Ready To Launch?

Our final weeks of the 2015-2016 academic year at Heritage College & Theological Seminary are winding down. Next week there will be a commissioning chapel as students who will be serving this summer are set apart.  If you are in the Cambridge area, why not join us in chapel on Tuesday at 11:20 a.m.?  Or set apart April 30th and share in the joy of 70-80 new graduates who are ready to launch into a new phase of ministry.

Part of the training of leaders includes an assessment of their ‘readiness to launch.’ What is the best way to train spiritual leaders? What independence should be entrusted to them and when? What instructions should be given as they head out? What intentional strategy will they follow throughout the years God gives them to serve?

In Mark 6:6b-13 Jesus sends out the twelve. His intentional discipleship and leadership training strategy had led him to call twelve men to follow up more closely.  Out of the larger crowd of Christ-followers, they became known as ‘the Twelve.’ Quite a motley crew, don’t you think? Lots of issues, in fact one of them proves to buckle at the offer of money, and willingly turns over his ‘Master’ to His enemies.

“Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” The teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus Christ is well worth studying as the Spirit of God enables Him to speak with authority, to hide spiritual truth inside parables and to call individuals to repentance and clear faith in WHO He was and WHY He had come.

“Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” He possessed authority and would later declare to these leaders, “All authority has been given unto me…..” (Matthew 28:18-20). Now he commissions them with authority, the necessary God-given power they will need in the spiritual warfare they are now entering.  

I’ve met more than a few younger leaders who are shocked at the level of warfare they encounter in service. Some of them have launched out on their own, propelled by their own zeal and lacking the spiritual wisdom that is imperative to ‘success.’ They’ve been defeated and at times trapped in the snares of the enemy.  I asked one troubled young adult, “If Canada was declaring war on another nation, would they send out one soldier without any training or support?” “Of course not,” he replied.  “Then why,” I queried, “did you venture into enemy territory on your own, filled with your own ideas, without careful, prayerful planning?”

“These were his instructions:” Jesus now gets very specific.  The ‘Twelve’ need to really pay attention.  They’ve watched Him serve, now it’s their turn.  They watched the Father provide for Him, now they must trust that same provision. They’ve seen the opposition and watched some communities ask Jesus to leave, now they too must anticipate rejection.

1) Take nothing for the journey except a staff–The analogy of shepherd leadership (pastoring) warrants some careful thought.  I’m still working through Dr. Tim Laniak’s material from our Ministry Leadership Day at Heritage last month.  

2) no bread, no bag, no money in your belts–This ministry would not rest on anything but God alone.  Elsewhere we are urged to plan and count the cost, but on this occasion, the Lord led them into an utter sense of dependence upon God, an essential for long-lasting spiritual impact.

3) Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Keep it simple.  Consider the example of John the Baptist, who didn’t attire himself with ‘fine clothes.’ Perhaps some of us as leaders could focus more upon the heart, as the LORD does, and not draw great attention to ourselves with our ‘finery.’ The ‘health, wealth and prosperity gospel’ is certainly not taught here!

4) Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.  They were bringing God’s message and help to the community.  Some would accept it, many would not.  Eternity will reveal the responses of individuals and communities to the message of the gospel. All the ‘opportunities’ to engage with truth will be recounted before us.  We would do well to not miss one.

How did the ‘Twelve’ respond to this instruction?

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.  Their message called for change.  They gave evidence of the authority Christ has delegated to them, and blessing followed.  

Ready to launch?  Yes, they were. Are you? Am I?  Head over to the Heritage Seminary blog and read my few thoughts on our urgent need for people to wrestle in prayer.  I’ve entitled it Wrestlers Wanted At Heritage.  

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