When being sent requires loss

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

“As the Father sent me so send I you” (John 20:21).

Sent is a word straight from the lips of Jesus. He was the model of what being “sent” means. He was sent on a particular mission: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Then He sent His followers. All of His followers. Not just a select few.

Jesus was willing to incur losses to be sent to a lost and dying world. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

He let go of what was His. He gave away comfort, status and prestige—moved toward obscurity, poverty and even humiliation.

Being sent and being willing to sacrifice and endure losses is normative in both experience and example of Jesus and is also consistent with New Testament narrative.

“Sent” is familiar language to our tribe at the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Since church planting is vital part of our strategy to reach North America. We use the term “Send Cities” to describe 32 cities which reflect the greatest spiritual need and most potential influence throughout North America. NAMB’s strategy is to intentionally send people to these under-served, under-reached cities.

Recently, I was in one of our Send Cities with planter’s wives. We spent one day together in the Word, getting connected and having ministry conversations. There were only two indigenous wives in the room. The remaining dozen or so had been “sent” there. I asked that group of women “What is the greatest personal cost to you and your family in coming to this city to plant a church?” No one said a word. I waited. Still no one spoke.

Clearly, they had significant personal costs in their move to this city where crime is high, weather is challenging, traffic is terrible and cost of living significant. Yet they were not comfortable in voicing their sacrifices. I sensed they did not want to appear whiny or negative—I understand that.

Yet, like other losses in life, never talking about them in our mission context is not entirely healthy.

While we may shy away from this topic, oddly enough, Jesus did not.

“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ And He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But He said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’ Another also said, ‘ will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ “( Luke 9:56-62).

He was clearly up front with the concept that following Him would require losses and sacrifice. He did not candy coat this issue.

Jesus goes on to say: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

Jesus sets the bar high with potential losses when he discusses our families. Following after Him means loving Him more than family. Following “after me” may mean leaving that family in pursuit of Him and His calling.

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me. For whoever loses his life for MY sake will find it (Luke 9: 23-24).

Besides “follow me,” this is the most often repeated phrase of Jesus in the New Testament.

“Deny self” means “to forget oneself, lose sight of oneself and one’s own interest” –Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

To put other’s spiritual needs ahead of our own needs and interests is the essence of true discipleship, according to Jesus. In doing this we will be called to deny ourselves.

Jesus modeled it. Then He called us to do the same.

“To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss,” writes Elisabeth Elliot in These Strange Ashes.

Stay tuned for our next blog: Navigating losses: Letting go.

Published November 14, 2016

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Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.