One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Mark 3:14. It’s from the story of Jesus picking the disciples, the ones who would be with Him the next couple years day and night, who would travel with Him and eat with Him and become His family. The ones who then, after those years of traveling and eating and sleeping and talking, would eventually lead the Church.
This is what it says about Jesus picking these 12 men, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to peach. (NIV)”
Super short, super simple, but it literally changed the way I look at ministry. And not just ministry, it has changed the way I look at doing anything in the name of Jesus (which is the ballsiest thing anyone can ever do).
It’s so clear the process that Jesus, that God, intended to unfold before these 12 men went out preaching and acting in authority and doing things in His name.
First, Jesus wanted these guys to be with Him. Then, and only then, they would be sent out to preach.
He picked them that they might be with Him. The being with precedes the sending, the going, the doing, the preaching and healing and speaking and having authority.
And they were with Him. They were with Him for years, intense years of day-in-day-out-leave-your-family-and-be-with-me-24/7-going-everywhere-I-go with. And even after those years of knowing Jesus well, of hearing His words first hand, of seeing the miracles happen in front of them, of listening to Him calm storms and walk on water and make food for people and leaving a tomb empty, even after all that, some of them still took more years before they ever were in public ministry.
Which makes me think. How many days have I spent with Jesus 24/7? How many things have I heard from Him first hand? How many healings have I witnessed? How much of my life have I given up to follow Jesus in order to have authority, to know what I’m talking about when I’m saying it?
Or, am I regurgitating what I hear other people say? Am I trying to make my few minutes every couple of days with God mean something by trying to share some ‘insight’? Do I even know how Jesus heals? What His heart is for sick people? I mean, how much time have I spent being with the sick and actually praying for their healing? And does my life back up anything I say? Like if I never said what I believed or thought was right, would people even know I believed or thought those things?
These questions rattle me. At the core of why they shake me up is this one blatant truth: the people of faith who have lived lives that no one could argue with and actually impacted the world for good, were clearly people who knew Jesus.
And that knowing, the knowing that should precede the sending, takes time. Lots of time. And sacrifice.
But the reality is that there is nothing anyone can do or say or make or think up that is going to have lasting power or change or significance apart from God. If He’s not in it, it fades.
I want to do things that clearly I would not have been able to do apart from the power of God. Why? Because that is a witness. That is a testimony. Living a life that is so saturated with integrity that even those who denounce the existence of God stop and question.
And that comes from being with Him first.
More than walking in actual power that represents God well, there’s another aspect to this knowing and being with Jesus before preaching that hits me equally as hard. How many jerky things being done, in the name of Jesus, would be prevented if we as the Church collectively took a step back and committed to being with Jesus more?
I mean, Jesus didn’t just talk because His voice was beautiful. He knew His people and He knows us. He knows our tendencies and our habits and our humanity. And He knows that we tend to jump the gun, which is why I think He wanted to make it clear that before anyone preaches (or does anything in His name), we should be with Him and know Him well. I think part of why He said what He said is so that we wouldn’t become jerks.
Because without knowing the heart of God we break a lot of hearts. We hurt a lot of people. We do things with great intentions and a desire to see the Kingdom of God established, but because we do it without fully getting God’s heart for whatever it is, we end up doing more damage than good.
Like when we regurgitate what we hear because it sounded so good and seems like something we should be on board with, but when we say it to someone and they challenge us or ask for clarification, we have nothing. We leave them hurt and confused. Or when we blindly follow someone or something because it sounds like something we should be into only to later find out that that group or way of thinking supports oppression or excluding whole segments of society. Or when we say we love Jesus but very rarely spend time with the kinds of people He says He loves. Or when we just plain say one thing and do another.
We, weather we mean to or not, can be jerks. And when we do jerky things in the name of Jesus, it misrepresents Him and leaves the people He made and loves hurt and embittered toward His Church. And there is no one to blame but us.
An example of this that gets me so fired up is abortion. I know tons of women who have had abortions. Some love Jesus and some don’t. Some say they regret those decisions, some don’t. The ones who don’t know Jesus who have gotten abortions all basically say the same thing about their experiences walking into and out of the clinic: it was horrible. Why? Because they were about to make a life altering decision? No, actually. They say it was horrible because a group of us were standing outside the clinic with signs and loud voices letting them know they were sinning and going to hell for what they were about to do.
How do you think they viewed Jesus after this? The Church?
I wonder, after spending time being with Jesus and asking Him for His heart for these women, if He would suggest protesting. Maybe He would direct us to volunteer to counsel them after their appointments, as surely they’re broken and hurting and the most vulnerable they’re ever been. Or perhaps He would encourage us to work at a crisis pregnancy center? Or maybe He would call us to fully walk out our Pro-Life beliefs by offering our home, energy, family space and time to a woman we’re asking not to end a pregnancy, knowing that finances and lack of support may be some of the large culprits pushing her toward this decision.
And I wonder, if we took those routes, if those woman would hate Jesus a little less. If they would feel less shame if the Church committed to speaking value and worth over those women (not just the unborn babies) instead of condemnation and judgement? I wonder if their thoughts about the Church would change if families offered their homes and their money and their time instead of simply voting Pro-Life, would people know we were Pro-Life?
In everything I do, I want to make sure I know Jesus’ heart before I presume to speak for Him. And I would love to live a life that spoke louder than any words or bumper sticker.
I know that before I do anything in His name, I need to be with Him. And that is going to take time and sacrifice. And I know that there is no other way.
Jesus, make us brave enough to get to know you. To step back, step out, and be with you before we act or speak. Help us represent you well. We repent for making the most Beautiful Person look so hateful and ugly. Have grace for us, Lord. Amen.