Upside Down Mission

Last weekend Jericho Road Church in Nanaimo held a retreat – connecting in vulnerable and fun ways as we worshipped, ate, taught, shared, played, and worked together. Time well spent with a great core group of leaders!

On the Friday night we began considering the values of God’s Kingdom – obviously coming up with a big list (yet admittedly only a beginning). Later we reflected on the initial words and actions of Jesus as he sends his disciples out on mission (Matthew 9:35 – 10:13) and a few things stick out to me as I continue to reflect on that passage.

Send who you have

Sounds obvious, but in my experience we often don’t want to go on mission ourselves or send others out until we have a significant contingent who are willing to go (to show how significant and true what we are sharing must be) or to stay (to maintain what we already have). Even as we grow, our numbers are rarely seen as large enough to get to the point of sending people out.

Jesus asks his disciples to pray for more workers to reap the great Kingdom harvest that awaits. He acknowledges that yes, more workers are needed. But right after instructing his disciples to pray he sends them out before anyone else can join!

Let’s not wait until we have everyone we need. Fact is, we’ll never really feel like we have “enough”. Rather, let’s go ourselves and send the ones we have out on mission and see what God wants to do in and through that sacrificial obedience.

Go with what you’ve got

Jesus sends the disciples out with limited material resources, but with spiritual authority and power to declare and demonstrate that the Kingdom of God has come near.

It strikes me not only as a move towards greater reliance on the Spirit of God but on our neighbours, an opportunity to not only give but to receive.

In going with limited material resources and instructions to “search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave” we, like the disciples, are forced to maintain a certain humility in the relationship between us as evangelists and our neighbours, for we clearly both have needs that can only be met by the other. Ministering out of our needs, not just in our strengths and gifts, runs counter to what we are comfortable with and to what much of Christian mission has looked like. But mission that acknowledges mutual dependence will no doubt promote the sense of humility in us that characterized Christ’s ministry and is clearly needed in our missional endeavours today.

Boundaries bring Bounty

“Don’t go among the Gentiles or Samaritans,” says Jesus. “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” Which seems unkind, non-inclusive, or at the very least a strange strategy for one who came to express the Father’s love for the entire cosmos and everyone and everything in it.

But just as God sent Jesus to grow up and minister in a relatively small environment to a limited audience, so Jesus limits the scope of the disciples initial ministry. Boundaries, far from being limitations, are actually God’s launching pad and plan for long-term fruitfulness. Jesus limits the mission now so that we’re prepared to go to the ends of the earth later.

Go Together

It seems like Jesus sending out the disciples “two by two” often gets lost in our cultural focus on the individual.

Or perhaps it gets lost due to the inconvenience of partnering with others? Partnering in ministry takes more time and often a lot more effort than simply doing it ourselves. But Jesus seems to be OK with the inefficiency of partnerships because He knows that in the long run the effectiveness and fruitfulness that result from those partnerships far outweigh the initial challenges of doing so, and that partnering on mission mirrors the mission of God that was initiated in the intimate partnership of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As a church we are building on the family and servant aspects of our identity by more intentionally obeying the call to be missionaries in the counter-intuitive ways of God. That call starts with us, as small and ill-equipped as we might sometimes feel, according to the boundaries and riches that Jesus gives, riches that are fully released only as we partner with one another.