Create packing lists. Check.
How many ways can one prepare for a trip like the one we will embark on in just a few days? Of course, we can and should do all of the things mentioned above. But, is there a deeper preparation that needs to take place?
In Acts 13 Paul (then Saul) and Barnabas are unexpectedly called and sent out by the church at Antioch for their first missionary journey. While this passage is more descriptive than prescriptive, we see five elements of preparation in this passage that we have sought to incorporate into our own preparation for our trip.
- They were in the context of a local church. Paul and Barnabas aren’t called as individuals apart from a community. Acts 13:1 directs us to the context of the local church at Antioch. The calling of men and women to unique works of God almost always happens in a local church context where that calling is cultivated, affirmed, encouraged, and supported by the Body of Christ.
- They were worshiping. The movement of the Holy Spirit in calling Paul and Barnabas is not only in the context of the local church, but is in the context of the worship of the local church. Acts 13:2 says, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting.” It is while the church at Antioch and her leaders are communing with God and engaging with God in worship that they are moved toward mission.
- They went with much prayer. After the Holy Spirit prompts them in Acts 13:2 to “set apart…Barnabas and Saul for the work to which [He had] called them”, the church responds in Acts 13:3 by fasting and praying. Their calling is solidified and their missionary journey is paved by an intensity of prayer (as marked by fasting), and not just the prayers of Paul and Barnabas! The entire church and her leaders are covering them and their mission with prayer.
- They went having been sent. Everything culminates in the leaders of the church laying hands on Paul and Barnabas and sending them off in Acts 13:3. In one final act, the church at Antioch affirms God’s call on their lives. And this commissioning creates a two-way street of accountability. First, the church at Antioch, having witnessed God’s call on Paul and Barnabas are holding them accountable to faithfully carry out God’s call. Similarly, the church at Antioch, as the sending church, is holding itself accountable to continue to faithfully think about and pray for Paul and Barnabas on their journey.
- They went with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present in every single aspect of this text. It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to them to set apart Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2). It is the Holy Spirit who leads them as they go (Acts 13:4). But even before that, it is the Holy Spirit who saved individuals and brought them into the church at Antioch and the Holy Spirit who gifted the men listed in Acts 13:1 with the gifts of prophecy and teaching.
So in light of these five elements, here’s how we have sought to prepare ourselves spiritually for this trip.
- We created a Bible reading schedule and focused on particularly passages each month. In April we focused on passages that highlight the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In May we focused on passages that talk about God’s heart for the nations and missions. In June we focused on passages that deal with spiritual warfare. Then, in each of our meetings, we spent time talking about these passages and drawing out the implications of them for our lives and our upcoming trip.
- We spent time reading a Bible-saturated book (John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Life”) and then discussed each chapter during our meetings.
- We spent time praying for every single member of our team by name, even though we only knew a handful of them personally. And, because we didn’t really know many of them, we sought to pray specific Scriptures for them.
- We spent time sharing prayer requests with one another and praying for one another.
- We were sent off by our church and had all of the elders and our former Senior Pastor pray for us during our Sunday morning service.
- Finally, we invited our church and the larger body of Christ to pray for us before, during, and after our trip.