“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. Matthew 10:16-22
I have lost track now of how many conversations I have had over the last couple of weeks and certainly of how many social media posts I have seen lamenting the future of the church in America in the wake of the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage. I get it. I share some of the concerns myself. I do agree we seem to be entering into a very different chapter here in the U.S. in terms of the church and its relationship to the world around us. To put it mildly, church popularity is on the decline. The fears and concerns I have seen and heard cover a broad range of “sky is falling” iterations…
“They’re going to take our tax exemptions away.”
“The church is losing its relevance to an entire generation.”
” We no longer have the protection to teach God’s Word.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:1, 7-8
I have a ministry. Well, it belongs to God, not to me…but you know what I mean. I have been entrusted with an amazing ministry and an amazing message about unity among God’s people. I know the feeling of ownership of a ministry. I know the pressures of stewardship of such a message. And I know the stress of placing the reputation, the very name, of that ministry into other people’s hands. I know what it feels like to send other people out in the name of Christian Unity Ministries, placing them in control of our reputation, and having little or no control over how they will exercise that stewardship.
So I am more than just a little bit amazed at what Jesus does in Matthew 10, sending out the twelve to perform miracles in His name. There was no tutorial about casting out demons. There was no dress rehearsal for any of them to practice raising the dead. He just gave them the authority, gave them a few verses of instruction, and sent them out. Surely they did not all take to this task naturally. There had to have been some humorous “fails” (like the one at the foot of the mountain in Matthew 17:16…I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him). Nevertheless, Jesus empowered them, authorized them, and sent them out to do His Father’s work, and he exercised virtually no …