Sunday's sermon was from Luke 10, when Jesus sends out 70 (or 72, depending on translation) to visit various towns and prepare His way. The tone of the whole text (v. 1-24) is joy. From this joyful text, I drew out five lessons for ministry. Not just better ministry, but joyful ministry. I hope they might encourage you as you serve Christ this week. Some of you know this, but the word ministry most often simply means "service", so this should apply to every Christian.
1. Know your purpose - Jesus sent the disciples out to prepare the way for Him. So they went out to their ministry with a clear sense of purpose. The great thing here is that this is our purpose as well: whatever God has called you to, you are preparing the way for the return of Christ. Whether raising covenant children, building houses, running a company or preaching sermons, we are all working to bring all things under the lordship of Jesus in preparation for His return. What is key, then, is remembering it.
2. Begin with prayer - The first thing Jesus told these laborers to do? Pray for more laborers. When we pray, we give honor to Jesus as the only one who can do it. When we pray, we remember that the fields are white for harvest and we simply cannot do it all. Let's commit to this, then: beginning every ministry, every service, every day with prayer.
3. Confidence creates vulnerability - Jesus then tells these disciples that they are going out as "lambs in the midst of wolves." A cheery thought. But then he makes it even harder by telling them, "Don't take your overnight bag or your credit cards or any extra footwear." Why this strange command? Because Jesus expects them to have such confidence in the gospel they are preaching that they are willing to be vulnerable. There is no effective and joyful service to God which doesn't require vulnerability and real risk. To be up for that risk, we must continue to develop confidence and faith in the gospel.
4. Don't be distracted - Jesus tells them, "Don't greet anyone on the road"...not because he wants them to be rude, but because they are to be urgent in their task. What is sapping you of your sense of urgency in ministry? Where does the life and priority of the church fall in your priority scheme? Sometimes, even good things can rob us of heaven-centered urgency, like greeting someone on the road. But we must focus on Jesus and maintain the radical urgency of those who are preparing his way.
5. Keep Jesus' sovereignty in view - Jesus finishes thier commission by telling them what to do when people accept the message (heal & proclaim the nearness of the kingdom) and when people reject the message (condemn & proclaim the nearness of the kingdom). Rather than take John and James' approach of calling down heaven's fire on the infidels, Jesus' disciples are to preach and give warning and let Jesus take care of the rebellious on the last day. Serving Christ without a conscious appreciation of his sovereignty leads to crippling failures and prideful victories.