1. The Apostles had a Unique Ministry
The criteria for becoming an apostle was simple.
1.1 They had to have been with Jesus, and been recognised by the other apostles.
1.2 Second, they had supernatural power to perform the same miracles Jesus performed (2 Corinthians 12:12).
The signs of an apostle were unique and no Christian leader in history since has been able to replicate these two conditions. The apostles were the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:16, Ephesians 2:20). There was no apostolic succession. There are no apostles today. However, God calls us to build on the work of the apostles, as pastors, evangelists, teachers. He continues to give spiritual gifts and abilities to enable his church to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world, to build the church and extend his kingdom rule over peoples hearts and lives. The apostles had a unique ministry in their day and so do you today.
2. The Apostles had a Limited Ministry
This passage is not a model for Christians to serve God without thought to their needs or provision. How do we know that? At the end of the Last Supper, just before Jesus led the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane for the last time, he gave them their final instructions before his crucifixion. Rashly, Peter insisted,
33"Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and
to death." 34Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster
crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." 35Then Jesus
asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack
anything?" "Nothing," they answered. 36He said to them, "But
now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword,
sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: `And he was numbered with the
transgressors' ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what
is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." (Luke 22:33-37)
In the passage before us, therefore we see Jesus training the Apostles in a limited faith mission venture. He was sending them out for a few days on a test run to prepare them for the day when he would be taken from them. When humanly speaking they would be on their own. The memory of how God had provided for them, how he had nurtured their faith would sustain them in the coming days when they too would be persecuted and scattered to the four corners of the earth. The mantle of leadership was about to be passed on to his disciples. They were to continue the ministry he had begun. The test before Jesus is the one that separates great leaders from small pretenders:
1. Can the vision of the leader be grasped
2. Can the authority of the leader be transferred to others?
3. Can the teaching of the leader be taught to others?
4. Can the actions of the leader be duplicated by others?
5. Can the results of the leader be multipled by others?
That is the acid test all leaders face. Is their mission
transferable? With that understanding, let us now return to this passage and
see what abiding lessons it does contain.
1. Called to Follow (Mark 6:7)
Most of what the disciples picked up was caught rather than taught.
The effectiveness of training will be in proportion to the quality of the relationship between teacher and pupil, between leader and disciple.
First and foremost Jesus called the disciples to follow him.
We have all been called to full time Christian service. What differs is merely our location and ministry. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and disciplers for Jesus. I'm still learning to be a father. I am discovering having a son is rather different to having daughters. There are new rules, new expectations, new challenges. We are learning together.
We spend time together to discuss how we are doing. Thursday Mike asked me to teach him to juggle. I can't teach him something I can't do myself but it was a good learning experience for us both. Its the same with our faith. We learn from Jesus in order to pass that on to others who in turn will share it with others. In that sense our faith must be transferable, infection, contagious. If you want to have a profound impact in the lives of a other people, spend quality time with them. There is no substitute. Where many Christian leaders fail is that they are too busy having a ministry, to take time to train others to do what they are doing. So when they go to be with the Lord, there is no one to take on the mantle and the ministry dies. I'll let you into a secret. One of my primary objectives at Christ Church is to make myself redundant. If in five years time I am still doing the same things I will have failed. At Stoke, my previous parish in Guildford, when I first arrived, I inherited four House Group leaders and one Lay Reader. When I left we had trained ten House Group leaders, three more Lay Readers and a Curate as well as two other lay preachers. We also had a team of qualified Pastoral Assistants and youth leaders. All that took a huge investment of time and energy but it was worth it. Over those ten years we saw the Lord bless Stoke and the congregation more than doubled. We are called to follow Jesus and we are to call others to follow Jesus with us too. Called to Follow.
2. Sent to Witness (Mark 6:7, 12)
Three things we can observe about the way they were sent to witness.
2.1 In Shared Ministry (Mark 6:7)
By sending them out in six pairs, Jesus multiplied his ministry but more importantly ensured they learnt from one another. There is no place for the lone ranger, the lone Christian ministry, the one man band.
Shared ministry is the biblical pattern. David and Jane Gibbs will be joining us in the Summer to share in our ministry. Our aim will be to help complete his theological training, to equip him to take responsibility for pastoring a church in four years time. Why? So that he in turn can disciple others. This same principle applies to our House Groups, Sunday school groups, Pastoral care. If you are going visiting, take someone with you. If you are leading a house group, share the role with others. If you are leading a service, get others involved. Always ask yourself constantly, 'Am I passing on what I am learning about the Christian faith to others younger in the faith?' Here's another question to ask yourself 'Am I doing something for someone that they could or should learn to do themselves?' If so, I am encouraging dependency on me rather than independency and maturity. That's the reason we ask retiring members of the PCC and Deanery Synod not to accept nomination again straight away. its good to let people have a year off. Its also good to encourage others to gain experience in a leadership role. That way we will have many more people with experience of taking responsibility, handling decisions, facing challenges, working as a team. I want us to have a contagious faith. Jesus sent them to witness in shared ministry. Secondly, he sent them,
2.2 With Delegated Authority (Mark 6:11;
We are sent in the name and delegated authority of Jesus.
We have the awesome privilege and authority to promise and assure people that if they repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ, their sins are forgiven and that they have eternal life. When we share the promises of Jesus with others we speak with the authority of Jesus.
If they reject you, don't take it personally, it is Jesus they are rejecting.
Sent to witness, in shared ministry, with delegated authority,
2.3 As Ambassadors of Peace (Matthew
'If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.'
Paul takes this idea further in his second letter to the Corinthians.
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
The primary ministry God has given us is to bring peace and reconciliation through telling others about what Jesus Christ has done for us and them. We are to be peacemakers in family crisis, in divorce settlements, in industrial disputes, in working relationships. Where ever Christ is ignored or unknown we are called to bring peace. Called to Follow, Sent to Witness and
3. Empowered to Serve (Mark 6:8-13)
To serve with functional simplicity and progressive mobility.
3.1 Serve with Functional Simplicity
Although this was a short term mission project and Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing with them but trust God for their needs, there is nevertheless an important principle here. Functional simplicity.
This week I was sent details of an ambitious plan to build a £50 million World Prayer Centre in Birmingham for the year 2002. The massive glass-domed structure is even larger than its US Prayer Centre counterpart, opened recently in Colorado Springs. According to its literature, the UK WPC is the vision (literally the prophetic vision) of a Northern Irish minister's son. A venture such as this, with its enormous price tag, you might think first required serious debate in the UK Christian community. It does not seem so, but the Christian public will no doubt be invited to fund the project - very likely, as with many other similar initiatives, with little or no recognition that the New Testament instructs us to give our tithes and offerings for God's work to and through the local church. You may already give to Christian or secular charities but I have to say your first priority should be the place where you are fed and nurtured, the place where you live and serve God. Warnings of the trappings of affluence need to be heard again and again. Jesus teaching here about functional simplicity is still valid. The question to ask is this: "What are the essentials I need to function effectively as a witness for Christ without losing my primary dependence upon God?" If we face that question honestly, many apparent needs will disappear from our want list. We serve with functional simplicity and, we
3.2 Serve by Progressive Mobility
Somewhere along the way the church lost its identity as a people in mission, a people on a journey and became equated with a static, permanent building. One writer asks, 'Has the church become a company of squatters rather than a caravan of pilgrims.' Do we expect people to come to the church to hear about Jesus or are we taking the church to the people? What spiritual values have we lost when we quit moving? Certainly the spiritual needs in our community has not diminished. In eighteenth century England, masses of people migrated from farms to industrial cities seeking employment. The church failed to follow them, but John Wesley, thrown out of the Anglican church did. Through his preaching and that of his disciples, in the market places and open fields, God moved among the people and changed the face of England. Unlike France, some say that revival saved Britain from bloody revolution. Revivals are born when the church moves on. Empowered to serve with functional simplicity and progressive mobility. In one sentence, what do we learn from this passage about Christian ministry? We have all been called to follow, sent to witness and equipped to serve. All that distinguishes me from you is our place of service.
In April we are hosting a major conference for churches across Surrey Berkshire and Hampshire called Network. Graeme Paris is from NZ. He has spoken here before and we are looking forward to his return. The purpose of the seminar is to help us all discover our unique role within the Body of Christ here in Virginia Water. I hope you will join us and make this passage a living reality today. Make it a priority. Lets pray.