5) JESUS RELEASED HIS DISCIPLES INTO THE HARVEST FIELD
Jesus taught the disciples and allowed them to observe how he ministered. But also, Jesus gave them firsthand experience by releasing them into the harvest field. Jesus sent out the 12 to minister and then later in the gospels he sent out seventy disciples to minister. They were not fully trained, they were not ready, they were far from being mature, yet Jesus sends them out anyway and gives them valuable on the job training.
You can learn many things from a textbook, but some things you just got to learn on the job. You can learn managerial skills in a MBA classroom, but there’s quite a gap between that and actually learning in your first managerial position. I can learn about how to pastor in seminary. But I’ve learned more this past year on the job as a pastor than I could have had I taken 10 classes and read 10 books on pastoring.
If you are being discipled and you want to serve, then I want to give you a shot. Whether it is teaching or discipling someone else, I want to give you as much on the job training as I can. You will make mistakes, as will I. And we learn from our mistakes together.
When you are discipling someone, you don’t need years and years of equipping. You just need to be one step ahead of the person you are discipling. If you learn something, put it into practice by sharing it with someone else. And if you share something to edify someone else, it really challenges the sharer, do I really know what I am talking about? Have I internalized it? When you are passive listener, you can hear something and think, yeah, yeah, I get it. Like a math problem, you think you get it. But when you get home and try to do the problem set yourself, you can’t do the problems. And even if you are able to do the problem set, explaining how to do the problems to another person is another matter altogether. It takes a higher level of understanding to teach and share with someone else.
I want to shorten the training period. You don’t need 4 years and a degree before you can disciples someone else. We want to equip you and encourage you to engage the world. Many birds, 24 hours after they are hatched are pushed out of the nest by the mother bird and these baby birds got to learn how to flap their wings as they are falling. I see the older ones here discipling the younger ones and throwing you out of the nest. Some will take off and soar. Others will stumble and fall, but don’t worry, someone will be there to catch you. Or your guts will spill out on the pavement. Either way, I’ll see you in heaven.
Share what you know. As you teach and share with others what you know, you will realize your lack. That’s a good place to be. It causes you to cry out to Jesus. And causes you to seek counsel from others. We’re here to help.
Jesus lived with 12 men for 3 years and what was the fruit of the ministry he left behind? What happened to the 12 disciples after Jesus left them.
1 – Judas – We all know what happened to him…
2 – Andrew – missionary to modern day Georgia/Bulgaria (area adjacent to the Black Sea near Turkey); martyred/crucified in town of Achaia (Greece)
3 – Bartholomew – missionary to India; martyred/crucified upside down in Armenia (Georgia)
4 – James, Son of Alphaeus – local missionary in Jerusalem; martyred/stoned in Jerusalem
5 – James, Son of Zebedee – local missionary in Judea; martyred/beheaded in Judea
6 – John, brother of James and son of Zebedee – banished to Patmos (Greek island in the Aegean Sea); died of old age
7 – Matthew/Levi – missionary to Parthia (Iran); died of old age
8 – Simon/Peter – missionary to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Betania, Italy, Asia; martyred/crucified upside down in Rome
9 – Philip – missionary to Phrygia (Turkey); martyred/crucified upside down in Hierapolis (Turkey)
10 – Simon the Zealot – bishop of Jerusalem after James; died of old age
11 – Thaddaeus/Judas son of James – missionary to Edessa and to the surrounding Mesopotamian region (Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran); died of old age
12 – Thomas – missionary to Parthians/Medes/Hyrcanians (Iran), Bactrians (Afghanistan); martyred – speared in 4 different places
13 – Matthias – (Judas’ replacement) local missionary in Jerusalem; died of old age
14 – Paul – missionary to Illyricum (Croatia), Italy, Spain; martyred/beheaded in Rome
12 disciples + Matthias (replacement to Judas) + Paul = 14 disciples. Out of 14, 1 was lost forever (even Jesus had his ministry failures), 9 were martyrs and 4 were local missionaries in Jerusalem/Judea. The rest were foreign missionaries who left their local surroundings–9 of them out of the 14 were foreign missionaries who were essentially church planters.
It was quite eye opening for me to see the fruit of Jesus’ discipleship. What began at the outset when Jesus first called his disciples to “come and see” ended as a radical call to “come and die.” 9 out of 14 died because they took up their crosses daily and followed Jesus and for them, it was a literal cross where they had to die. Come and see ends with come and die. This is the call of every disciple of Jesus Christ.
4 remained as local missionaries. They stayed in Jerusalem and Judea. Some that we disciple here at this church will stay with us long-term like the oldies in this room who committed to this church many years ago. If this church is sinking, there are people here who are ready to go down with the ship. It’s a great strength to be surrounded with people with that level of commitment and love for one another. Some like DY deliberately chose to stay after graduation and we gladly welcome him to stay as long as he is growing in the Lord and he feels God is calling him to serve here. Some like Andre and David B. will leave and want to return and we love to see God returning former disciples.
I recognize that most of you will leave and that’s okay – I want this to be a church that blesses people to follow Christ’s leading and if God is leading them elsewhere, who are we to judge? Some will have to leave because you are not growing spiritually here. Our church won’t be a place where every person can thrive spiritually. This requires humility on our part as a church. Our church is not for everyone. Not everyone will thrive here. Hopefully, we can grow into a kind of place where people of all shapes and sizes can sink their roots and grow for a season.
God knows – we have a long way to go to get there, but I am confident that He who began the good work in us will carry it to completion. God knows where each person should be to maximize growth and maximize impact to others. The important thing is that members who leave our church get plugged into another local church as quickly as possible. If you recall the last line of the church covenant, that’s what it says. You are committing to this local church while you are here and as long as God calls you to be here, but if He leads you elsewhere, at least during your time at LBC, you have come to realize how important church is for one spiritual’s life. Discipleship happens in a church context. And if God calls you to leave, it is my prayer that you’ve experienced an important lifelong paradigm shift while you were with us, such that you can’t even conceive of your personal spiritual life apart from a local community of believers. Christian life is not about me, my equipping, my training, but it’s about us, having a corporate identity as parts and members of the body of Christ.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I see church as twigs gathering in a fire. Jesus is the flame and some of us are twigs that are in love with Jesus and our lives are blazing. Others are twigs that are smoldering. Still others, the fire is completely out. But we gather around Jesus and in fellowship with one another, to light each other’s fire. We spur one another toward loving and good deeds. We should walk away from our times together wanting to love more and wanting to do more good deeds for others.
When 2 or more gather outside the walls of this church, a new fire starts in our homes, at our workplaces, at Caltech, at Oxy. Remember the goal – God calls us to go and evangelize wherever God places us so that we can make disciples who will in turn make disciples.
If enough twigs gather and the fire grows, a new ministry can be birthed. If the flame grows to a certain size, a new church can be birthed.
There are mission fields all around us: Oxy/Eagle Rock, PCC, Cal State LA, YAs in Old Town Pasadena, the homeless in the park across the street from church. Whenever we go to a new area, we should be looking for a man of peace to welcome us (Matt 10; Mark 6; Luke 9). A potential disciple. If we try to share the gospel in a particular place and there is no such man of peace there, we shake the dust off our feet and move on.
There are unreached people groups in LA and around the world in Muslim countries. They have to be reached for Christ. We have to send out more missionaries and plant more churches because the Day is approaching. I’d rather have 2 churches of 100 members instead of 1 church of 200 because we will reach more people for Christ the more churches we plant.
May God give us a renewed sense of urgency to be the church that takes the Word of God that we hear and process with our Heads and that is planted deep into our Hearts. In order that the Word of God may be expressed through our Hands. Head – Heart – Hands. This is how the Word of God and the love of God needs to flow in and flow out of a disciple’s life. Remember the end game – that we would be disciples who make other disciples who can obey everything Christ commanded and reach all nations.