Summary: Some points from the sending out of the twelve
There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to learn to do things on our own. Whether that means our first steps, our first go at riding a bike without stabilisers, going to school on your own, all the way through to the time when we finally leave to set up home ourselves. You can’t help but feel both excited and a little bit frightened when you have to stand on your own two feet and learn how to do things by yourself. I wonder how those disciples must have felt as the time came for them to leave Jesus and go out two by two to do their own preaching and healing. Up to now Jesus has been doing most of the hard work, he has been the one doing the teaching and they have been the ones listening and learning. Now it all has to be put into practice.
I’m sure they were wondering what the places they were going to would be like; how would the people there treat them? Would they be made welcome? And I am sure that more than one of them would have been asking themselves how on earth they were going to live up the high standards of Jesus. Would they have the faith to live as he asked them to do?
They seem very badly equipped to our eyes for a job of evangelism. They are to bring with them nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic and they are to rely completely on the hospitality of those they will be seeking to preach to.
They are equipped with one thing however that is completely beyond value and that is the power and authority of Jesus to do the work that they have been sent to do. So, travelling light they are sent off to preach and to heal. I wonder who they were paired with? Did the brothers James and John travel together? Do you think Peter bossed about his travelling partner? Who travelled with Judas and what was Judas like as a preacher and Evangelist?
Evangelism is one of those words that when you bring up in church has everybody looking at their feet saying, “please don’t pick me!” It is one of those things, like exercise or cleaning those awkward bits under the kitchen cupboards that we know we ought to do but never quite get around to doing it. There is always something more urgent or more pressing for us to deal with. There just never seems to be the right time or the right moment to bring up the subject of Jesus with our friends or our loved ones.
Evangelism can be a daunting thing, but like the twelve we too are called to go to our own people, to preach and to heal. We all know that evangelism is important, it is as simple as it is unpalatable, people who do not accept Jesus as their saviour and Lord face both judgement and hell. Using this passage and the one before it we are going to look at aspects of evangelism and hopefully we will be encouraged to make this essential part of the Christian faith a higher priority in our lives.
The three aspects that we will be looking at are these –
1) Evangelism is a lifestyle not an occasional activity
2) Evangelism is more about actions than words
3) Successful Evangelism involves relationships
Evangelism is a lifestyle not an occasional activity.
I’m sure we all know what it is like to nervously go up to a workmate or family member and invite them to some church social event or evangelistic rally. We find ourselves suddenly flicking some switch in our brains that puts us into evangelism mode. The sweaty palms, the loss of words, the false confidence that results in us saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time makes it seem that we are about to ask our hapless victim to do something perverse rather than simply asking them to go to church with us.
Much of this nervousness can stem from the fact that we live such segmented and fragmented lives. We talk about our “Christian Life” or our “Family Life” or our “Work Life” in a way that makes them seem like separate existences. We do not discuss work at church and we definitely do not discuss church at work and so when it comes to that evangelism time of the year the person who up to this point has not mentioned Jesus in their office at all in the last twelve months suddenly has to introduce Jesus into their God-free work life.
But how does that work in practice? How do we introduce Jesus into our daily activities? A good place to start is by recognising that he is there with you anyway, whether you invited him or not. That awareness of the presence of God in our everyday activities (whether we feel it in our hearts or we just know it in our heads) can transform our attitude to evangelism. He is always there to hear our prayers for our workmates, ourselves, those we live with or our families.