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Isaiah and the Sending Church

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is! Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” ­–John Piper

Have you ever traced in your mind the scenes of Isaiah 6?

It’s amazing to ponder the sequence that takes place as the prophet Isaiah experiences the vision of God’s throne room. It’s especially helpful when you’re trying to understand why the Global Church is a community that sends its people.

Scene 1: Isaiah is caught up in a vision beholding the Glory of God in a dramatic display of power and holiness. With angels singing, the earth’s foundations rumbling, and smoke filling the room, the little prophet becomes fully aware of his unworthiness.

Scene 2: Isaiah is so vividly conscious of his shame in the presence of God that the only response he can muster is one of woe. The Glory of God is utterly tortuous to a man of unclean lips! So, he cries out announcing his destruction.

Scene 3: In the midst of Isaiah’s unraveling, the Lord of Hosts sends an angel with a burning coal to the guilty prophet. The coal is placed upon Isaiah’s unclean lips and his sins are atoned for. The ability to stand worshipfully in the presence of the Lord is made possible.

Scene 4: The Lord finally speaks and says, “Whom shall we SEND, who will go for us?” Isaiah without any coercion responds, “Here I am Lord, send me.” And the Lord commissions the prophet to go speak to the Israelites.

The sequence of this vision goes like this…

  • Isaiah sees the Glory of God.
  • The prophet becomes aware of his shame.
  • God cleanses him in order to stand in his presence.
  • A commission is given and Isaiah is sent.

So, what does this have to do with the Church sending its people?

Answer: Isaiah’s vision parallels the early church’s commissioning experience. Gospel. Commission. Going and Sending.

Just like the provision for Isaiah, Jesus made it possible for those who believe in him to enjoy fellowship with God. This is the Gospel! With this good news, Jesus commands his disciples to preach to the whole world what has been done (Mark 16:15). Just like Isaiah’s response to God’s commission, the disciples responded readily to the task.

In Acts 1:8, we see this commission offer a more specific geographic element. All the disciples of Jesus were to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The early church was to expand beyond its borders because of the gospel.

“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.”

In Romans 10:14,15, the Apostle Paul suggests that the only way the church would be able to expand and preach the gospel to the ends of the earth was by sending people.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Perhaps one of the greatest parallels between Isaiah’s commission and the Global Church is how the gospel brings forth Mobilization! Isaiah was paralyzed because of his shame in the presence of God’s holiness. It was only through atonement that he could request to be sent. In fact, it was the motivation behind it!

Similarly, the gospel should compel people who believe in the supremacy of Christ to go out among all peoples proclaiming the good news. Every church should contemplate this! Local congregations who are truly mobilized by the gospel will aim to send their own out into the world with the hope of Christ.

Every church should strive to not only be a witness in their community, city, or country but also engage the unreached peoples of the world by sending out its people to the ends of the earth.

This is the natural (spiritual) response to the gospel.

Here we are Lord, send us!