Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 19, 2014
His plan has not changed
A Gallop poll once revealed that of the major denominations in America, the United Methodists are the least likely to invite someone to church. I was ashamed to read this but not surprised. I have known for years that my Methodist friends are timid about sharing their faith.
If we could overcome our timidity we would likely see a jump in church attendance. Other polls reveal the striking fact that most unchurched people would come to church if someone invited them. Even more remarkable is the report that 8 out of 10 new converts started coming to church because a friend invited them.
The earthly ministry of Jesus included more than his preaching, teaching and healing ministry. He formed a band of disciples. These were men Jesus needed to accomplish his mission. In his Gospel Mark says Jesus called these men because he “wanted” them. What an honor – to be wanted for the service of the King!
The Twelve were appointed to serve as Jesus’ apostles. He asked them first to be “with him.” He wanted to know them intimately so that they could bond together and understand his mission. Being with Jesus day after day was the best possible preparation for ministry. We can only imagine how much it meant to the disciples to spend time apart with Jesus.
Jesus prepared the apostles so he could “send them out” to proclaim the good news. After their training, Jesus sent them out two by two. No one knows why Jesus sent them out in pairs. Perhaps they, like us, were afraid to go one by one. However, most of us are more willing to “go out” if someone will go with us. The presence of a friend helps us overcome the fear of being intimidated or rejected.
The apostles were ordered to travel light. They could take only a staff, their sandals and one coat. Why? Jesus did not want them to be hindered by their “stuff.” Stuff can get in the way. Life, after all, does not “consist in the abundance of our possessions.” Jesus was asking his disciples to practice what he preached and lived out in his own life. There is no evidence in the gospels that Jesus hauled a large suitcase around as he traveled.
More than that, Jesus wanted the apostles to be completely dependent upon God. He knew that God would provide if they trusted him. And God did provide – through the generosity of people, the apostles had all the provisions they needed. They learned a basic principle of Kingdom living – Where God guides, he provides!
Jesus knew the disciples would sometimes be rebuffed. So he prepared them for rejection: “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
We should remember, when we are snubbed, that Jesus did not instruct the apostles to speak against those who rejected them. No denouncement was called for; they were simply to shake the dust off their feet and leave. When we are willing to do that, often we find a more receptive audience the next time around.
We may observe that the apostles obeyed Jesus and their work was rewarded with success. Many were stirred by their strong preaching to change their ways and turn to God. They had power over evil spirits because Jesus had given them that power. Mark says “they expelled many evil spirits.” They “anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
There is reason to believe that Jesus still wants his disciples to “go out” and offer his redemption to the whole world. So we who are present-day disciples should spend time with Jesus, receive his power and go out in his name to share the good news. When we do we must leave the results up to him.
Once I heard Harry Denman say, “Jesus said ‘Go’ more often than he said ‘Pray’ so his disciples must be willing to let Jesus send them out to share the good news.” Harry was right.
The more we go out, the more we learn to depend on God rather than ourselves and our stuff; and the more we will receive the power to share the good news about Jesus with others.
Dr. Fred Craddock, respected teacher of homiletics, says that Christians are fearful of sharing their faith because their pastors have not taught them how to do it. Pastors, Craddock says, must preach so that their people can learn how to say the faith, sing the faith and live the faith.
That is quite a challenge – but a challenge pastors dare not neglect. Faithful disciples of Jesus must be taught and motivated to go; it is still the Master’s plan. + + +