What do you think of when you hear the word “missionary”? How many of you don’t think of yourself? “I’m no missionary!” This summer, we had several missionaries from Life Center come home for a visit.
- David and Danielle Bickley from Fiji.
- Dave and Jennifer Williamson from France.
- Jim and Masako Millard from Japan.
- Doc and Carol Krebs from France.
What do they all have in common? Each of these have left home (the US) to share the gospel of Jesus in a foreign country where they have to learn a new language and culture, and make new relationships. That’s what we think of when we hear the word “missionary.” It’s them, not us.
But what if it is us? What if every one of us are missionaries? A missionary is a person sent on a mission. I’m going to propose that every Christian is a missionary; every Christian is sent by Jesus on mission. A few are sent on mission around the world; most of us are sent on mission right where we are.
Matthew 28:18–20 (p. 857)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the Great Commission—the mission that Jesus left His followers—all His followers, including us. It starts with an encouraging announcement: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus is in charge! And it ends with a comforting promise: “I am with you always to the end of the age.” Jesus is with us!
In between these two amazing declarations, Jesus sends us on our mission. There are 4 verbs: go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching. One is the primary verb—imperative in mood—a command. Which one? Make disciples. The command, our mission, is to make disciples. The other three verbs are participles—verbal adjectives that modify or explain the primary verb: go, baptize and teach. In English, participles are often translated with an -ing: going, baptizing, teaching. In all your going, wherever you go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.
Why the grammar lesson? Most people think the primary command is “go.” I’ve heard sermons where well-meaning speakers say things like, “What don’t you understand about ‘go’?” They say that every Christian should be going to the ends of the earth.
But what it says is that every Christian should be making disciples. Every one of us can help others find and follow Jesus. And we do it in all our going, wherever we go: to work, at school, in the neighborhood, on the golf course, at the lake—anywhere. Wherever we go, we make disciples. Some of us even go around the world! But all of us, wherever we go, make disciples. All of us are missionaries—right where we are—in all our going.
Today, we will read a passage in Luke 10:1-24 (p. 891) where Jesus sent 72 disciples out on mission. It’s similar to Luke 9:1-6 where Jesus sent the 12 apostles out on mission. Everyone who followed Jesus got sent on mission. If you were one of the 12—He sent you. If you were one of the 72—He sent you. Follow Jesus and He’ll send you on mission! Let’s read the story, and I’ll highlight a couple things as we go.
Why do I give? Lots of reasons, but here is the first. Jesus said to!
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Jesus said, “Give.” And because I am a follower of Jesus, I do what He says. There are many other verses—but one will do today. I give because Jesus said to.
1. Sent: we are all missionaries. 1-16
Luke 10:1–24 (p. 891)
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
The NT was written in Greek; the Greek word that is translated “appointed” was commonly used of diplomatic appointments, such as an ambassador. Jesus selected these people to be His ambassadors, to represent Him. You are also an ambassador of Jesus, His representative. I saw this quote this week:
I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts.” Rich Mullins
Are you willing to be nuts? What’s he saying? Rich was a Christian not because people told him, but because they showed him—they lived it! They represented Jesus. And you are Jesus’ representative. You represent Him not only by what you say, but what you do. You are the only Bible some people will ever read. Represent Jesus well! He has appointed you…and sent you.
Notice He sent them two by two—in pairs. Why do you think He did that?
- Witness: two or more.
I think that Christianity is a team sport—we do it better together. And that includes ministry or witness or service. Whatever we do, we’re better together. I love sharing Jesus with people, especially teamed up with Laina—we’re better together! We’re more courageous together; we’re more clear together; we’re more direct together. There’s power in numbers—that’s why Jesus sent them two by two instead of alone. Some of you are anxious about sharing your faith with anyone. Don’t do it alone! Get someone to do it with you! You’ll be surprised at how much easier and more effective it is. We’re better together!
2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Jesus uses the agricultural metaphor of a harvest. What harvest is Jesus talking about? People. People who are lost and far from God. Jesus came to bring us back to God—that’s the harvest. You can see this clearly in Matthew’s version of this:
Matthew 9:35–38 (p. 835)
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
When Jesus saw the crowds—harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd—he had compassion on them. Jesus’ heart broke for lost people, hurting people, people far from God. He came and gave His life to bring them back to God and give them life. And He sends us for the same purpose: to bring them back to God.
Jesus had compassion on them. I admit that I don’t always feel compassion for lost people. I need God’s heart. I need to see with Jesus’ eyes. Without this, I won’t be a worker in the harvest; I’ll just ignore the lost and go on my way. So here’s my prayer—I hope it will be yours too.
“Lord, help me to see others with Your eyes, and feel with Your heart.”
Jesus had compassion on lost people, and so He told us, “The harvest is plentiful.” There is no shortage of lost people (far from God). (I have job security!) Lost people are all around us. The harvest is plentiful! There are 7.6 billion people on our planet, and around 31% of them claim to be Christians—about 2.4 billion believers. But that leaves 69% of the world—5.2 billion people—who need to hear the gospel and find Jesus. That’s a plentiful harvest!
But let’s bring it closer to home. There are now 507,950 people in our county (according to a July 5 article in the SR). How many of those are Christians? The 2010 religious census reported that 37% of our county had some kind of religious faith (not all of those are followers of Jesus), while 63% of our county were nones—not nuns—they were nones. 63% of our county is 320,000 people who are nones—no faith at all. And of the 37% who claim to have some kind of faith, far less than that are following Jesus. Of the half million people in our county, over 80% of them don’t follow Jesus—well over 400,000 people. The harvest is plentiful. Right here. In all your going, make disciples. The harvest in plentiful.
“But the workers are few.” Here is the problem: we need more workers to get the harvest in. Recent surveys by the Barna Group indicate that many, if not most, Christians don’t share their faith with anyone in a given year. The workers are few. The harvest is so large it is going to take all of us to get it in—all of us have to become workers—all of us have to be missionaries right where we live. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So what should we do? Two things.
First, Pray! Jesus told us that we should ask the Lord to send workers into the harvest. I have an alarm on my watch set to go off at 10:02 am every day. It reminds me to pray and ask the Lord to send workers, as He told us to do in Luke 10:2. If you want to join me, set an alarm and start praying this prayer every day. I’m going to pray it right now!
Look back at verse 3. We are to pray, and what is the second thing we are to do? Second, Go! The word is literally, “Begone! Depart! Get out of here!” Jesus tells them about the plentiful harvest, tells them to pray for workers, and then sends them to get to work. “Go! Get to work! Be the answer to your own prayer!” So every day when I pray, “Send workers,” I also add, “Here am I. Send me.”
Pray and go. Pray and get to work. Jesus sent the 12. Jesus sent the 72. And Jesus sends all of us, His followers, to help others find and follow Him. How do we do it? Jesus goes on, starting in verse 4 to give them detailed instructions. Most of these were very specific to their particular situation, but there is one thing that applies very much to us.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Here’s the one thing I want you to take away from this. Jesus told them to go to homes, find a host, move in and stay there—don’t move around. In other words, build a relationship with someone in that town. It’s a mission of relationships. It happens in homes. It’s not a program—it’s about trusting relationships.
The Christian faith is more caught than taught, and it’s caught in the context of trusting relationships. Almost everyone who finds Jesus and begins to follow Him does so because of the influence of a trusted friend or family member. The good news travels along relational lines, from person to person.
This is why we do Find, Tell, Bring.
- Find someone you love.
- Tell them what you know.
- Bring them with you.
Find someone you love. It’s all about relationships. So Jesus told the 72 that when they entered a city, they were to go to homes, find a host and build a relationship. Every relationship in your life has redemptive potential. God has placed you in those relationships as His representative. You may be the only Bible that person ever reads—you may be the only follower of Jesus that person knows. So find someone you love. Build the relationship, and trust God to give you the opportunity to tell what you know and bring them with you to church or your mission group.
(Create a Love List and pray.)
We’re all missionaries—right where we are. We’re all sent by Jesus on mission to help others find and follow Jesus. So find someone you love, tell them what you know, and bring them with you.
2. Return: the reason to rejoice. 17-20
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
There is lots here, but I want to focus on one idea that’s in verse 20. Jesus told them that the reason to rejoice is not that the spirits submit to them, but that their names are written in heaven. Let me say it another way. The reason to rejoice isn’t in what we can do for God, but what He has done for us.
It’s not wrong to rejoice that we can do something for God and see the results. When God uses you and someone finds Jesus, that’s way cool! That’s exciting stuff! That’s worth celebrating. Many of you have baptized a friend or family member that you helped find Jesus—it’s unforgettable. It’s Joy with a capital J. Nothing wrong with that rejoicing. In a couple months we’re going to have a party and celebrate our 40th anniversary as Life Center. We’re going to tell stories and celebrate all that we’ve done, and all that God has done in and through us. It will be a party.
But ultimately our biggest rejoicing isn’t over what we do for God, but what He does for us. And specifically, we rejoice that our names are written in heaven—that is, that Jesus has found us, called us, saved us, and changed us! We rejoice in what He has done for us.
We say this a lot. The gospel isn’t spelled DO, but DONE. It is not about what we do for God; it is about what God has done for us in Jesus.
On my morning walks, I pray and I usually start with praise. Often, I begin by thanking God that He saved me. The trajectory I was on when He found me was not a good one. If Jesus had not found me, my life would be a very different story. Because of Jesus, I’m living a blessed life, life with a capital L, life to the full. I’m so grateful for what He has done for me.
Of all the things I celebrate, none is better than this: Jesus saved me and gave me life…and my name is written in heaven! Is yours? Have you said yes to Jesus and begun to follow Him? I’m going to give you a chance to do that in a moment.
3. Back to Jesus. 21-24
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
The disciples return to Jesus from the mission He sent them on. They celebrate, and then Jesus says some startling things. Again, lots here, but I want to focus on one thing.
Look at verse 22. “No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those who whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” In other words, Jesus knows God, and Jesus reveals God to us. And there is no other way to know God except through Jesus.
Have you ever heard people say, “There are lots of paths to God?” Jesus would disagree. He would say, “No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The only way to know God is through Jesus.
John 14:6 (p. 927) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus didn’t say, “I am one way to God, of many.” He said, “I am the way,” and then to make sure we didn’t misunderstand, He added: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” The only way to know God is through Jesus.
Some of you may be thinking, “Isn’t it kind of arrogant to say that we’re right, and everyone else is wrong?” I’m not saying that I’m right, that we’re right. I’m saying that Jesus is right. Jesus made these spectacular claims—exclusive claims—lots of them. I take them seriously, as I think every Jesus-follower must. I believe that He is the Son of God and that what He says is right. And He says that He is the only way to know God.
Why is this important? Full circle: this is why we are all missionaries. This is why our mission is to make disciples, to help people find and follow Jesus. He is the way to God. He is the giver of life.
Think of it this way. Think of someone you love: spouse, child, parent, friend. Do you want that person to live? Really live—life with a capital L—live and be healthy and happy and joyful? Do you want the best for them? Jesus said that He came to bring life to the full, and that life is found in God. Then don’t you want to do everything you can to help them find Jesus and find this life? That’s our mission, and why we do it. It’s a mission of love.