I read a story about a father who always took naps on Sunday afternoons. One particular Sunday, his children wanted him to go outside to play in the backyard with them. Instead of consenting, and after a Sunday dinner, his eyes got heavy. He slumped into his easy chair and fell asleep. The kids tried to wake him. He pretended sleep, ignoring their pleas. After several unsuccessful attempts to wake him, his 3 year old daughter jumped on his lap and pried open his eyelids. Looking into his eyes, she turned to her brother and said, “It’s OK, he’s still in there.”
What if Jesus’ disciples were like the father in that story? What if they pretended to sleep after hearing Christ’s command to make disciples of all people? Where would we be if those first disciples chose to ignore the call to spread the Gospel, let the lost sheep of Israel remain in the ravages of a sinful world? What would happen to us? Jesus explained how His disciples would go into a world decimated by sin to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. That’s a pretty tall order. We’d understand if they said, “Well, I can’t do that.” They’d be right. They can’t do it… on their own.
After His disciples watched Jesus’ miracles and preach the Gospel, He explained that they’d go to strange lands and do the same thing. He knew His people were oppressed and heavy laden – even by the church-types in that day. The people needed relief! They had no way out of their dilemma. Their slavery to sin, to tyrants, and oppression brought them nothing but pain and suffering. What’s worse, they didn’t know where to turn for help.
Jesus said they were like sheep without a shepherd. That’s what Jesus meant when He said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. “Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” The Christian Church had so much that needed to be done! But, there just weren’t enough men to do it. It hasn’t changed: Healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, relieving oppression, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, are still needed. More than ever, the healing balm of God’s forgiveness and love is desperately needed.
Imagine what it was like, asking people to work in God’s kingdom. Jesus would invite. We’d cook coffee, prepare a room, and set the time. But, when the time neared, we nervously glance at our watch, because no one else showed up. Would Jesus turn to us and says, “Well, I guess it’s all up to you. You’ve got to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive out the demons.”?
Would you accept that charge…or would you refuse because you’d know full well you could never fulfill it? Would you be disappointed if you did take the challenge, and at the end of the first week you hadn’t healed one single soul… to say nothing of raising the dead? How would you feel? Defeated? Angry? Depressed?
Think about it this way: How did those 12 men – fishermen, business men, common folks, a tax collector, and a business’ treasurer (who later messed up the books and eventually betrayed Jesus) how were they capable of doing the job Jesus asked them to do? They weren’t the church’s elite! None of them were capable of doing any of the work Christ gave them on their own. But, because He chose them, He also gave them the necessary tools to do the work. He wouldn’t have sent them otherwise! Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower those common men to accomplish God’s mission of Holy Ministry. He chose them because the Gospel message is the foundation of God’s power; not their own accomplishments or importance. Since the First Century, that’s how things have been done.
The Mid-South District continues to have Christ’s mission and ministry at the center of our work. Church planting, mission development, COMPASS, CAR, and all of the other services offered by the District is our way of becoming partners with congregations, schools, ECC’s, pastors, and laity to work in the “harvest” standing before us. One person can’t do it. Thirty people together can’t do it alone. God grants us the increase, but also equips us to become His witnesses to those who live in fear and darkness, that they may come to the marvelous Light of Christ, by His Spirit’s calling. God chooses the candidates for the job – in the First Century and today. He calls simple, sinful, and ordinary people to be His presence among the people. He can choose folks from broken lives to do His work, because, regardless of where they come from, they respond to His call and adhere to His teaching. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
That’s how the great commission works: We’re members in the royal priesthood of believers. Jesus didn’t ask us to bring any special skills, but to use the gifts He offers, to carry out our part in His Kingdom. Jesus asks us to be faithful and proclaim the Gospel through words, actions, and deeds. Jesus gives His Holy Church and you all the nutrients, all the watering, all the planting that’s necessary for His Work to be done, to the glory of His name.
God in His great mercy, continues to empower us, use us, and lead us by the power we need to be His workers. His Spirit renews, guides, and strengthen us for the work of His kingdom. Who better, than Jesus, to know the challenges of the work for His kingdom? He knows the work He’s called us to do isn’t simple or painless. Not every ear we speak to, nor every heart we want to touch, will see the presence of Christ when we share the Gospel with them.
We’re shocked to find people who don’t want to be part of God’s eternal Kingdom. Not everyone will welcome His message. Satan will throw every opposition, failure, and disappointment at us, but the mission to which God has called us is for the joy of the glory of God, not our own. We’re His witnesses. Jesus calls His redeemed to do His work with the gifts and diversity He has showered on us. Jesus calls the faithful to bring the lost into the Kingdom of glory of God; even to a world that pretends to be asleep.
—Message from Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola, President