1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
As a church family, we have committed ourselves to what we call “the four canons.” As a church, we would like to become (1) an authentic family (2) around the whole gospel (3) for the glory of God and (4) the reaching of the nations. We believe that these four canons are biblical and God-honoring. What would it look like, though, if we failed to get the fourth canon right?
What if we were an authentic family but did not care about going and reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ? It would mean that we had become a cult or a closed society. It would mean that we were obsessed with our own comfort, with maintaining a club just the way we like it.
I have a friend who was passionately calling his church to reach the nations. A lady in the congregation said to him, “Pastor, I know you are right, but honestly we do not want a bunch of new people coming in here and messing things up.” Some years back in another context I was having a conversation with a church member about reaching the kids on the streets around our church. They were not like the majority of folks in our church. They did not know the unspoken rules of decorum. They would sometimes say and do things that were upsetting and off-putting. This particular individual said to me, “Ok, I get that they have a right to come, but do we have to encourage them?” That is what it is to be a family without a sense of mission.
Or what if we got the second canon right but not the fourth? What if our doctrine was solid but we did not reach people? It would mean that we had become some kind of egghead debating society, a group of exclusionary nerds who love the intricacies of theology more than people. I, for one, believe that right theology is essential. What is more, I believe we should love theology! I believe we should guard against false teachings. But what does it say about our theology if it does not lead us to love and reach people? It would mean that in our study of Christ we had missed Christ!
What if we got the third canon right, but not the fourth? What if we were ecstatic for the glory of God but did not care about reaching people? It would mean that we had become a cult of spiritual euphoria, a group obsessed with religious ecstaticism but not with the actual love of the God for whom we claim to be ecstatic.
In so many ways it seems to be the case that whether or not we love and reach people is the great evidence for whether or not we truly understand who Jesus. Toward that end, the sending of the seventy as recounted in Luke 10 is a critically important passage. I believe this passage provides us with a model for the sending of the Church today.