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“How shall they preach, except they be sent?”

A warrior stole through the field and into the woods. Slung across his shoulders was a quiver filled with the finest arrows. The arrows had been made by his own hand and fitted with the best feathers. Great care had been taken to ensure that every arrow was straight. The tips had been carefully set and honed to a razor-sharp edge. He put his hand up to the quiver and felt the fine, feathered tips. He felt good about the quality of arrows that he had. He remembered the many hours and even days he had spent on preparing his arrows. He even felt somewhat secure with so many top-quality arrows in his quiver.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted with an enemy war cry. Quickly he reached back and grabbed a good arrow. Pulling it out, he prepared to shoot it. But his heart sank as he realized that his bow was without a string. He had not used his bow for such a long time that the string had rotted. He had no sending power.

“How shall they preach, except they be sent?…” (Romans 10:15). Who are the senders? What is the bow that sends forth the arrows? Does it have force to thrust out the arrows? What condition is it in? The impact of the gospel witness that goes out will depend on the answers to these questions.

Jesus commanded us to “pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). When Jesus spoke these words, he was moving among the people and saw their needs. They were lost, scattered, without a shepherd. He was moved with compassion because of their great needs. He prayed this prayer in a busy, noisy street, not in some beautiful, serene spot.

Jesus is the Lord of the harvest. He oversees the work of harvesting. Just as an overseer or manager has his workers, God also has His workers. He calls them and He gives direction to organize them. There is an urgency in His prayer because the needs are great and souls are lost. One who pants after God will also have His vision. Prayer puts us in touch with the Lord of the harvest. He calls this kind of person and sends them forth.

In a general sense, God leads all His willing witnesses to those to whom He wants to speak. And God knows the heart of a seeker and can draw him to a “preacher.” As we come across people daily in our lives and work, we are His messengers. We must be ready “in season and out of season.”

In Acts 13 we read about a more specific calling. As the church ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The local church, after they fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, sent them away. These were men of proven character and experience. And so today, these are men sent out to plant a church fellowship in a new place, be it across town or on the other side of the world.

The word sent in Acts 13:3 means “to release.” The believers in that place released these men for service. The word sent in verse 4 has a different meaning. It means “to send forth.” The picture here is that the Holy Spirit sent them out. So God works together with us in this work of sending. The Spirit of God sets apart individuals for the work, and the brotherhood recognizes and confirms it. The church releases the men to the work, and the Holy Spirit sends (empowers) them out.

Many kinds of workers are needed in missions today: evangelists, church planters, Bible teachers, administrators, domestic helpers, schoolteachers and more. Some are ordained men, many are not. A reading of the epistles shows us that Paul had many helpers and supporters. We read of Epaphras, Timothy, Luke, Epaphroditis and a host of others.

Many believers have a personal vision and burden to reach out to those around them. They study the Bible, read missionary books, and get involved in local outreach. They spend time in prayer and fasting to keep their heart hot for God. They have a vision of the lost who are perishing and dream of going into full-time missions. They are willing to forsake everything in obedience to the Lord Jesus and follow him “by faith” to the end. They have heard of the millions who have never heard the glorious gospel of Christ even once. They hear of tribes whose hearts are open and waiting for the gospel. They are not afraid to face missionary hardships, malaria, loneliness, and death. These dangers do not deter them from the passion of Christ beating in their hearts.

They have been raised and discipled with missions in mind. Much time has gone into teaching and preparing them for the work of the kingdom of God. They are born of God and washed in the blood, taught in the Scriptures and standing on the Word! They are an army ready to go.

These workers are right among us in our fellowships. They are serving faithfully right where they are. These are the ones God often sets apart to send out. Some have heard the call. These are the fine arrows in the quiver ready to shoot forth. But what about the bow? The bow is the church that must release the arrows. The church is to send out workers from its midst. Is the bow strong? Does it have a vision? If it does, it will find a way to send them out. And God will raise up others to take their place at home. He has done this again and again, because He is the Lord of the harvest.

Many times in younger churches, where the fire is burning hot, there are plenty of arrows to send. But is the bow ready or able to send them? This is the challenge of today!

“And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:15). Let’s send them!
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