The Importance of the Sending Church

November 19, 2011  |  Comments Off on The Importance of the Sending Church  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Tomorrow Hollywood Community Church is commissioning Mike and Amy Riddering as missionaries to Burkina Faso.  I AM SO EXCITED! Although I served more than ten years as a missionary in Mexico, and for four years as a director at a missions organization, this is the first time that I have the privilege of being a “Sending Pastor.”  Below is an article that I wrote more than ten years ago.  It perfectly explains the privilege and the responsibility that we have in sending the Ridderings to the mission field.

The Importance of the Sending Church
BIMI World, Volume 2, 1999

Without a doubt, one of the greatest privileges and one of the most awesome responsibilities that God can entrust to a local congregation is to be the sending church for a missionary called to the mission field by the Holy Spirit. Biblically speaking, it is a more intimate fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is one thing to give your mission dollars; it is more difficult to give your children. Nevertheless, that ought to be the goal of every local church.

Of course, we know that Paul and Barnabas were the very first missionaries and that the church of Antioch was the first sending church. Therefore, Acts 13:1-4 narrates for us the beginning of what we now consider the “modern missionary movement.” Let’s notice several principles that are found in this passage.

THE HOLY SPIRIT CALLS

As one studies Acts 13, it is evident that the principal character in this passage is the Person of the Holy Spirit. Someone has aptly called Him the “Commander and Chief of Missions.” As the church at Antioch maintained a spirit of prayer, the Holy Ghost began a work of missions in the heart of that congregation that has become the foundation of our modern missionary movement. Let us remember first of all that in Acts 13 it was with the Holy Spirit that missions originated. It was not an Antiochan or Pauline concept. The idea to reach the world with the Gospel began in the heart of God and was passed on to man by the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit. We must never take credit for something that He is doing.

Secondly and equally important is the fact that the Holy Spirit continues to call men to the mission field. Many times, as seen here in Acts 13, He calls the best and brightest. Honestly, it can be difficult for a church to “lose” their most faithful members to the mission field, but just as a sovereign God was able to fill the spiritual gap on the foreign field, He is able to raise up additional laborers to take their places. Thank God for the fact that the calling and directing ministry of the Holy Spirit did not cease with the passing of the apostles.

THE LOCAL CHURCH SENDS

Though the Holy Spirit is the Commander and Chief of missions, we must never minimize the importance and the place of the local church. Apart from the Holy Spirit, no other person or organization ought to have as much influence over the direction and decisions of the missionary as his local sending church.

Biblically, the sending church has several responsibilities that are outlined in Acts 13. The first responsibility has to do with recognition. In Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit commanded the church to separate Barnabas and Saul. The idea conveyed is that the church leaders must be in tune with the Holy Spirit in order to recognize when God’s hand has been placed upon a certain individual to perform a certain task. How is that done? By prayer and fasting! I wonder what would have happened had not the church at Antioch been seeking God’s power and direction through prayer and fasting? Would they have recognized the fact that God had a special ministry for Paul and Barnabas? Would God have had to look elsewhere for His first missionaries? How many missionaries today are not being sent to the field because their local church through prayer and fasting has not recognized the hand of God that has been placed upon their lives? Let us take seriously the command of Matthew 9:38 and pray that God would raise up missionaries for the whitened harvest fields from our own congregation.

The second principle demonstrated in Acts 13 is one of identification. Verse 3 mentions that the leaders of the church “laid their hands on them.” Throughout Scripture the idea of the laying on of hands has symbolized identification.

* Numbers 8:10 – The nation of Israel identified with the priestly ministry of the Levites.

* Deuteronomy 34:9 – Moses and Israel identified with Joshua as the future leader of the nation.

* Acts 6:6 – The apostles identified with the ministry of the new deacons.

* I Tim 4:14 – The church leadership identified themselves with Timothy’s call to the ministry.

In each of these cases those that laid their hands upon God’s servant recognized, identified and supported the mission and the ministry to which God had called him.

This is what we find taking place in Acts 13. After having recognized the fact that God had a very special task for Paul and Barnabas to perform, the Antioch Church identified themselves with their ministry. From henceforth, they would be bonded and united together in the task of sending the Gospel to the regions beyond.

The third principle mentioned in Acts 13 is that of releasing. Verse 3 mentions that after the church at Antioch recognized God’s call upon their lives and identified themselves with their ministry, that they sent them away or released them from local church responsibilities. Tragically, many a deputation missionary has struggled because of having to continue his ministries within the local church while trying to raise the necessary support. The Antioch church allowed Paul and Barnabas to completely dedicate themselves to the ministry to which God had called them.

As believers and members of local churches we have a tremendous responsibility to reach our generation with the message of redemption. I do not believe that the Great Commission is an impossibility! God has given us all of the personnel and the resources needed. Let us as pastors and leaders pray fervently that laborers will be sent out from our midst to reach the whitened harvest field of the world, and let us unite together with them so that they will be successful in their missionary endeavor!

Perfectly and Purposefully Made

November 13, 2011  |  Comments Off on Perfectly and Purposefully Made  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
In recent weeks we have been reminded by two different individuals that you do not have to be physically perfect or mentally whole to be used of God.  As a matter of fact, God makes it clear that He takes pleasure in using the weak, the unwise and even the disabled for His honor and Glory (I Corinthians 1:20-29).  What a relief to know that God wants to use me just the way that I am!
On Sunday, November 6th we read a testimonial from a college basketball player who shared how that God used our daughter Amber to touch his heart.   Through the years God has repeatedly used Amber’s disability to convict and motivate others in their walk with the Lord.  Isn’t it just like God to use a little girl that cannot see, walk, talk or even understand to change the lives of others.  Needless to say, we are proud parents!
This Sunday Bernadette Todd will be our special guest.  Doctors once said Bernadette Todd would not live past the age of eight due to an infantile form of Muscular Dystrophy but God had other plans for this remarkable lady. In the face of a daunting childhood plagued with physical pain, being the target of relentless ridicule and personal ostracism, Bernadette pushed back against seemingly insurmountable obstacles and emerged triumphant.
Bernadette has not allowed her disability to keep her from fulfilling God’s calling upon her life.  In the past few years, Bernadette has traveled to many countries around the world, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, India and Bolivia, sharing her testimony.The truth is that Amber and Bernadette are not mistakes. They are God’s perfect creation, formed exactly the way that He wants them to be.  That truth is clearly seen in Psalm 139:13-16

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  our workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I don’t know how these two ladies testimonies affect you, but they challenge me.  If two beautiful ladies that struggle with disabilities can be used of God to powerfully share the message of the Gospel, don’t you think that God can use us as well?  Let me challenge you to follow in Amber and Bernadette’s footsteps – allow God to fulfil His purpose and plan for your life!

HCC is on a Mission to Fulfill the Great Commission

November 4, 2011  |  Comments Off on HCC is on a Mission to Fulfill the Great Commission  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
At Hollywood Community Church, we take the Lord’s command to make disciples of every nation very seriously!  To say it succinctly, our mission is the Great Commission.  We exist to make passionate disciples of Jesus Christ, both in Hollywood, Florida and around the world.

November is a HUGE missions month for our church family.  Here are several of the mission’s activities that will be taking place in the next few weeks.

Haiti Missions Team – November 4-11
Led by Dan Whiteman, our Haiti Missions Team will be ministering in the coastal city of Corail.  Please pray that God would enable them to be a blessing and an encouragement to our Haitian sister church.  They will give a report on their return.
Operation Christmas Child Sunday – 11/13
Last year our congregation collected more than 1050 gift shoe boxes for boys and girls around the world.  We are hoping to do that many or more this year.  Remember that statistics show that one out of every three children that receive a Christmas box trust Christ as their personal Savior.  Let me encourage you to fill out least three boxes.  Lets reach children for Christ this Christmas!
Bernadette Todd – 11/13
Bernadette Todd has a riveting story to share about her life long struggle with Muscular Dystrophy. She knows first hand, God’s amazing grace and transparently tells of her journey from despair to faith. With her personable down-to-earth style and sense of humor, she captivates and challenges audiences of all sizes. Utilizing the platform of her wheelchair, the pain of her childhood and the miracle of her survival, Bernadette delivers a powerful message that transcends racial and cultural borders worldwide and builds a bridge between people and the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
Mike & Amy Riddering Commissioning Service – 11/20 
Our own Mike and Amy will be leaving for Burkina Faso at the end of the month.  On November 20th we will celebrate their commissioning service.  It will be a time of joy, tears and prayer as we send the Riddering family to Africa to fulfill God’s call upon their life.  You will not want to miss this service!  Here is the link to their web page – http://reachburkina.blogspot.com/2011_04_01_archive.html
It is going to be a great month at HCC! Let’s pray that God continues to use us to impact the world with the Gospel!

Fulfilling the Great Commission at HCC!

November 4, 2011  |  Comments Off on Fulfilling the Great Commission at HCC!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
The month of November will provide for HCC several tremendous opportunities to

Haiti Missions Team

November 4, 2011  |  Comments Off on Haiti Missions Team  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
Led by Mr. Dan Whiteman, HCC’s Haiti mission team left this morning for a week-long mission to the city of Corail.   Corail is coastal city located some 150 miles west of Port a Prince on the northern coast of the peninsula.

Get Some Rest

October 28, 2011  |  Comments Off on Get Some Rest  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
Are you getting enough rest?   Quite frankly that sounds like a question that your mother would ask you, but for a Christian it certainly is a legitimate one.

I admit that word “rest” means a lot more to me now than it did when I was a teenager.  Back then, I could stay up all night and not think a thing about it. Now though, I notice myself beginning to fade around 9:00 pm, and I’m definitely a “gonner” by 11:00 pm. So when I hear the word rest, my ears perk up.

Most of us tend to equate rest with taking time off of work, sleeping in late in the morning, taking a vacation at the beach, or maybe taking an afternoon nap.  True rest, though, is not found in vacations, hobbies or time off, but in Jesus. He is our rest!

That truth is clearly seen in Hebrews chapter four.  After writing about Israel’s inability to enter into the rest that God offered them in the land of Canaan, Hebrew’s author challenges us, the readers, to enter into God’s rest – Let us therefore be diligent to enter into that rest (4:11).

Surprisingly, the admonition that God gives to rest is based upon two very familiar verses that we do not associate with spiritual rest.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Hebrews 4:16 – So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. 

Yes, as Hebrews four states, there is a rest that remains for God’s people.  The best way to experience it, though, is not to plop down in your most comfortable chair and grab the TV remote.  No, the two activities that produce the most leisure and stress reduction are prayer and Bible study.  So, as your mother used to say… “Get some rest!”

 

No One Understands You Like Jesus!

September 11, 2011  |  Comments Off on No One Understands You Like Jesus!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
“Doesn’t anyone understand me?” Although, you might not verbalize such a sentiment, I am confident that you have felt that way at one time or another. I certainly have! Most would agree that one of the great frustrations of life is that of being misunderstood.

Yet, we can be completely certain of the fact that Jesus always understands us. There is no experience that you may face, no emotion that you can feel, nor is there any temptation that you can battle, that Jesus does not fully comprehend. He identifies with your hurts. He feels your injuries. Why, it doesn’t matter what you have gone through (except for sin), Jesus can say, “Been there and done that!”

Jesus empathizes with human experience not just by knowing about it but by entering into it. God chose to send the Son into the world so that He would have firsthand experience of mortal life. John 1:14 says that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The New Testament presents Jesus as so fully identifying with the human experience that he faced the same enemies that all human beings face: sin, disease and death.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 4:15 – This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.

Knowing that Jesus understands us so completely, we are exhorted to  “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  Let me encourage you so take advantage of such a great friendship.  For truly, no one understands you like Jesus.

Ambidextrous Faith

August 10, 2011  |  Comments Off on Ambidextrous Faith  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
It is said that Gregory of Nicea often praised his friend St. Basil for having “Ambidextrous Faith.” You may ask, “what is ambidextrous faith”?  In Gregory’s mind, ambidextrous or two-handed faith was the ability to trust God no matter what was taking place in one’s life.  Gregory further commented that St. Basil accepted the trials of life with the same faith with which he accepted the pleasures of life.  Both, he believed, came from God.  Wow!  Now that is the kind of faith that I desire.
As many have documented, it is much easier for us to trust when the path is clear, when the provisions are sure and when the problems are few.  But, how necessary is faith when the outcome is certain?  Anyone can believe, anyone can trust in the face of certitude.  It is during the moments of uncertainty and doubt that faith  truly becomes necessary.
I would remind you that Hebrews 11:1 states that faith “gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”  As Philip Yancey says, “the invisibility of God guarantees that I will experience doubt.”  Quite honestly, I struggle with that statement, because I always want to believe.  I never want to experience doubt. Yet, I must confess that there are moments, hours and sometimes even days when my faith is not as strong.  As I mentioned in my last blog, it is the skeleton in my closet.
It is precisely in those moments of weakness, when I cannot see and when I do not understand, that I must blindly trust.  As Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7 “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  What we need is not just a one-handed faith.  But we desperately need to be ambidextrous!  We need to trust God with life’s pleasures and we need to trust God during life’s problems.  We need to trust God when there is plenty and when there is little, when I am healthy and when I am sick, when I understand what God is doing as well as when I do not understand.  Regardless of what is taking place in my life, my faith is strong.
Lord, please give me anbidextrous faith!

The Skeleton in My Closet

August 6, 2011  |  Comments Off on The Skeleton in My Closet  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
When I was interviewing for the pastor position of Hollywood Community Church, I was asked several times by both the pulpit committee as well as the Leadership Team if there were any skeletons in my closet.  The obvious meaning being that they wanted to know if there were any hidden sins, secrets or temptations that when exposed would bring shame to the church and reproach to the cause of Christ.  Thankfully, God has graciously allowed me to not become victim to any of the things which have brought down so many of my ministerial colleagues.
This week, though, I was reminded of the fact that there still may yet be a skeleton in my closet.  Philip Yancey in his book Reaching for the Invisible God said that “doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith.”  The simple truth is that every believer has times when his faith is weak. Many of the great characters of faith in the Bible had their moments of doubt.  Abraham feared for his life in Egypt and lied about Sarah being his wife.  Job’s friends were shocked and angered by his willingness to freely express his uncertainties and hesitations.  The demoniac’s father in Mark 9 asked the Lord to help him with his unbelief.  Even the disciples pleaded with the Lord to increase their faith.  So yes, I also must confess that there are moments when my faith is weak and the skeleton of doubt hides in my closet.
Do you have times when you seem more skeptical than trusting?   Take heart in the fact that you are primed and ready to experience a growth spurt of faith.  For it is truly in the moments of doubt that you have the greatest opportunity for your faith to grow.  So take your skeleton out of the closet and realize that it is nothing more than a hard structure upon which living tissue can grow.  Allow the Lord to increase your faith.
Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing  by the Word of God.

Oh, how I love Your Law!

July 9, 2011  |  Comments Off on Oh, how I love Your Law!  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog
I recently finished my bi-annual trek through the book of Psalms. As I usually do, I took a couple of days to read and study Psalm 119. This Psalm is known and loved by many. In addition to the fact that it is recognized as the longest chapter in the Bible, it also repeatedly expresses the love that David has for God’s Word. As a matter of fact in almost all of the 176 verses David reiterates the love he has for God’s commands and statutes.

One of the verses that always speaks and challenges me is Psalm 119:97 – Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day. For some reason I never took the time to figure out what part of God’s Law David was referring to. Was he speaking of his love for the Genesis account of creation, or the Israelites exodus through the Sinai Peninsula or maybe even to the Psalms that he was writing? Although, it does not take a seminary degree in Old Testament studies to figure it out, I never really thought about it… until my latest reading.

Suddenly, it hit me; David was referring to God’s sacred instructions, both those that are abbreviated in the Ten Commandments, as well as the amplified version found in the book of Deuteronomy. That was significant for me, because quite honestly, the book of Deuteronomy is not one of my favorite Old Testament books. I don’t think that I have ever stated, “I love the book of Deuteronomy!” Yet, David did, more than 170 times in Psalm 119.

God viewed the book of Deuteronomy with such importance that the people of Israel were required to read the entire book together every seven years (Deut 31:10-13). Even more important, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 instructs each king, as a representative of/example for the people, to write out for himself an entire copy of the law at the beginning of his reign. Wow! How significant is that?

As I thought and meditated on that which gave joy and delight to David, I was convicted by the lack of enthusiasm and dedication that I place upon my own systematic reading. Can I say along with David that I take great delight in reading God’s Law? Would our congregation enjoy reading the book of Deuteronomy out loud? What if I had to write out by hand an entire copy of the Law or the New Testament for that matter?

Lord, help me to say along with David, “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day.”