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Training Men and Serving Christ–then and today
The Gospel of Mark 6:6b to 7, part one from verses 6b to 13
Sometimes a stronger authority will assume its prerogative over another. Consider the captain on the bridge of a large naval vessel. He saw a light ahead on a collision course with his ship. He signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south.” The reply came back, “Alter your course ten degrees north.” The captain then signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south–I am a captain.” The reply, “Alter your course 10 degrees north. I am a seaman third-class.”
The furious captain signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south. I am a battleship.” The reply: “Alter your course ten degrees north. I’m a lighthouse.” I hope the point is clear–Jesus is the lighthouse. Everything else, everyone else must bow in submission to His authority. As you approach Mark 6, you’ll see the commissioning of Jesus’ authority directly to the apostles, and discover how that authority is manifested in the church today.
Jesus is about to authorize His apostles to be His divinely assigned proxies in word and power, and in the process He’ll show us how He trains men. We’ll discover the uniqueness of the apostles back then, and how we can serve Christ effectively today. How many of you, from your deepest part of your soul, desire to serve Jesus Christ in a manner that would please Him?
Since that’s true, open your Bibles to Mark 6 and follow along in the outline found in your bulletin. At the end of chapter 5, a woman was cured through her faith. And before the dead daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead, he was exhorted to keep believing in Christ. But now on the heels of these expressions of belief, Jesus is rejected . . .
First by His family and hometown in chapter 6:1 to 6
Second by the beheading of John the Baptist in chapter 6:14 to 29
Sandwiched in the middle of this unbelief and heartache is . . .
The training and sending of His apostles in chapter 6:6 to 13
Are apostles different than elders and Christians today–yes or no? The apostles were the original missionaries–trained and sent forth to preach the Gospel to a world under God’s judgment, into a harvest that was plentiful but for which the workers were few. The instruction Jesus gave the apostles at this time was for short-term mission work in their own country, but the basic concepts apply to every believer the Lord uses in ministry. Some of the specifics are restricted to a given time and situation, but many of the practices are applicable to us today.
What are the ministry practices that must be followed in order for your life and service to Christ to actually be pleasing to Him? What are the principles that must be followed in order for ministering your giftedness and sharing the Gospel to become a joy? You and I cannot minister effectively for Christ if we don’t follow the principles for ministry Christ shows us here and elsewhere.
The Lord’s purpose for this first apostolic mission was twofold. First, it was for the sake of the lost, those who don’t know Christ, to give them opportunity to embrace the Gospel with their lives. And second, to train the twelve in the process of making disciples–from winning souls, all the way to maturing believers. You need this passage to intensify your growth–to know some ways to effectively train into your children, and to fire up your walk with Christ.
One of the biggest mistakes being made in the Church, and in the home, is a fundamental misunderstanding of training. Today, you’ve been led to think if you simply educate Christians or our children, they’ll automatically mature in Christ–that’s not true. That’s like thinking, if you hand a football playbook to a college grad and make him memorize it (in other words, you educate him on the plays) that it will automatically make him a great football player.
Friends, you know it doesn’t work that way. He has to love football, listen to his coaches, know the playbook, memorize it, constantly work out, eat right, sleep right, go to practice, run plays over and over and over and over–only then can he become a great football player.
The greatest football receiver of all time, Jerry Rice, in his last season at practice was running just as hard as his first. All the media were blown away, for one of the last practices in the midst of running a flat then slant pass pattern, a bee flew into Jerry’s helmet–insects with stingers trapped around your face are not fun. While running on the flat he shook his head twice, never slowed, completed the slant, caught the ball and waited for the whistle—only then did he take his helmet off to get the bee out. This is why, statistically, he is the greatest pass receiver in football—dedication, practice, drills and so much more.
There is more to training than mere education. Yes, you have to know the playbook–the Bible. And you need to follow it diligently. But you have to practice. Our Lord will now show us how He trains His men. He sends them out in ministry to practice, to learn and grow. Like birds being kicked out of the nest, they’re slowly being released, to be able to eventually fly on their own to prepare them for what awaits them in their role as apostles.
Read verses 6b through 13 with me aloud, as we prepare to dig out many of God’s service keys. “And He was going around the villages teaching. 7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, ‘Do not put on two tunics.’ 10 And He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.’ 12 They went out and preached that men should repent.13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” Ready to learn from the greatest coach who ever lived? Then . . .
#1 Embrace the Environment of Training Leaders Verse 6b
The foundation for all ministry, all maturing, all influence for Christ is the Word of God. Christ’s words have the power to rescue the lost and transform the believer. So the context of all great training is teaching and living. Christ was living with His men, putting the truth on display–plus Christ gave Himself to the priority of teaching. Look at verse 6, “And He was going around the villages teaching.” Not just once or twice, but continually teaching as a way of life; Christ sought to saturate others in God’s Word. He didn’t quote the rabbis, He taught God’s inspired Word–the Living Word was continually teaching the written Word.
Mark makes it really clear–even though the Lord’s ministry of healing was vital, it was not the dominant focus of His ministry. Teaching was. Remember Mark 2:2, “And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.”
Teaching the Word is the foundation of a healthy church. A weak pulpit can’t be compensated for by fellowship, classes, programs, or facilities–the Word of God must be taught as it’s written, in its context, without compromise, no matter what. God commands preachers to 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
God exhorts Christians in churches, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “…received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” The context for training is a strong teaching environment. We want to hear from Christ, and we only hear Him when we get His truth from the kitchen to the table without messing it up. But we only embrace God’s Word strongly when it is followed, lived, obeyed by those teaching it–that goes for the children’s leader, youth discipler, elder and all the way up to the parent.
You can’t save your kids, but you can provide an environment that leads to salvation–and that is a place where God’s Word is taught and passionately followed. Second Timothy 3:15 and 16, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
Do you love God’s Word? Do you read it, study it, listen to it? The context for embracing the Gospel, biblical maturity which is growing to live more like Christ, is a teaching rich environment. The Lord Jesus was going around the villages teaching.
#2 Identify the Leaders Christ Chooses Verse 7a
Read verse 7, “And He summoned the twelve.” The apostles were summoned, used twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and nine times in Mark, as an authoritative call–a firm, gracious order. The first time summoned is used in Mark was in 3:13, when He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. The word “summoned” was later used in Acts 16 when God summoned Paul to come over to Macedonia. This is not a, “Hey, why don’t you consider following me” call, but a gracious but non-optional, loving order from our king.
The twelve had not volunteered to become apostles, nor did they volunteer to minister on Christ’s behalf. They were sovereignly called–they were under divine orders. What the Lord said of Jeremiah in 1:5 could be said of each of the twelve: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” This calling is initiated by Christ. The apostles did not choose the call, nor is the call a result of their own talents and gifts. They were summoned to the task. Christ divinely called them. This was not a call for volunteers.
The Lord’s not asking for a show of hands–if anybody would like to sign up for apostleship, there’ll be a table on the patio. Jesus made this clear in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you.” These men were chosen by the sovereign will of God to fulfill God’s designed purpose in His Church.
What did God say about Paul? Acts 9:15, “He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Later the Church leaders were directly by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Even Paul Himself understood His calling–2 Timothy 1:11, “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” And Galatians 1:1,15,16, “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.”
Apostleship was God’s choice, His sovereign calling. Rabbis, in the strict sense of the term, did not call their disciples but were chosen by their disciples, like a student chooses a college today. But Jesus was completely different. Jesus calls sovereignly. So how does this work today? How do we identify the leaders the Lord sovereignly calls to ministry in our midst?
God does sovereignly call spiritual leaders today. He tells us plainly it’s God, not men who chooses elders. Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Then how do we identify them in any church? So glad you asked. How do you know if you are called by God to serve Him as an elder? Some of the main indicators would be . . .
#1 Passionate Desire
First Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” “Desires” is the same word for lust–a strong desire, not for the position, but Paul says the work elder-ing
#2 Pastoral Gifts
Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” First Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.” He needs to be able to exhort in sound doctrine, be apt to teach, refute those who are in error and shepherd God’s people (oversee too). And before they’re even considered an elder, they should be about the process and heart of shepherding people; because they also have . . .
#3 Pure Character
Titus 1:6 to 8, “If any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, …not self-willed, …loving what is good, sensible, …self-controlled.” He is one who seeks to live under the authority of the Word of God in every area of His life. He is the same man at work, in his neighborhood and at church–a man who lives for Christ. He’s not perfect but lives by the Word and the Spirit 24/7.
#4 Proven Fruit
John 15:8,16, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.” Over time, through faithfulness, this man has proven that the Lord has called Him to impact others as a shepherd of God’s people; so much so there is . . .
#5 Prominent Leader/Body Affirmation
Acts 14:23, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Hebrews 13:7,17, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
There is general affirmation from the family of believers and the leadership that this man is called by God to serve Him as an elder. He may be a pastor/teacher, an evangelist, but he is first a gifted man of character who passionately desires to shepherd God’s people. As we grow as a church, there will be men who we all will recognize as future elders, deacons, spiritual leaders who will be used of God to impact others to come to Christ, or become more like Christ through His Word and their example. Will you be one of them?
Christ summoned His twelve leaders, and He is still summoning them today in His Church. Christ lived with His men, modeled for them the way to live, and Christ taught His men, instructing them how to live. And now Christ sends them out.
#3 Train Leaders through the Work of Ministry Verse 7b
And He was going around the villages teaching. Verse 7, “And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out . . . ”–and began to send them out. See it? Jesus “began” to send them out–implying this is the beginning of something new. Remember Mark 3:14, “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach.”
Get it? First they trained “with Him”–then preached “for Him”. They were faithful “to Him”, then they could “serve Him”. They were intimate with the Savior, then involved for the Savior. It was time for them to stop being infants, and now become the instructors–to stop being spectators, and now become participants. Maturity demanded they take off their bibs and put on aprons. Maturity means you accept responsibility and become reproductive. Again–like birds leaving the nest, the apostles need trial runs. Little flights first–so the Lord sends them out.
We get the Greek word “apostle” from this word send here. It means to send someone with a special commission to represent another to accomplish His work. It’s to be a proxie–someone with all the power and authority of the one who sent you. Not merely an ambassador who carries the authority of the one He represents, but a proxie is one who is like the one he represents in ability, power and authority. Those who receive the apostles or reject the apostles are receiving or rejecting Jesus Himself—the highest office a human can hold.
They had to go out–they had to serve, they had to minister. You train by doing, not merely by learning in a classroom. When trying to become a Navy Seal, they make you do insane things. Before your team runs with your zodiac short assault boat for two miles, they have you run into the surf, get soaked, then roll in the sand–it’s called getting wet and sandy. Then you run carrying an unwieldy 400-pound boat on the shoulders of six men.
There are some who think wet and sandy is a bunch of macho-aren’t-we-tough-testosterone moves–until you realize what Seal Teams actually do. To this day, they are dropped off in the mountains of Afghanistan, wearing eighty pounds of gear, in the dark, in the rain, quickly soaked to the bone, with winds that blow dirt all over them as they walk twenty miles over loose shale rock to patrol a dangerous region. Why wet and sandy? It’s just like the real thing. The military needs to know before they send them out whether they can do it or not. They need to prepare them now, prove them now, so they can use them later for mission. They need to know they’re prepared, and have the character which will enable them to never give up, no matter what the adversity.
Men of God learn in the classroom, but are trained in the process of shepherding the flock, discipling others and teaching the Word. As a parent, there comes a time when you need to progressively send them out so they might independently live dependently on Christ. But it doesn’t mean they should be alone.
#4 Train Leaders in Community Verse 7c
“He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs.” Mark is the only gospel writer who tells us they went out in pairs. In the Greek it is duo-duo, two by two. Apostles are sent out as dynamic duos–Batman and Robin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Chris and John. Why pairs? Ministering in pairs was based upon Old Testament wisdom. Ecclesiastes 4:9 to 10, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”
Ministering in pairs fulfilled the legal requirement for authentic testimony in court. Deuteronomy 19:15, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”
Ministering in pairs was also the pattern John the Baptist, the church of Antioch, and the pattern the Lord uses here. Pairs provided strength, encouragement, discernment, protection, the eyewitness testimony of two or three, and the ability to learn from each other. Ministering in pairs is more of an expression of the body of Christ and the plurality of eldership, more of an expression of the Godhead, and a display of unity. Plus, pairs are more effective in ministry since they could go in six different directions and reach six different regions with the Gospel.
While teaching at a men’s conference, I was asked to spend some time with an eldership of a church that had just gone through the trauma of difficult change. I invited John Pleasnick to attend with me, and we answered questions back and forth like we do all the time here and in the TC. I was blown away by their reaction. Did they appreciate the time–yes. Did they like our answers–yes. Were we helpful to them–yes. But they were blown away by how John and I worked together, laughed, deferred to each other, complimented each other’s answers, and worked together as a team. The unexpected fruit of our time was a passion for plurality–to work together in unity.
You probably don’t realize how crucial ministering together is. So many don’t dive into ministry because they know they can’t handle it on their own, when the reality is they were never meant to serve solo, but with others in team. Pastoral ministry would suffer less moral failure if there was more team ministry. Working together in ministry accelerates spiritual growth and glorifies the Trinity (three persons, yet one) in a greater way, since the Body can glorify Him better than the individual Christian.
The Training Center itself is based upon a team approach to train men for ministry. I am not referring to multiple teachers, but an environment where the team of men in the Center is actually spiritually impacting one another through the process. Even though we live in an individualistic culture with the modern church built upon a spectator performance model, the true biblical model is, every attendee is to participate in ministry as a functioning part of the Body of Christ.
You remember Ephesians 4:16, “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working [not sitting, watching] of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” What part of the body of Christ are you this morning . . . a mole, a wart, a blemish, age spot–attached but useless? Or are you an organizing organ, a functioning finger, an energized eyeball, serving spine, creative cranium or humble hands? Jesus sent His men out in pairs–they were trained in community, with other men, two-by-two in dynamic duos. And they went out with authority.
#5 Train Leaders in Christ’s Authority Verse 7d
“He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” This should rock your world—Christ gave His men authority. The verb tense tells us He gave them continual, ongoing authority over the demonic world. Think about it–authority over spirit beings who’ve lived thousands of years, have supernatural abilities and are stronger and probably smarter than people. Do you get it?
You can’t give authority unless you are THE authority. Christ can’t give authority to apostles over demons, who are stronger than apostles–unless Christ, who is giving this authority, is actually greater than all the demons put together, right? In order to give authority over demons to others, Christ Himself has to be able to be the ultimate authority.
Christ is the Creator–all authority is His. Therefore He can actually give that authority away to His men, which He does. Christ is in charge, He is directing life, He is in control. Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” He has all authority.
In verse 7, Jesus gave them authority over the unclean spirits–He gave them ongoing prerogative, as well as the ability to exercise authority over the demonic world. Demons must do what the apostles say. Demons must obey the apostles, as they would have to obey Christ. Remember Mark 3:14 to 15, “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.” Up to this point, only Christ possessed continual authority to cast out demons, but here Christ now confers that authority on the twelve.
I’m confident you recognize the authority to cast out demons was a unique ministry to the twelve–not to all preachers or Christians. Second Corinthians 12:12, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the unique ability of exorcising demons was not given to all of his followers. As a matter of fact, it was exercised by very few of them–just the apostles or those they laid their hands on.
Hebrews 2:3 and 4 state this fact with, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, apostles 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” It’d be a horrible mistake to assume that “exorcising demons” was a part of the average Christian’s experience in New Testament time or today.
The Greek word “authority” is from a verb that means “it is lawful, permission from a higher court or freedom of choice” and it refers to a right or power that’s legitimately delegated. Jesus granted the twelve apostles God’s divine authority to do exactly what He Himself had been doing. The goal was not to prove they could do cool supernatural things, but to prove they were sent by Christ and able to do just what He could do. It was to authenticate the Gospel message.
So that’s why throughout the book of Acts, the apostles did the very things Jesus gave them authority to do. The apostles cast out unclean spirits and healed every kind of disease or sickness. Peter and John healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple in Acts 3, 5 and 8—“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people,…And … the people …were … bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed.” In Acts 28, when Paul was stranded on the island of Malta, he healed the father of Publius, and after this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured.
Today, God still heals through Gospel transformation, and people are un-possessed by demons. But we no longer have apostles today. There are no longer men who possess the gift of healing, nor the continual authority to cast out demons. Those sign gifts ceased when the apostles and those they laid their hands on and gave those abilities to all went to heaven. But God still displays authority today–it is found in and through His Word, “Thus saith the Lord.”
It’s God’s Word that saves us, bringing us to Christ, Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And it’s God’s Word that sanctifies us, making us like Christ. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” This is why Paul said to Titus, the church planter, in Titus 2:15, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority, let no one disregard you.”
Because our culture is saturated with a disdain for authority, the church of Christ has followed suit. When you hear the Bible referenced or opened in most pulpits today, you hear capitulation, vacillation, reasonableness, practical principles, topical issues, but very little, “Thus saith the Lord.” Very little, “this is the one interpretation of this text and nothing else.” Not much of, “this is what God is saying, therefore we must follow Him!” The authority of an eldership, an elder or a teaching pastor is found in God’s Word–not the pulpit, not the title, not the degrees on His wall, but in the accurate handling of God’s Word.
Jesus gave His twelve delegated, supernatural authority to prove they were sent by God, affirming the Gospel message they taught. Jesus gives authority to His shepherds today through the accurate interpreting and teaching of God’s Word. Affirm His authority–see His Word as your Creator, sharing with you His operation manual for your life. Listen to His Word as His intimate love letter to you. Follow His Word as the only path to keep you safe while living on this dangerous planet. Obey His Words like a private who listens to His general–the same general who already saved your life in battle. There is a need though for a special kind of instruction.
#6 Train Leaders with an Expectation to Obey Verse 8a
Finally we got to verse 8, “And He instructed [commanded] them.” What kind of instruction was this? How was Christ preparing His men that can help us parent, disciple, and care for people all around us? What kind of things must we cover with those we hope to impact for Christ? For the answer to that, you must come back next time-yet ask yourself these questions:
1 Are you functioning as a part of the Body of Christ?
The place of blessing, growth, and greater intimacy with Christ is to function in faithful service to the local church, His bride! The New Testament knows nothing of a so-called Christian who merely attends. Private, Christian, home or public schooling is never to replace a faithful commitment to service in the church. A difficult job, a large number of kids, just ask Wil, nor life itself are not excuses to remain distant from the church family. We are to be like mountain climbers who are roped to each other. Anything less than faithfully exercising your spiritual gifts within the context of a local church is a sin of omission. Yet the place of joy, love and forgiveness is the local church.
2 Will you pursue growth in Christ passionately?
Has anyone of you here arrived spiritually? Then what are you doing to pursue your growth? God is sovereign, yes, but you are responsible to study the Word, read, pray, disciple, be discipled, and so much more. Ask yourself honestly, are you actively pursuing growth in Christ dependently?
3 Is God’s Word a functional authority in your life?
What area is a major sin battle for you right now? Do you have God’s Word memorized concerning that struggle? If not, you are not currently taking sin seriously, nor dependently pursuing Christ aggressively–you’re not running to win.
4 Do you know and follow Christ intimately?
The Bible says in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Being saved means you know God and are intimate with Christ–not know about Him, but know Him intimately, like a friend. You’re loved by Him, you walk with Him, you talk with Him throughout the day, and He is your best and first love. If you don’t have relationship, then turn from your sin and depend on Christ–cry out to know Him intimately. Let’s pray.