Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
Have you ever been to the beach and seem those people kiteboarding? It’s really neat to watch. You see, suspended in the air these semi circular kites that are big — they are anywhere between 7 and 18 meters long. Then attached to them is a person on a board, similar to a wakeboard, being pulled by the kite through the water and even through the air at times. I think these things are beautiful, and I really enjoy watching them.
I was in high school about the time kiteboarding was becoming popular. I had never scene it before, but on a trip one summer to the beach, I saw it and was amazed. Of course, I decided that this was something I wanted to try. Well, to get started you are looking at at least $1500, so the whole thing was a little out of my reach, but they did sell “trainer” kits that were similar in design and could be flown on land. So I bought one of these for less than $100. It took me a while to learn to fly it, but when I got the hang of this kite, it was a lot of fun. I couldn’t imagine having a kite 6-10 times larger than this one that would pull me through the water on a board.
After all, I didn’t live near the beach or near such good wind. The whole kiteboarding sport was kind of out of the question for me. But to watch those we are good at the sport, whether they are pros or amateurs was pretty amazing. Honestly, I’ve never been around water sports very much, so I doubt that I would be much good at it anyways.
Sometimes, when we observe someone who is really good at things, it can be a little discouraging for the rest of us who aren’t so good.
Like the student who works incredibly hard in school always to be outdone by the star of the class. Or even being intimidated at trying something new because you have a fear that you won’t be successful or be any good at the new endeavor. Maybe its a lack of confidence when it comes to public speaking or something else.
I think it is also true that many, who call themselves Christians and faithfully support the church with their prayers, their presence, gifts, and service also lack a certain confidence when it comes to faith. Many of us find it difficult to talk about matters of faith with those sitting next to us in church. Sure we might come to worship regularly, but was are we really engaging with others?
When you join the church, you promise to support the church with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and you witness. I think most of us do most of these things, but when it comes to being a witness for Jesus, for the church, and for your faith how good are we at that? If we have difficultly talking about faith with those next to us, how good are we at talking about faith with our neighbors, our families, our coworkers, and even people we casually meet on a daily basis. How good are we at inviting these people to meet Jesus; inviting them to church.
I’m not saying that every conversation we have needs to be approached with the goal of getting someone to attend church. That would be artificial and would lead to inauthentic relationships. But how many opportunities do we miss you share into someone’s life about faith because we don’t have the confidence. Maybe we think someone else will do it, or someone else should do it, someone who is better at it than me.
I wonder what Jesus’s followers, his closest disciples thought when Jesus talked to them about sharing their faith?
We can read about this encounter that Jesus had with his disciples in what Matthew writes about Jesus. In Matthew 10 we read:
>>10 He called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness. 2 Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, who is called Peter; and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee; and John his brother; 3 Philip; and Bartholomew; Thomas; and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus; and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean;[a] and Judas, who betrayed Jesus. <<
So Jesus calls on his 12 disciples and brings them together. We then read that he gives them some type of authority to heal people and get rid of demons. His instructions continue:
>>5 Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. 7 As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. 9 Workers deserve to be fed, so don’t gather gold or silver or copper coins for your money belts to take on your trips. 10 Don’t take a backpack for the road or two shirts or sandals or a walking stick. 11 Whatever city or village you go into, find somebody in it who is worthy and stay there until you go on your way. 12 When you go into a house, say, ‘Peace!’ 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if the house isn’t worthy, take back your blessing. 14 If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city.<<
He tells them to start traveling to neighboring towns and witness to their faith. To preach about the kingdom of heaven with their words and their actions. They are supposed to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. This is that same stuff that Jesus has been doing. This is what Jesus has done as these people traveled from town to town and village to village. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus preaching and healing, now he is instructing the disciples to go out and do this.
Jesus made all of these things look easy. With the touch of his hand a disease would leave the body. With a statement someone would rise from the dread. With a quick rebuke a demon would flee. Jesus seems free to preach in all the synagogues. Jesus makes this life and this work look easy—people listen to him, crowds follow him, and people seek to join his movement.
Even though the disciples have seen Jesus make this work look easy, when he sends them out, he tells them that they will have a difficult time. Beginning in verse 16 Jesus warns them:
>>16 “Look, I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. 17 Watch out for people—because they will hand you over to councils and they will beat you in their synagogues. 18 They will haul you in front of governors and even kings because of me so that you may give your testimony to them and to the Gentiles. [And then Jesus says:] 21 Brothers and sisters will hand each other over to be executed. A father will turn his child in. Children will defy their parents and have them executed. 22 Everyone will hate you on account of my name.<<
Jesus warns them, you guys are going to have it rough on the mission that I’m sending you on. Many things are going to happen to you because of this mission, basically, everyone will hate you. Man, what rousing speech! What an encouragement to these disciples that Jesus is sending out. They have never healed or preached or thrown out demons (that’s enough pressure on its own—I don’t see many of us doing that), and on top of it everyone is going to hate them. When I ask someone to do something, that’s not really the way I go about persuading them. “Go out, do this very hard thing, maybe impossible thing, and everyone will hate you for it.” Any takers?
Despite all of this. Despite that hardship; despite the uncertain likelihood of success; despite the fact that Jesus could easily do this himself, he sends these disciples out nonetheless. Not only does he send them out, he sends them out with confidence.
I think the reason that Jesus sends them with confidence has to do with the authority that he gives them. You see, prior to giving them their instructions, we read in verse 1 that Jesus: “gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness.”
And then to underscore this authority, Jesus tells them as they go on this mission, it is not just them going. In fact, through the disciples, it will actually be Jesus who is meeting the needs of those they encounter. Jesus does not leave them alone for this mission, instead he equips them with everything they need. Jesus tells them in verse 19
>>19 Whenever they hand you over, don’t worry about how to speak or what you will say, because what you can say will be given to you at that moment. 20 You aren’t doing the talking, but the Spirit of my Father is doing the talking through you.<<
Things are still going to be difficult. Things might even seem impossible, but there is not need to ultimately worry, because Jesus is the one who sends them and Jesus is the one who goes with them and works through them. Friends, God does not send the church to do a mission alone. Instead, when we take risks it is through God that we are able to do that. At times we may lack confidence for ministry, for mission, for sharing our faith but God equips each of us for ministry in the world.
What Jesus asks the disciples to do is a risky thing. Jesus was not just asking his followers 2000 years ago to take risks and do amazing things. Jesus is asking us to them as well. If we listen to these words of Jesus, we too have been given authority to be in ministry for Jesus. We too have been given the authority to witness to others the good things that come through life in Christ. Having the confidence to do this may seem like an impossible feat. It may seem as if you don’t know too many people and that you couldn’t possibly have a witness strong enough to help others. You may feel as if you just couldn’t share this with others. You may think, I’m just an ordinary person, surely someone else who is smarter, more spiritual, more of a people person, more loving, has more money is a better person to witness to others.
It’s fine if you feel that way, but you must know that if we survey history amazing and even things thought to be impossible have been accomplished with ordinary followers of Jesus, with ordinary church members.
It’s through the witness of ordinary church members that things like the Red Cross, many hospitals, many schools, and universities, many orphanages were founded. It’s through the witness of ordinary church members that things like slavery were eventually found to be morally and ethically repugnant and later abolished. It was through the witness of ordinary church members that fought and won safer and fairer working conditions for labor during the late 1800s. It was through the witness of ordinary church members — many United Methodists — that the worldwide malaria rate was recently cut in half. It is through the witness of ordinary church members that children in the Alton Park neighborhood of Chattanooga that is often rocked by violence have a safe place in the Bethlehem Center. IT is through the witness of ordinary church members that people suffering from addiction are finding freedom through recovery in programs like AA, NA, and Celebrate Recovery.
What Jesus asks us to do is risky, but we constantly see what happens when God sends ordinary disciples, ordinary church members out on a mission. Through the power of God, we can and we do accomplish extraordinary things.
My question for us is, What’s next? If you have only thought of yourself as ordinary, what can you do in your life to share the love of Jesus to be a more effective witness, to take a risk for Jesus. And what is next for us as a church? What risk is God calling us to take next for the love of Jesus to help share freedom, to help share healing, to help share the love of God with others?
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.