Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Jesus on Being Missional 3

I’ll be off to class early tomorrow morning, so I’m posting this one tonight. And if I don’t get something off early, Kerry Doyal writes me and tells me I’m sleeping in or something.
In this third post on Jesus’ view of “missional” as can be seen in Matthew 9:35-11:1 (the so-called “mission”ary discourse), we will focus on Matthew 10:1-4. The crucial part of the text reads: “Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.”
When it comes to seeing what this text says about being missional, there is little doubt: the power of the missional work is from God.
Here again, sometimes we get so clever that we think it comes from our skill; sometimes we get so logical we think it comes from our minds; sometimes we get so persuasive we think we can control others; sometimes our facilities are so impressive we think Kingdom work is to dazzle the crowds.
But not so with Jesus: the disciples were given authority over unclean spirits, and they were given authority to heal diseases and sicknesses.
The issue is one of empowerment instead of just skills. I am all for learning more about our calling, and going off to seminary to learn what we need to learn to be ministers, and attending church courses to develop a ministry — don’t get me wrong. But, the gold of ministry is not to be found in the glitter but in the embrace of God’s empowering Spirit.
Remember also that this empowerment by Jesus is the result of his own prayer request to the Father to send forth workers into the harvest. Jesus lays it before God, petitions God for help, and then is prompted by God to empower twelve young apostles who would be given the task of extending the ministry of Jesus to others.
So, if you are serious about developing an emerging local gathering, pray to God for enablement — and wait for God to fill you with the Spirit.

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posted August 30, 2005 at 12:25 am

Wow, I don’t check this over the weekend & you manage to hit on a number of topics I’ve been running across at TEDS!
Emergent church (w/ Drs. Grant & Eckhard J. Schnabel–combined advisor/advisee groups), missions (class), and the beliefs/influence of evangelicals (American Church History class).
Here’s an intersting 2-part question for you [and, of course, even if you’re not Scot, you may respond as well with your opinion :)]:
Do you think people have gifts to persevere in more than one type of “soil” (cf. Mk. 4, out of context/imperfect allegory: i.e. the US is like the soil where weeds & thorns came up to choke the seed because there are so many distractions here, and persecution was…a different type of threat to the seed of the Gospel)?
…or are there places people might not be able to persevere if they moved to a different context because of an inability to cope with the vastly different challenges(i.e. someone survived torture & persecution in a country, but if they then moved to the US (or vice versa) could they maintain their faith just as easily?)?
(This is a question a professor posed when thinking about what his own response would be to persecution–would he persevere or commit apostasy?)

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted August 30, 2005 at 12:41 am

This is a bold and exciting challenge. You pointed out ways in which we can take credit for the empowerment of God, which happens a lot. I would like to suggest that what also happens frequently is that we refuse to accept the empowerment, making it “all up to God” (as though it wasn’t already).
You see this when people pray for healing and say, “Lord, if it is your will, heal this person”. I am no questioning the intention or even the validity of this prayer, but I realize very infrequently we hear people speak to the body and say “Be healed” with the authority given us. I believe, in part, this is due to our hear of losing face, with a secondary concern about God losing face.
In practice, functioning in the empowerment of the spirit is exciting, terrifying and risky. I know I am guilty of it all the time. Thanks for the challenge.

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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2005 at 8:44 am

Good question, but isn’t one of those hyper-hypotheticals that can’t be known?
Theologically, I would say that God’s gifts are distributed to whomsoever God wills — and that God prompts such giftings in given locations. Changing locations might change that.
On perserverance, I’ve got too much of God’s empowering grace in my theology to think that condition shapes it that much. Not to say that conditions don’t shape our Christian life.

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Kerry Doyal

posted August 30, 2005 at 9:01 am

Hope you slept well 😉

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ted gossard

posted August 30, 2005 at 12:25 pm

Preparation and all of our hard work is good and I believe important. But it is a gift from God to really “minister” effectively. Without our reception of that gift we’ll settle for something far less.
As a girlfriend told me, many years ago, it is more important that you are fresh in your relationship with God, then that you’ve prepared “enough” (though the former needs to be first, and the latter also done as much as possible).

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Stacey Littlefield

posted August 30, 2005 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for connecting some of the dots in this brief section. I could not agree with you more. If ministry is to be faithful and fruitful, it must be empowered by the Spirit. A good portion of my spiritual upbringing took place in a charismatic setting where the call to be filled with the Spirit was loud and clear. I’ve come to see much of what I learned there as rather superficial, however, when compared to the truly daunting task of mission. Not to belittle spiritual gifts at all, but speaking in tongues is a whole lot easier than living a missional life or leading a church toward a missional orientation.
I’m all for praying for God’s enablement and I find your encouragment here refreshing and promising, but, what will be the sign that we are “filled with the Spirit” and not trusting in our own skills or agenda? When will we know we are “ready” to move out? Will it be a matter of trial and error? When we, like the disciples, see fruit, will that be the confirmation that we are moving in the Spirit’s power and not merely ours? And, in terms of a missional approach, is the fruit we seek primarily in (lost) sheep coming into the fold, or can we be “happy” that long time sheep are growing in their faith? Am I throwing out too much at once here (sorry)?

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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2005 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for your comments. Of course, I’m not going to give (even if I could, which I can’t) a full-blown prospectus for missional work.
The issue in your second paragraph is both pressing and impossible: I, too, want to know. But, I sense that this is what it means to live in the Spirit — we trust God to be at work in us and through us, but we don’t do such things with epistemic certainty.
On “fruit,” I’m inclined to say that we are called to love God, love others, and to link with our world — and the linking is our part; the transformation is God’s. And I don’t mean to be pietistic or superficial: we strive for the establishment of God’s Kingdom but we are strivers and workers in God’s work.

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Stacey Littlefield

posted August 30, 2005 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for taking the time. You have a way of boiling things down to what is most important. I’m enjoying this — it’s like church for me — keep it up.

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