A sending church and a sent life flow from a sending God
By Aaron Earls
For Pat Hood, being a sending church means planting churches around the world, starting ministries in your backyard and encouraging believers to recognize their own daily mission field.
In his new book The Sending Church, Hood describes how his church with small town roots has reached across the street, across the country and around the world—all to glorify God.
LifePoint Church has two campuses in Smyrna, Tenn. They also have one in Lynwood, Wash., and, if you are ever in the neighborhood, locations in Brussels, Belgium, and Bangkok, Thailand.
Having campuses on the west coast, in Europe and South Asia is intentional. “Our purpose for them,” said Hood, “is to be sending centers into these regions of the world. We want to reach, identify and train young leaders to start churches in these regions and live sent lives for the glory of God.”
In addition, the church has partnered with local low-income housing in Smyrna as a means to help and share the gospel with the residents, many of whom are immigrants. College interns live in rent-free apartments in those communities to provide after-school programs and ESL classes.
But, it’s not about living as missionaries in far away places or even in different areas of their community.
“We continually challenge our people to live ‘sent lives’ in every domain of their life,” Hood says. “If you are a Christian, then you’re a missionary.”
For Hood, this sent life flows directly from the identity of God.
“According to Genesis 1:26-27 and Isaiah 43:7, God created people in His image and for His glory,” says Hood. “God is a sending God because His glory is the only thing that can satisfy the hunger of our souls. He is a sending God for our good and His glory; we get salvation and He gets glory.”
Along with recognizing who God is, the LifePoint pastor says that understanding what drives our being on mission is vital for a sending church and sent Christians.
“In John 20:21, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ Notice, Jesus sent us as He was sent,” says Hood.
“How was He sent? For our good? Yes, but ultimately He was sent for the glory of the Father. This shapes our motivation for sending and being sent.”
Hood expressed concern that Christians would only be spurred to live as missionaries because of the eternal destination of others. He believes people need to grasp eternal realities and the glory of God.
“If our motivation is simply heaven or hell, it will depend on the needs of people,” says Hood. “And our motivation to meet those needs will be determined, in large part, by how we feel about those people.”
Hood believes responsibility falls on the pastor to help the congregation “understand the glory of God in every message, because if the people are passionate about the glory of God, they will be passionate about sending and being sent.”
This required some changes at LifePoint. “We stopped programs like Monday night visitation to clearly communicate to our people that you should be living sent 24/7 in your neighborhoods and communities,” says Hood. “We require a membership orientation, so that new members know it isn’t just about what you get, but what you give.”
According to Hood, what it means to be a sending church must be continually reinforced from the leadership. He challenges pastors to help their people understand “it’s not just about gathering, it’s about scattering.
“The key is to cast vision and continually recast vision, because vision leaks,” says Hood. “This is especially true when cultural Christianity is so ingrained in people’s lives. The gravitational pull is for us to drift back to wanting to be served and having our preferences met, rather than serving and honoring diversity.”
Grasping the idea of sent lives is, according to Hood, part of a transition from cultural Christianity to biblical Christianity. “Cultural Christianity is about getting baptized, joining a church and that’s about it,” says Hood. “Biblical Christianity is about being redeemed and sent on a mission. It’s about transformation, not just information about Jesus.”
For Hood it all boils down to a simple concept: the church must leave the building.
Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends.