7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Over the years I have seen some interesting conflicts between individuals erupt in church. While visiting a church in college I watched an elderly man in a business meeting suddenly turn and rebuke an elderly woman organist over what he thought was a snide comment. In another situation I watched a deacon call out by name a man in the church who he thought had a bad attitude.
There is a word for these kinds of situations: awkward. I suppose that maybe sad is a better word, but awkward is what comes first to mind.
History records a lot of awkward confrontations in church. One of the most famous happened between Paul and Peter. Paul wrote about it in Galatians 2.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Ouch! Now that was awkward, but that was also necessary. Paul called out Peter on his inconsistency. The Church needed Peter to live out the full implications of what Christ had accomplished, especially as it pertained to Jewish-Gentile relations. So Paul was correct to do what he did there.
There is another famous awkward moment in Church history that I would like to mention. It involved a young man named William Carey. William Carey was born in 1761 and died in 1834. As a young Christian, he started thinking about lost people, people who did not know Jesus. And he did not just think about lost people in England. He thought about lost people all over the world. Not only did he start thinking about lost people, he started reading the works of missionaries. In the process of doing this, William Carey started to come under conviction. He finally concluded that it was the responsibility of Christians wherever they are to go to lost people wherever they are with the gospel. The only problem was that Carey was an English Particular Baptist, and among the Particular Baptists there were some whom we might call hyper-Calvinists. These people did not believe it was necessary to do missionary work since, after all, if somebody is predestined to salvation it does not matter whether you go to them or not. You can see this sentiment in the (alleged) words of a 17th century Particular Baptist hymn that goes like this:
We are the Lord’s elected few,
Let all the rest be damned.
There’s room enough in hell for you,
We’ll not have heaven crammed.
Well. So let us just say that there were people in William Carey’s particular group who did not think much of missions. The great awkward moment happened in a pastor’s meeting in 1787.
Carey’s friend Andrew Fuller had previously written an influential pamphlet in 1781 titled “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation,” answering the hyper-Calvinist belief then prevalent in the Baptist churches, that all men were not responsible to believe the Gospel. At a ministers’ meeting in 1787, Carey raised the question of whether it was the duty of all Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the world. John Collett Ryland is said to have retorted: “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”
That is an absolutely fascinating and terrifying statement! I should point out that Ryland’s son claimed that his father never said it, though others claimed that he did. Regardless, that sentiment was certainly alive and well at the time just as it is in our day.
Thankfully, saying those words to William Carey was like “saying ‘sick em!’ to a dog.” Carey is now known as the father of the modern missionary movement. He became a famous missionary to India and his life and works are still studied today. For instance, William Carey’s book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, is seen as one of the most important missionary manifestos ever to be penned. Let me share with you a little bit of what Carey wrote there.
Since the apostolic age many other attempts to spread the gospel have been made, which have been considerably successful, notwithstanding which a very considerable part of mankind are still involved in all the darkness of heathenism. Some attempts are still making, but they are inconsiderable in comparison of what might be done if the whole body of Christians entered heartily into the spirit of the divine command on this subject. Some think little about it, others are unacquainted with the state of the world, and others love their wealth better than the souls of their fellow-creatures…
It is thus that multitudes sit at ease, and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow-sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry. There seems also to be an opinion existing in the minds of some, that because the apostles were extraordinary officers and have no proper successors, and because many things which were right for them to do would be utterly unwarrantable for us, therefore it may not be immediately binding on us to execute the commission, though it was so upon them…
Carey witnessed, experienced, and wrote against the attitude of Christians who did not think it was their job to take the gospel to the world. The sentiment, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine,” is alive and well, and it is in no way relegated to hyper-Calvinists. After all, what is the difference between a hyper-Calvinist who will not tell others about Jesus because of his faulty theology and a non-Calvinist who will not tell others about Jesus out of laziness or indifference? To the lost person, there is no difference at all! In fact, you might say that the non-evangelizing hyper-Calvinist is in some strange way a more noble creature for, at the least, he believes he is acting in accordance with true theology (mistaken though he is!). But, again, to the person heading for an eternal separation from God, all of this is just hair-splitting.
Here is the bottom line: the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are an absolute rebuke to the terrible sentiment, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” Let us see how this is so.
The verbs of being a Jesus follower: “called…sent…gave…”
Look first at the telling verbs of verse 7.
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
This is a verse teeming with action verbs.
- “he called the twelve”
- “he…began to send them out”
- “he…gave them authority”
Mark 6:7 shows us in practice what Jesus would say explicitly in Matthew 28:18-20, a text we know today as “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.”
Jesus said the same in Acts 1 at His ascension.
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.”
Jesus came. Jesus sent.
The Father sends the Son. The Son sends the Church.
If the Church does not go, the Church betrays both the life and the commands of the Church’s Lord.
One day a pastor received this letter in the mail.
Last Sunday I attended your church, and I heard you preach. In your sermon you said that all men have sinned and rebelled against God. Because of their rebellion and disobedience they all face eternal damnation and separation from God.
But then you also said God loved men and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem men from their sins and that all those who believe in him would go to heaven and live with God eternally.
My parents recently died in rapid succession. I know they did not believe in Jesus Christ, whom you call the Savior of the world. If what you preach is true, they are damned.
You compel me to believe that either the message is untrue, or that you yourself don’t believe this message, or that you don’t care. We live only three blocks from your church and no one ever told us. You hypocrites!
Awkward. Perhaps we too need somebody in our faces.
One of the positive things the missional movement has done in our day is to draw the distinction between the attractional church model and the missional church model. The attractional model says, “Let’s do neat stuff here and hope that lost people will come.” The missional model says, “Let’s go to where lost people are and reach them there.”
Not all attractional efforts are bad, but a church that never goes, a church that expects the lost to come to them, is a church that has forsaken her mission and her Lord. In their fascinating book, Missional Essentials, Brad Brisco and Lance Ford point out that a church that only does attractional things without going to the lost is a church that is now expecting lost people to be the missionaries! We are expecting lost people to leave their homes and come to our church instead of seeing ourselves as the missionaries who leave and go to lost people.
Hear again verse 7:
- “he called the twelve”
- “he…began to send them out”
- “he…gave them authority”
The quality of being a Jesus follower: Faith-driven relational engagement.
In the verses that follow, Jesus lays out further details that shed light on the nature of the Church’s missionary activity.
8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
Here, too, are some fascinating commands.
- “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff”
- “He charged them to take…no bread”
- “He charged them to take…no bag”
- “He charged them to take…no money in their belts”
- “He charged them to…wear sandals”
- “He charged them…not [to] put on to tunics”
- “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.”
- “And if any place will not receive you…when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet…”
Let us call this “faith-driven relational engagement.” It is “faith-driven” in that He calls upon the disciples to show radical trust that He would provide. He tells them not to fret about how they will protect themselves, how they will eat, how they will pay for things, what they will wear, etc. Why? Because He was with them. So they were driven forward by faith in the care and provision of Christ.
But their mission was also “relational.” It was not distant, impersonal, or detached. “Whenever you enter a house” means a lot more than simply blitzing some area with Jesus pamphlets! It means engaging people where they are on their turf! It means getting to know people, coming to love people, and reaching people.
Robert Seiple is an intriguing guy, as his biography from InterVarsity Press reveals:
Robert A. Seiple is an ambassador for international religious freedom, retired. He previously served as president and CEO of Council of America’s First Freedom. He was also founder and chairman of the board of the Institute for Global Engagement and has spent much of his career fashioning humanitarian solutions that endure. Prior to founding Global Engagement, he spent two years in the State Department as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Previously, he served for eleven years as the president of World Vision, Inc…
In his capacity as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large he encountered some strange things that churches have done in the name of reaching people. Whenever these churches abandoned a relational model of actually getting to know and love people, they did foolish and dangerous things. For instance, Seiple wrote this in The Review of Faith & International Affairs:
Let me conclude by quoting from a Chinese house church leader as he responded to Western Bible smugglers who came to China to saturate various villages with the scriptures as a means of direct evangelism:
“The smugglers ‘bombed’ a town in China during the night with scriptures, stuffing tracts into bicycle baskets and mail boxes so that, in the words of the smugglers, ‘When the people woke up the next morning, there was Jesus everywhere.’”
The Christian leader goes on with some passion…
“No, Jesus was not everywhere; because Jesus is not a book…[T]he Bible is not Jesus. There must be a context to make sense of the Bible; otherwise it can cause heresy and heartache.”
Then this Christian leader’s language gets very direct as he addresses the repercussions that followed from one of these “Bible bombardments.”
“The police realize that his not the work of local Chinese Christians – they would not be this stupid. So they round up all the foreign Christians they know – many of them will be teachers of businessmen. They assume these believers are the ones responsible. They harass them and in some cases…deport them.”
The Christian leader then suggests an alternative methodology, and this is key:
“If you really want to spread Jesus, then come and spread the Gospel his way – live here, learn Chinese, love the people, incarnate into the culture as Christ incarnated himself into humanity…Like all kinds of organic growth, you can’t hurry it. People take time to grow up as Christians. There is no fast track. There is no technology to speed up discipleship, and no quick-fix method.”
The leader’s final comment curs right to the heart of the issue, and should be the watchwords of the debate over proselytism and persecution:
“I want to suggest to those brothers and sisters [the Bible smugglers], you might be smuggling for yourselves, not for Jesus. Be careful your desire to smuggle is not merely a wish to have an adventure, to be James Bond for Jesus. Jesus does not needs James Bond. He needs servants.”
Seiple then gives another example of careless non-relational evangelism.
Many of my personal views on the complex intersection between evangelism and persecution were crystallized by an incident in 1998, when I was working for the U.S. State Department. During the summer, 30 Filipino Christians were ushered off to jail for distributing Bibles in the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t require too much imagination to see how the combination of elements in this episode – Bibles, Christians, and Saudi Arabia – could have been a recipe for disaster. Fortunately a disaster was avoided. Working with both the U.S. Embassy and the Philippine Embassy, the State Department was able to get each of these earnest Filipino evangelists released (immediately deported, but released) before the summer was over.
Four months later I was in Saudi Arabia, and I stopped by the Philippine Embassy to thank the Ambassador for his help in the successful resolution of this incident. “You know,” he said to me, “under Saudi Arabian law you can bring one Bible into the country in your briefcase. These people tried to smuggle 20,000 of them into the country. Then they claimed Saudi Arabia for Christ by the year 2000!” I was not unfamiliar with these kinds of bold, if unrealistic, missionary campaigns, but to the Philippine Ambassador this was nothing less than bizarre.
“They were running out of time,” he went on, “and here they still had all these Bibles. So they started to walk down the streets of Riyadh, throwing Bibles over walls, literally hitting unsuspecting Muslims on the head. Saudi Arabia’s Muttawa (religious police) stepped in immediately, of course, and 30 of my countrymen ended up in jail.”
Let us be clear on this: we are not called to throw Bibles at the heads of lost people. We are called to carry Jesus to the hearts of lost people through relationships, love, understanding, service, and through modeling the life of Christ before them.
The joy of being a Jesus follower: Witnesses to liberating power
When we dare to follow Jesus onto the mission field, we realize that we go in His power and with His blessing and presence. This was certainly the experience of the first missionaries.
12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Let us notice their message: “Repent.” That was a message calling people from something but also calling people to Someone. That must be the message of the Church today: repent and follow Jesus!
And what happened? “Many” demons were cast out and “many” were healed. We know from the gospels that faith was involved in this so we rightly say that “many” came to Jesus as a result of the disciples’ obedience to the call of Christ.
“Many,” not “all.”
We are not promised that all will trust in Christ. Such matters are the purview of Christ. We are not called to be counters, we are called to be proclaimers. As we go and proclaim and model and reach, Christ will draw many in! What a wonderful privilege to be called to such a task!
To be on mission for Christ is to be a witness to the liberating power of Jesus! We get to see this power up close and personal when we open ourselves to being used by Christ in such a way as this.
One of the great modern missionary heroes is the martyr Jim Elliot who gave his life trying to reach the Huaorani people of Ecuador. On October 27, 1949, Eliot wrote this in his journal:
I have prayed for new men, fiery, reckless men, possessed of uncontrollably youthful passion – these lit by the Spirit of God. I have prayed for new words, explosive, direct, simple words. I have prayed for new miracles.
What a prayer! Let us pray the very same! More than that, let us be the answer to Elliot’s prayer! I would like to leave us once again with the great words of Charles Spurgeon from so many years ago.
If sinners be dammed, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there UNWARNED and UNPRAYED for.
Amen, and amen.
 Thomas K. Ascol, What Hath Geneva to do With Nashville? From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention. Revised Edition (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2013), p.28.
 William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Kindle Edition, 28-32, 43-47.
 Robert Seiple, “From Bible Bombardment to Incarnational Evangelism: A Reflection on Christian Witness and Persecution.” The Review of Faith & International Affairs. Vol.7, No.1 (Spring 2009), 36-37, 29.
 Daniel L. Akin, Five Who Changed the World (Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008), 95.