Why Do Our Shirts Say “Love. Equip. Send.”? (Various Passages)
GIST: The life of the church should be defined by loving, equipping, and sending.
This morning, instead of diving into our Summer in Psalms, we’re going to do something a little different. I’m going to explain a t-shirt ☺️.
We ordered new shirts for our summer activities with the following phrase on them: “Love. Equip. Send.” If you were in the youth group when I was youth pastor or ever helped out with the activities we did, this might sound familiar. Otherwise, it might not ring much of a bell. However, if you’ve been with us for the past five years, I hope the heart behind this statement is very familiar because it summarizes my convictions about ministry—convictions I find to be deeply rooted in Scriptural directives.
The words themself come from a conversation I had with my dad early in my ministry out here, so somewhere between 10-12 years ago. We were talking about another pastor who had summarized everything his church was about in a statement like this and used it as an umbrella of sorts to gauge the effectiveness of everything they were “doing”. Because, as a church, it can be so easy to just get “busy” without being intentional about how we’re using our time, the idea of having something concrete to run everything through as a sort of litmus test of “are we actively following after Jesus or just being active ” really resonated with me. So I dove in headfirst, as I tend to do, and this statement was born. I wasted a bunch of ink printing pictures that still hang in the youth room today. I spent several months teaching the youth, who are all now grown and mostly married, about these three words. And it became our mantra and the determining factor for what we did. Melissa and I spent a lot of time asking ourselves these questions: Are we loving? Are we equipping? Are we sending? The answers we gave weren’t always good either. At times, it revealed areas where we just… weren’t.
I actually found those first PowerPoints last week as I thought about this message, as well. They were pretty comical to look back at. Truthfully, they’re all basically useless. Nonetheless, loving, equipping, and sending have remained in our hearts and have been the driving force behind how we’ve tried to serve you guys for the past 5 years. However, in an attempt to do this, especially through some really interesting times in our world, I realized I’d never actually explicitly shared my heart on these. Now, I’ve talked about them. In fact, as I share this with you today, I really think you’re going to recognize some of my pet phrases. Still, since we’re going to be wearing shirts with this message on them, I figured it was time to walk through it together ☺️.
That means this will be something even weirder for me—a more topical message instead of my traditional verse-by-verse exposition, but we’ll make it, I think ☺️.
The gist today is simple, but let me throw it out there, then we’ll pray together: The life of the church should be defined by loving, equipping, and sending. (I’ll also try to keep this short and sweet since I might have set some sort of record last week ☺️.)
One thing I know you’ve heard us talk about frequently—and something that made it into the first church shirts we had made when I came as pastor ☺️—is this:
Our Lives Should Be All About Loving God & Loving People. When the scribes were bickering about which commandment was most important “29 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).
We’ve talked about these verses before. When you break down everything we’re called to in the entire Bible, which includes the equipping and sending we’re about to discuss, it comes down to this: Love God. Love People. Just a few months back, we talked about the implications of this love we’re meant to have for God. It’s meant to define everything about us—everything we think, feel, and do… forever. We aren’t just mindless robots following a cruel tyrant. We’re sinners rescued by the amazing grace and unconditional, unmerited love of our incredible Jesus. That rescue and that transformation should lead us to love Him.
And, like I have said a whole bunch of times I’m sure, the greatly loved should love greatly. In fact→
This Is A Mark Of Belonging To Jesus. 1 John 4:8 tells us “8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And Jesus told His disciples “...all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Being a Christian means being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. If God is love, then our lives should be all about loving others as well. This is what people should recognize about you. We should strive to live in such a way that people see how much we love… instead of all the things we hate.
Likewise→This Is A Mark Of Being The Body of Christ. In the context of John 13:35, Jesus is telling the disciples that the world will recognize them as His because they love each other. That means as a church not only should we be SO intentional about loving the world outside these four walls, but we should also take time to really care about each other as well. Yes, that means planning specific events that give us an excuse to just enjoy one another. It also means being there for each other when we’re broken. That, of course, means taking time to get to know the people in these pews as more than just faces that sit in front and behind you on Sunday mornings.
We should be people defined by love. Ok, now on to the second word→
This one is a particular burden for me as your pastor. I want you to know God’s Word, and I want to help foster a love for His Word that extends well beyond Sunday mornings. Here are a few reasons why→
What God Calls Us To, He Equips Us For. I think I said that one like two Sundays ago or something. It’s so true! God is going to open doors in your life, and so often, they won’t make a lot of sense. Still, if He is leading you to walk down a path, He’s also going to prepare you to do that. How? Well, look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Have I told you to read your Bibles before? ☺️ Oh, we need it. I need it. If you feel ill-equipped to face this world, it could be because you haven’t been listening much to the one who made it! Without His direction, we’re just going to be stumbling through trying to figure this out on our own.
Furthermore→We Have Reasonable Hope. I love 1 Peter 3:15. “15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” I actually quote this verse a lot, but I’m usually trying to draw attention to the “with gentleness and respect” part (which is super important). However, there is something else here. Peter was inspired to tell us to be ready to tell people why we have the hope that we have. By implication, that means our hope is not just blind faith! It is reasonable to trust the Bible. It is reasonable to believe in Jesus. It is reasonable to follow after Him wherever He leads. But if we’re not taking our walk seriously, then it’s easy to believe the lies of the world that tell us all we have is faith that equates to nothing more than organizational superstitions.
And that’s why I feel→This Is A Solemn Responsibility. I often have people tell me I’m more of a teacher than a preacher. Sometimes it makes me chuckle because deep down I guess I feel like those two should be the same things ☺️, but I completely know what they’re saying…and I pray that never changes. The Sunday you guys called me as pastor, I preached a message titled “Don’t Vote For Me”...because I’m a fan of shock value ☺️. But my point was, don’t look for me to come in and be the answer to all your questions or the thing that gets things going in a good direction…etc. Churches don’t need dynamic leaders, they need Jesus. That’s why I am so burdened to try to walk through the Bible verse by verse (on every Sunday except this one I guess ☺️). I want us to be constantly looking at Jesus. Here’s part of the passage I preached on that Sunday. “26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” (Acts 20:26-28). And just for fun, here’s a picture from that day five years ago:
Alright, the last one…and the one bound to make most people a bit nervous→
In conversations over the past year, in particular, I have shared my heart with several of you and said something along these lines: one of my desires as your pastor is to keep all kinds of missions in front of you all the time. A church that loses sight of God’s movement around the world is a church that ceases to be an active part of His kingdom. To use a term that was in vogue around the 2010’s, we’re meant to be mission-minded. Here are three quick reasons why→
We’re Meant To Be Witnesses…All Over The Place! What did Jesus tell His apostles right before He ascended into Heaven? “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Local. National. Global. We’re called to be part of sharing Jesus with the whole world. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing in TDL this summer and why we’re gearing up for VBS. That’s why we support the World Changers and college ministries. That’s why we do shoeboxes around Christmas. That’s why we support my parents, Ryan Steel, and others—because we’re called to be witnesses for Jesus… everywhere. That’s why we should always have our eyes open to what Jesus and where Jesus might be calling us to next because→
Jesus Told Us To Go. It’s the directive of the great commission. “18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Do I need to break that down any more? Jesus called us to go. It will be scary, but He’s not limited by our fear! Let’s go with Him! And guys, we should want to because→
We Can Have Hope And Life Because Jesus… Came. Before we hit our takeaways this morning, let me just end with this final note on the importance of going. If Jesus had chosen not to go, where would you be right now? “10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10).
Love. Equip. Send.
Let me just close with a series of questions I think these truths should lead us to ask both of ourselves and our ministry as a church all the time.
How can we love each other better?
How can we show the love of Jesus to the world around us?
How seriously do we take growing in our walk?
What intentional steps are we taking to grow closer?
Where has God sent us (you) already?
Where might He be calling us (you) to go?
Are we willing to love Him and the world enough to carry His truth wherever and however He sends us?