Outreach is not easy, but it is simple. The message and the task are clear. “I am sending you as sheep among wolves.” When Jesus wanted to get the attention of the disciples about the dangers of outreach, He went all out. When they preached the good news of Christ, they rarely experienced a warm hug and a “thank you.” Today, we are continuing our look at how Jesus trained His disciples for outreach in Matthew 10.
How does Jesus teach His followers to handle these perils and “occupational hazards” of the Christian life?
1. First of all, Jesus gave them a warning that outreach is not always fun. Real danger is involved. “People will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues.” Imagine if someone were to make an announcement in your worship service this Sunday that there was a new ministry team forming. To be a member of the team you will likely be beaten, imprisoned, separated from your family, persecute, and may even die. But you are also told this is a very rewarding ministry. What would you do? Jesus wanted His followers to know that the cost of outreach is high. Ten of the Twelve would indeed be killed for their faith in Christ.
There are parts of the word today that this scenario would be a guarantee. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live daily under the real threat of persecution. We should pray for them. But we must be willing to do the same, even if a threat is not imminent. Leaders must be honest about the cost of following Christ, but also provide the support and encouragement followers need in times of difficulty.
2. Jesus gave them confidence. He said, “But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20) When the followers of Christ walk in obedience to Him, the Spirit of God takes over in a person’s life. This is the state of discipleship that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Confidence in outreach comes not from having a well-polished presentation of the Gospel. It comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us. He provides the words, and you provide the mouth (hands, feet, heart).
Leaders today must help followers of Christ understand and develop the courage that is necessary for effective outreach. We should help people by teaching evangelism tools, such as how to share one’s testimony of faith. Yet, we should teach and model a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit. He freely gives wisdom and guidance to those who let Him work through them.
3. Jesus gave them a challenge. “The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
Is this what the disciples signed up for? When Jesus gives a challenge, He withholds nothing. A disciple of His must have a supreme and unfaltering love for Him. Daily, he or she must be willing to die to self. Dave Guzik states, “”When a person took a cross in Jesus’ day, it was for one reason: to die, because the cross didn’t negotiate, didn’t compromise, didn’t deal. There was no looking back when you took up your cross, and your only hope was in resurrection life.”
Leaders must realize that following Christ and reaching the lost is not an option for a Christian. Leaders should not be hesitant to challenge people. Leaders, from the motive of love, should encourage people to walk with Christ without fear. Leaders understand that “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7) The power, courage, and wisdom that is necessary for outreach is given by God.
School is out for now, but there is plenty of “homework” to do. Christ has provided everything we need to accomplish His work. Who does God want you to reach out to today?
Next Up: Don’t Be a Lone “Reacher.”