global missions comes to mind. And it should. This is why we support such important ministries as Trinity Center for World Mission and Biblical Institute in Africa and why we support the Stock family in India.
But we may want to consider altering our perspective on sending, where sending takes place not only globally, but regionally, and even locally.
This morning we are sending folks away from Dahlonega.
But for some, the place we’ve been sent is to Dahlonega.
You thought you moved here for grad school or to take a job or to retire. That may be true from a human perspective. But from God’s perspective, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you have been sent here to help extend the kingdom of God in this place as an influence of God’s grace.
You have been sent into the workplace and into the classroom.
And God has sent people to you. Like children and aging parents and the new neighbors who just moved in down the street.
Sometimes we get to choose where we are sent. Sometimes we don’t.
William Borden choose China. You have heard his story.
Born in 1887 to a wealthy family in Chicago, William Borden became a Christian at a young age, graduated from a elite boarding school in Pennsylvania, and was given a graduation gift by his parents of a trip around the world. At 17, under the chaperonage of pastor/missionary Walter Erdman, William was able to witness first-hand cultures with no witness to Jesus, traveling through places such as Japan, China, India, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
It was during that trip that William decided to abandon his wealth and become a global, cross-cultural missionary. In view of that decision in his teen years, he is said to have inscribed in his Bible the words, “No retreat.”
Upon his return home, he entered Yale University. After graduation, he attended Princeton Seminary in preparation for life as a missionary to China, where he hoped to share the message of God’s grace with the Kansu people, an unreached Muslim population of ten million people.
At some point during those years of training while at Princeton, he apparently inscribed two more words in his Bible: “No return.”
He was being sent and he would not turn back. He was all in. He would live and die as an ambassador for Jesus in China.
However, part of his preparation included language study. For that, he planned to live in Egypt where he would learn Arabic on his way to minister to the Muslims in China.
In December 1912, William Borden departed for Cairo. Four months later, while in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis and nineteen days later, on April 9, at 25 years old, he died.
While his body was buried in Egypt, his Bible was returned to his parents. In the flyleaf, there now were three phrases inscribed. We know the first two.
The second, “No return.”
The final pair were written in the 19 days just before his death. “No regret.”
Jesus would have understood that inscription. He knew what it was to be sent.
The apostle John writes in 1 John 4:9-10, “9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Upon his being sent by the Father, he was all in. No retreat. No return. And upon the cross, for what seemed at the time like a wasted life (cut short too soon), and fueled by the deepest love imaginable, he certainly would have cried out, “No regret.”
God is a sending God.
As a result, the church is a sending people.
But the only way to send or be sent with faith and joy is first to receive the One whom the Father has sent to rescue us from the consequences of our sin and self-righteousness.
In order to be sent, I must look to the crucifixion of Jesus and believe that he wasn’t just sent for people in general but for me. Those nails were for my sins. His shed blood was to pay the debt for my self-righteousness. His suffering was to serve my sentence.
When I am ready to receive that kind of mercy, it is then and only then am I ready to be sent and to send.
So, let’s receive grace with faith today, knowing without reservation that God, through our sending, is extending the impact of his kingdom here to wherever his seeds of grace shall blow.
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