Our God is a sending God. He sent his best into the world to save us. Jesus is referred to as “sent” forty-four times in the New Testament. After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his identity to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
To follow Jesus is to be sent.
Jesus’ command to every disciple is to “go” (Matt. 28:19). We may not all go overseas, but we are all to be going. This means that if you are not going, you are not a disciple; and, church leader, if the people in our churches are not “going,” we are not doing our jobs. A church leader can have a large church with thousands of people attending, but if people are not going from it “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13), to pursue the mission and call of Christ, those leaders are delinquent in their duty.
Planting, investing, sending, and sacrificing are costly. It hurts. But the trajectory of discipleship is toward giving away, not taking in. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ bids a man to follow, he bids him come and die.” Jesus did not say come and grow, but come and die. And he showed us what that means by his own example.
When Jesus laid down his life on that hill in Jerusalem, he had nothing left. Soldiers gambled for his last remaining possessions on earth. Everything he owned had been either given away or taken from him. But out of that death came our life. In giving everything away, he gained us. In Jesus’ resurrection from death, God brought unimaginable life to the world — to you and to me. Jesus was the first of many seeds planted into the ground to die.
Why would it surprise us that the power of God spreads throughout the earth in the same manner? Life for the world comes only through the death of the church. Not always our physical, bodily death (though it includes that sometimes), but death in the giving away of our resources. Death in the forfeiture of our personal dreams. Death in our faithful proclamation of the gospel in an increasingly hostile world. Death in sending our precious resources, our best leaders, our best friends.
When Christ calls any of us to follow him — whether he is speaking to us as individuals, or to our churches and ministries — he bids us, “Come and die.”
It is not through our success that God saves the world, but through our sacrifice. He calls us first to an altar, not a platform.
His way of bringing life to the world is not by giving us numerical growth and gain that enriches our lives and exalts our name. His way is by bringing resurrection out of death.
We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith.
It’s one thing to know these things, to believe they are true. It’s another to implement them. That is what this book is about. What does it look like to live sent — in your personal life, in your ministry, or in the church that you lead?
I will warn you: It’s relatively easy to nod our heads at this point and say, “Yes, like Jesus, we live by dying.” But to go to the next step — to invest some of your most cherished resources, or say goodbye to those whom you love as they go to begin something new — that is hard, and it never gets easier. Yet it’s how God’s kingdom grows.
We gain by losing.
J.D. Greear and Larry Osborne, Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).