"Draw near to God - Put your trust in Him - Declare His works" (Psalm 73:28)
On The Need to Equip
August 17, 2017
When Jesus came to the earth He was already the King of Glory. His Kingdom had been established in the hearts of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus coming to the earth would accomplish many things (I doubt we will ever know them all). One key thing He accomplished was that He would gather some men together and begin to manifest the Godhead’s plans for His Kingdom.
Jesus began small. He gathered together twelve men, none of which were the “ministry professionals” of the day. These first disciples were virtual spiritual nobodies: four were fishermen, one was a tax collector and we don’t know what the other seven did for work.
How did Jesus train these twelve men to be the first leaders in the Church He would establish after His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and then the outpouring of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost?
He spent time with them, being an example, teaching them and being a part of their lives for about three years. Jesus took them places with Him and they got to see Jesus in action, fielding questions, teaching and dealing with those who would try to trap Him.
Two years into their training He does something amazing, He turns them loose to minister!
“These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: ‘Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:5-8a)
Basically, Jesus commanded them to go and do the things they had witnessed Him doing.
Can you imagine what those twelve men might have thought and felt when they heard Him telling them to do these things WITHOUT Him being there to step in and intervene if things didn’t go perfectly?
I think I would have been anxious, afraid I would fail and disappoint Him, concerned I might hurt some innocent person. I would have been afraid to look like a fool.
Before Jesus sent them out to minister without Him, He did something VERY important:
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” (Matthew 10:1-4)
Jesus granted to these twelve people the POWER (“exousia” – delegated jurisdiction, authority and strength) to do the things they had witnessed Him doing.
In other words, He didn’t just send people out into the world to minister. He spent two years with them EQUIPPING them in an intimate and personal manner and then He EMPOWERED them to do the things He revealed could be done!
Eventually these twelve (minus Judas Iscariot who would betray Jesus and then die) would become the very first leaders of the Body of Christ, the Church. God knew that the next part of His plan would be for these leaders to duplicate His example and equip and empower others to spread across the world establishing His Kingdom on the earth.
He also knows how people think. He knew that others associated with Him beyond the Twelve would assume that only this special dozen men could lead and minister in the name of Jesus. That’s why Jesus, later in the second year of His ministry, sent out seventy others (Luke 10:1-11).
He sent them to travel two by two, totally dependent upon the Lord and doing pretty much exactly the things He had the Twelve doing in His name. They were there to bring the Kingdom of God wherever they went. We know this and we know THEY knew it because Jesus told them to say this to anyone who rejected them:
“Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'” (Luke 10:11)
Jesus knew that He would be ascending back to heaven and that He would leave HIS Church in the hands of His people. He knew that the Church would be persecuted and that Christians would be dispersed all over the known world. He knew that the Holy Spirit of God would dwell in the hearts of ALL Christians equally.
Think about that.
The VERY same Holy Spirit would live inside EVERY Christian ready to do the exact same things in each one: teach them and remind them of the things Jesus said (John 14:26), help and comfort them (John 16:7) and guide them and tell them of things to come (John 16:13-14).
He did this for ALL Christians, not just some collection of special leaders.
This is why Jesus trained and then sent out twelve. This is why He sent out seventy others. He was equipping us and modelling what He expected us to do in His example.
He wanted us to know that anyone could be chosen at any time to do any task necessary to accomplish His purposes in His Kingdom.
“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)
In its original context, Jesus spoke those words about being a servant leader after He washed the feet of His disciples. However, I believe that everything He did was done as an example.
If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord, YOU are one of those people that Jesus knew could be trusted to spread His Kingdom.
Existing in the world today is the Church Jesus established. It consists of all born again people. The way that Church is to function comes directly from God.
The Church IS people.
Superimposed on top of that group of people is a SYSTEM that comes from the earth…NOT from God. It essentially comes from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which, even while accomplishing some beneficial earthly things, ALWAYS ultimately yields spiritual death.
Within that system of man-made RELIGION are a multitude of sub-systems, all of which also come from the world. The purpose of these sub-systems is to mark the distinct differences between every denomination, non-denomination, style, autonomous congregation.
Satan’s intent for successfully tempting man to adopt those sub-systems was to diffuse the power of God operating through His Church, rendering it impotent. He knew division would accomplish this goal.
Christianity, as it is known today, is characterized by division. The most prevalent form of division in the Church today is known in some circles as the division between “clergy” (ministry professionals) and “laity” (the common folk).
In the current world religious system, masquerading as it does as Biblical Christianity, the false idea that there is a Christian aristocracy is the norm. The prevailing (often unspoken) belief is that the ruling class is supposed to do all the "important stuff".
This quenches gifts among the “laity”, and has slowed the advancement of the Kingdom of God to a snail's pace...if not killing it altogether in those man-made "sub-kingdoms."
Recently I met with a couple I watch over. I am NOT their king – I am simply their pastor…shepherd. We met to share a meal because it had been a while since we had our customary one-on-one time together.
I have spent several years discipling them, spending TIME and my life with them and they have received God's ministry through us. They receive me as their pastor because they believe God has established this relationship.
As we sat and ate, I delighted in hearing them both speak (humbly) of how they minister to others in their daily lives. It was so matter-of-fact for them. They had been taught, as had been the original disciples of Jesus, to go out and minister the Kingdom of God. They do NOT promote the expansion of the ministry that bears MY name; rather, they go about “preaching the Kingdom of Heaven.”
These are not people who have attended institutions of Christian learning with the aim of getting man-made pieces of paper that might validate them in the eyes of others.
I personally have attended one of those for a Master’s Degree in Counseling and have some man-made papers from there and from a church building in Houston. Christian education is a good thing and so are credentials if they are needed by man for access into man-made institutions so we can minister - but these things are NOT what qualifies us for ministering and leading in GOD'S Kingdom.
This couple....and all those who call me "pastor", in fact, are qualified to lead and minister in GOD'S Kingdom for the exact SAME REASON the original first century Christians did it: they are CHILDREN of GOD (John 1:12-13). Therefore, they are what GOD refers to as "ministers of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Many of them function in these things as they go about their lives.
These people also have EXACTLY what the original Christians had: access to God's Word and, most importantly of all, the very Holy Spirit of God living in their human spirits to guide, teach, comfort, correct, and remind them.
Some of us will be deputized by God to equip and lead others. This is just one of many equally important roles in the Body of Christ. We MUST always be mindful that the people God blesses us to watch over ALL have spheres of influence that go beyond anyone else's. They know people we will never meet.
Our equipping of them, therefore, must go far beyond the mere transmission of facts about Jesus, God’s Word, etc. It must also include the awareness that Jesus has ALWAYS planned for every one of us to minister at any given time right where we are.
That is why the words “Go, therefore” in the passage we know as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) literally means “As you are going, therefore…”.
By training the people we watch over to minister in their everyday lives and encouraging these disciples of Jesus to step out of their comfort zones, open their hearts, schedules and homes to others and to USE what God has installed inside them, they can reach many that we leaders might never, ever meet.
WE, as leaders, have to keep in mind that this is about the advancement of GOD'S Kingdom and HIS order into the lives of other people who NEED Him...and, in turn, through them into others.
Jesus knew this. That is why HE sent out twelve....and then seventy mere mortals who had spent time with Him...being equipped by Him to do what the current Christian system all too often refuses to do. It refuses because it threatens the little man-made sub-kingdoms the people refer to as "my church."
Let's equip those who receive us to do what the Scripture so clearly instructs us to do: to make disciples, baptize and teach as we go (Matthew 28:18-20). We don’t have to, as Jesus did with the original Twelve, empower them before they go. The Holy Spirit has already done what Jesus promised would happen for all believers:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
We are living in a season in which Jesus is restoring His Church to what it was in the first century. All around the world we can see the stirrings of this as people receive the Good News of the Kingdom of God and, in turn, spread THAT good news to those around them.
The Lord is tired of the “gospel” of sub-kingdoms being evangelized. He is bringing unity back because He isn’t returning for a schizophrenic Bride. HIS Gospel results in His Bride (the Church) being presented to Him clear-headed, pure, spotless and healthy. As He said:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
It is my hope that what has been written here will encourage us to equip and be equipped to preach THAT gospel.