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The Perfect Training Process
The process of Christ to train His men–Mark 6:6b to 13
One of the best coaches in professional football in the past was Tom Landry–coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He once defined his job this way. ”My job is to get men to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they’ve always wanted to achieve.” That is what training does–it causes believers to do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they have wanted all their lives.
Your children don’t want to be disciplined, your disciples don’t want homework, your community group often doesn’t want to study or be held accountable to obey. But in the long run, they desperately want to become like Christ–therefore, you train them. You get them to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they’ve always wanted to achieve.
How do you do it? The answer is simple–let me help you see it. Would you agree, everything Christ said was perfect? Would you agree, everything Christ did was also perfect? Then maybe we should train the way Jesus trained. Christ’s training techniques cannot be improved upon. What He did in the preparation of his twelve, his 70, his 120, his 500 was the best possible method. What He did was perfect.
All Christ did to invest into His disciples should be your model for training your kids. You should also be imitating Christ’s training with your disciples and the men or women you seek to impact for Christ. The more leaders can train like Christ, the more Christlike they will become. God will be glorified, leaders will produce fruit and have greater influence for Christ.
A key passage illustrating the process Christ followed to train His twelve men is Mark 6:6b-13. Mark is the gospel of action, depicting Christ as the ultimate servant, appealing to the Roman reader. John Mark wrote it under the authority of the apostle, Peter. Read 20 commentaries and you’ll learn Mark 6 is the third year of Christ’s public ministry.
Prior to verses 6 to 13, Christ has just been rejected by His hometown, Nazareth. Following verses 6 to 13, the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist is martyred. Sandwiched in between these two bookends of rejection finds Christ sending His twelve out with His authority as proxies to preach the Gospel, heal and deliver from demons.
His men are sent to declare Christ’s words and demonstrate Christ’s works. The Lord’s purpose for this first apostolic mission was twofold–first to demonstrate the ultimate authority of Christ over all. Second is to reach the lost in the regions of Galilee who had not heard the Gospel. And third, to train the twelve in the process of making disciples. The more you can train like Christ did, the more Christlike they will become.
Read aloud with me Mark 6b to 13, “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.”
Here is the greatest coach who ever lived, right? From Him, embrace the fact that . . .
#1 Training is NECESSARY Verse 6b
The parallel accounts of Mark 6:6 to 13 are Luke 9 and Matthew 9 and 10. In them, Matthew communicates some additional motives driving Christ to train His men. Two clear motives are Christ’s compassion for people, and the need for workers. Matthew tells us in 9:36 to 38, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”
Christ’s compassion for the lost motivates Him to train His men. Notice verse 36, Christ sees people (“seeing the people”). Jesus sees people for who they really are. When Christ looks at those who don’t follow Him, He sees the danger they’re in. When you look at lost people, what do you see–their language, dress, hair, habits, tattoos, possessions, flaws, or beauty?
Or do you see the lost as Jesus sees them? Christ sees the lost as sheep without a shepherd. Those sheep are lost–they do not know which way to go. They’re dead–they cannot respond to God. They’re blind–they can’t see the truth about Christ. They’re rebellious. They’re defying God by doing their own thing. They’re without excuse–fully responsible for their sin. And they’re deceived–they think they’re okay, but actually are in eternal danger.
Matthew 9:36 adds, Jesus “felt compassion for them.” Compassion means Jesus had physically intense feelings of care for the lost. If you’re married to an alcoholic, you’ll have strong feelings about liquor. If your friend died in a speeding car, you’ll have strong feelings about driving fast. You react strongly because you’ve personally witnessed the destructiveness of sin.
Jesus emotionally reacts because He knows the consequences of not turning to Him now and the eternal consequences later. The Greek word distressed is graphic–it means to be skinned and ripped apart. The people of this planet–family and friends who have not turned to Christ in repentance and faith are headed to an eternal slaughter house.
The lost are in desperate need and their only hope is the message of the Gospel, which requires a lot of messengers of hope. Therefore Christ’s men must be trained. Plus Matthew 9:37 and 38 declare the desperate need for workers. They are few in this huge task of harvesting souls. This also motivates Christ to train his men.
Then a trait of the gospel of Mark was to emphasize truth by sandwiching a section of scripture with two pieces of bread containing a similar message. This passage is a Markan sandwich. Mark 6:6 to 13 is sandwiched with rejection–the rejection of His hometown, Nazareth before, and the rejection of Christ by beheading His forerunner, John the Baptist, after.
With rejection looming, it’s crucial for Christ to train His men before His coming physical departure, and to prepare them for the coming rejection of a hostile world as they proclaim the Gospel of Christ. The task is too great, the need is too great and the resistance is so strong, Christ must prepare His men.
The gospel of Luke mentions the seventy being sent out at a later time. So here in Mark 6 it seems best to view this training mission as just involving the twelve. Up to this point, the twelve have been spectators, but now they’re made participants. They were mere extras, but now they’re actors in the proclamation of the Gospel.
The twelve are players on Christ’s team, but now Christ sends His team to the practice field to live out what they’ve learned. To train others, it requires more than education, more than information, more than association with a teacher or a school. Training requires practice.
Do not misunderstand training–it is not mere education or modeling. It is living out, rehearsing, working out, applying the truth in real life situations and ministry. If training merely involved educating, then I could take any college grad, make him memorize the playbook of the Green Bay Packers. Once memorized, he would automatically become a great football player. But that’s not how it works.
That college grad has to love football, listen to his coaches, memorize the playbook, constantly work out, eat right, sleep right, go to practice, run plays over and over—and only then could he hope to become a great football player.
Doctors practice on cadavers in med school and then do a residency. Teachers start by being student teachers. Ministry maturity requires practice. Trainees must be taught the truth, but they must also practice the truth. According to Christ, there is more to training than education. You must know the playbook–the Bible.
Plus, you need to follow it diligently–but you also practice. The Lord now demonstrates how He practices His men. Like birds being kicked out of the nest, they’re slowly released to be able to eventually fly on their own. Christ is currently laying a foundation for training by teaching God’s Word. This training text begins with verse 6b, “And He was going around the villages teaching.”
Christ didn’t quote the rabbis, Christ taught God’s inspired Word. The Living Word was continually teaching the written Word. And when verse 6 says, “He was going around,” that means Christ is traveling on a circuit of villages in Galilee teaching Gods Word. Christ knows it is not healing nor deliverance from demons that will bring salvation. Only God’s Word can save (Romans 10:17) and only God’s Word can sanctify (John 17:17).
The context for training is a strong teaching environment. You can’t save your kids, but you can provide an environment that leads to salvation–and that is an environment 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.”
A biblical environment leads to salvation. But Christ also knows, one man cannot proclaim God’s Word to everyone in the world. Christ knows He is physically leaving this world for a time. Christ knows His Word must be proclaimed and taught by His followers–therefore Christ makes a decision.
#2 Training is a CHOICE Verse 7
Christ decides to commission His men and send them out. Verse 7 says, “And He summoned the twelve.” Summoned is used nine times in Mark as an authoritative call–a firm but gracious order. The same word summon was used by God to summon Paul to Macedonia in Acts 16. This summons is not a, “Hey, why don’t you consider following me,” call, but a gracious, non-optional, loving order from the Lord of all.
The apostles did not choose the call, nor is the call a result of their own talents. Jesus is not asking for volunteers. Who wants to sign up for apostleship? Jesus made this clear in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you.” Why? The apostles were the original missionaries, sent forth to preach the Gospel to a world under God’s judgment, into a plentiful harvest with few workers.
Being summoned, the twelve will forever now be recognized as the representatives of Christ, empowered as proxies to say and do what Christ has taught and done. This is truly shocking at this point in the gospels. Why? The disciples are humanly not ready. So far in Mark, the disciples have impeded the Lord’s mission (in Mark 1:36 to 39), been exasperated with Christ (in Mark 4:38), and they have even opposed Jesus (in Mark 3:21).
The decision to send these men out clearly demonstrates the Lord’s divine humility, the necessity of training practice, and the importance of this mission. It’s also a huge encouragement. I’m thankful the Lord does not depend on the perfection of his men or upon human qualification, but only upon His divine wisdom to use men for His glory.
Mark alone informs his readers how the Lord sent His men out. Verse 7b says, “and began to send them out in pairs.” The Greek word begin—“began to send them”, implies this is something new. The verb begin describes sending the teams out staggered over a period of time, as the Lord probably assigned each team to a different region of Galilee.
It was time for Christ’s men to stop being infants and become instructors. Maturity demanded they take off their bibs and put on their aprons. Maturity means you accept responsibility and become reproductive. So verse 7, Christ sends them out in pairs. Mark is the only gospel writer who describes the apostles being sent out in pairs. The Greek phrase is duo-duo, two-by-two.
When Matthew 10:2 to 4 lists the twelve, Matthew actually lists them in these unique pairs. The Apostles are sent out as dynamic duos–Batman and Robin. Or actually, Fred and Barney. The reasons for the men sent in pairs is for training. Christ sent them two-by-two to provide mutual support and companionship, to be able to protect each other, to fulfill the legal requirement for authentic testimony from Deuteronomy 19:15.
To tone down individualism and prepare them for the corporate ministry of the coming Church and to place them in a more effective training environment, providing constant feedback, man-to-man as each pair dialogued with each other while they traveled from village to village. Training is not a mano y mano effort.
Ministering in pairs is more of an expression of the body of Christ, 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.
When I was invited to speak to a group of elders, I asked JP to come along and do the Q & A session with me. They were blown away, not so much by the things we said, but by our cooperation. The comments were all about how they wanted their staff to be the same way—to defer to one another, to be in unity with each other.
Seminarians and collegians not only know the strength of a deep and godly professor, but they also know the power of the impact of fellow students who are pursuing Christ with zeal. The Training Center itself is based upon a team approach–men impacting men, not top down.
Along with the message of the Gospel, Christ also imparted His authority. Verse 7 concludes with, “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 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 you. 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.” Christ has all authority. Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to me.”
The verb gave in verse 7, “gave them authority,” speaks of a gift conveyed for a specific task. The word authority means freedom of choice, the right or ruling power. Christ 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. And the goal was not to prove they could do cool, supernatural things, but to authenticate they were sent by Christ and able to do exactly what Christ could do.
In the midst of intense rejection, combined with the desperate need for lost sheep to hear the message and be delivered from their sins, Christ chooses to train His men. When eternity is your daily focus on Earth, when resistance is intense, when the desperate need of people here overwhelms you–like Christ, you will choose to train. The more you can train like Christ, the more Christlike they will become. One thing training will do is . . .
#3 Training teaches DEPENDENCE and focus Verses 8 to 9
Christ next gives His men some clear directives in verses 8 to 9, “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.’” There is debate as to the exact nature of Christ’s specific instructions here, as you compare Mark to the other gospel accounts.
But we do know, later in Luke 22:35 to 37 these same stipulations here are shown to be only temporary. So what is Christ doing here? The root of the verb instructed, “He instructed them,” was used of a soldier bound to obey the orders of his superior and used of a patient bound to follow his doctor’s instruction.
Jesus is giving gracious but firm orders, and the Greek verb for take nothing informs His men to continually go without the supplies they’d normally take. Jesus tells his men on this first solo trip, travel light and trust Me to provide. The Lord tells His men, now that you’ve packed, take everything out of your suitcase–leave it all behind. As you slip on one pair of sandals, grab your walking stick and go.
See the packing instructions? A staff is a walking stick to assist in walking and protection against animals and robbers. Matthew 10:9 to 10 tells the disciples, don’t bring an extra stick–just use the one they have. No bread means bring no food or snacks, and especially no MRE’s (meals ready to eat).
No bag means bring no extra food just in case, or it means don’t bring the beggar’s bag which was meant for collecting funds as they heal and deliver. Like a street musician with an upside-down hat to toss money into. And no money in their belt–no extra cash. And Jesus says, “Just bring one pair of sandals”–the ones you’re wearing.
Hospitality in the first century demanded men could be cared for in this manner. Plus, it is God’s divine plan, 1 Corinthians 9:14, that those who “proclaim the gospel … get their living from the gospel.” Godly servants never demand payment for ministry and never put a price on their work–they trust Christ.
Christ’s goal was to train His men to live dependent. Christ’s men were to learn in their service to Christ that their needs would be provided. Matthew 10:10, “for the worker is worthy of his support.” In addition, Christ wants them to grow in focus and priority. If their ministry is to represent the reality of eternity, if their service is to contain the urgency of judgment, if their proclamation is to have the edge of Heaven or Hell, then there must be a laser focus to their life and a first love priority to their service which will obviously outweigh their daily concerns of food, reserves, clothes and money.
Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” For people to pay attention to the message of the salvation and the Messiah you evidence, there must be a dedication to the cause that far outweighs your daily needs. Training in ministry has a cost attached to it, but for those willing to pay the cost, the end result is greater impact for Christ. Again, the more you train like Christ, the more Christlike others will become.
#4 Training requires INTEGRITY and intensity Verses 10 to 11
Christ also instructs His men, giving them a lesson of decorum in verses 10 to 11. Christ gives two major priorities for their behavior, one in each verse. How should they behave while on assignment? Verse 10, “And He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.’” Christ’s servant is not to keep his eye out for better lodging.
His sole focus should be on his ministry to display Christ. So his contentment with what he has and where he is staying will itself be a testimony to those he ministers to. Such humble contentment will also benefit the minister’s own spiritual life, because Paul assures us in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.”
In verse 10, Jesus is instructing his men to pursue living above reproach. Never give the impression you are ministering for money or for comfort. If you get a better offer to stay at a nicer house, don’t move–stay where you first agreed to go. Don’t give anyone a reason to think your motives are self-serving.
Christ teaches His men here, they are not ordinary travelers, but special heralds of Christ declaring the most important message ever given. Be careful what your behavior communicates. Your actions speak louder than your words. Then the Lord adds in verse 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.”
When they themselves choose not to accept you or listen, as you leave, actively shake the dust of that place off your feet as a statement to them that their rejection of Christ is an eternal decision. Why? In the hopes that your dust-removing action might have them reconsider Christ.
It is not that we are to turn away from those who reject the Gospel at their first hearing, or even after several hearings. Had that practice been followed, many of us here would not be born again today. No–our God is longsuffering with us, even patient with pagan regions. Otherwise God would have destroyed the world long ago, like Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, San Fran, Washington DC, Berkeley, and Hemet.
Jesus wasn’t speaking of those who are slow to believe, but to those who, after hearing a clear testimony of the Gospel and seeing the irrefutable signs of confirmation, they still continue to resist and oppose that same Gospel message. But when a person’s mind is firmly set against God, Christ’s servants should turn their efforts to others who are more open.
Jesus says in verse 11, “for a testimony against them,” meaning a symbolic, public declaration of certain, coming, divine judgment because of their resolute rejection. Christ reminds His men as they minister, if they live with integrity/above reproach in verse 10, then those who reject them are rejecting Christ in verse 11.
Christ pointedly confirms to His men–in ministry, in this life, they will be rejected. It’s not a question of if–only of when. Even with the authority to cast out demons and the power to heal, the message of Christ and the messenger of Christ will be rejected. It’s almost certain, once a year or so, I preach a sermon and people compliment me—“Spurgeon lives!” (And without fail, the same day, there will be one critical comment.) What do I say to the one critical comment person? I say, “Jean honey, save it till we get home.”
The point? You and I are not here to be complimented or criticized–learn from all of that. You’re here to serve Christ, to make Him known so others can come to or become like Christ. As we do, there will be rejecters and hopefully some repenters.
Regardless of their lack of readiness for this mission humanly, Christ believed it was essential to send His men out to practice ministry. Their training required instruction and modeling. But in Mark 6, our perfect Lord teaches us that training requires practice, experience in ministry, real life exposure to those who reject the message and hate the messenger, as well as personal ministry to those whose hearts are responsive to Christ and the Gospel. In fact . . .
#5 Training demands PRACTICE
Mark concludes this training section with a description of what the men actually did in verses 12 to 13, “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.” Matthew adds, they were gifted to even cleanse lepers.
These miracles were signs pointing to God’s compassion and mercy. They demonstrated the sympathetic heart of God, who cares for the hurting, the afflicted, and the needy. Each pair of men went out to the towns and villages of Galilee not previously reached by our Lord. All of them vastly imperfect and seemingly not ready, but they were obedient to the Lord and did as Christ commanded.
They preached the same message Christ preached. Mark 1:15, “Jesus taught the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The message was to call people to repent of their sins. And the message came with the same authority of Christ, as they exercised their unique apostolic abilities to cast out demons and heal the sick.
Just like a doctor who displays his diplomas that certify his qualifications to practice medicine, in a far more important way, the apostles uniquely had the credentials of Christ to confirm their divine message, because they did what only Christ can do.
These pairs of apostles also were (described only here in Mark), anointing with oil. In the Old Testament, olive oil was used to symbolize the very presence of God and His authority, as it was used to anoint kings and priests (1 Samuel 16:13 and Exodus 30:22 to 33). So the apostles were anointing with oil to demonstrate their authority came from God and not from themselves. They were channels of Christ’s authority, but never the source of power.
According to the perfect practice of our Lord Jesus Christ, training requires practice, ministry experience and dealing with people. Training involves learning to embrace the absolute authority of God’s Word in the context of lost and saved people. Training requires a heart of compassion to minister properly to the lost and saved. Training involves being taught the truth, having the truth modeled, but training also requires rehearsing the truth.
This passage demonstrates training even involves the evaluation of ministry practice. The Lord Himself, as the perfect coach, reviewed the training exercise as Jesus heard a report back from His men as to what they learned from this training experience. Mark 6:30, “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.”
As you seek to train others, develop opportunities for ministry practice. The more you can train like Christ, the more Christlike others will become.
A Be overwhelmed by the need of PEOPLE and the need of WORKERS
Check your heart–ministry starts with being loved by God, growing in love for God which results in genuine love for others. Do you see the need around you for the lost to know Christ? If so, pray–then speak of who Christ is and what He has done for you.
B Be a big fan of biblical TRAINING in the church and around the world
Pray for all biblically solid training efforts. Pray for our Training Center men and pray for men to be sent to establish other churches locally and worldwide. Forgive them when they practice on you poorly, and seek to live love covering a multitude of practice.
C Make certain your training includes PRACTICE
Training is instruction, example and the practice of truth. Give your teenage sons the remote now and see how they practice integrity. Show your kids how to give, how to serve, how to pray, how to forgive, how to reconcile. And practice sharing the Gospel–make an effort to reach out. Try and fail big, then try again.
Don’t encourage those who are not gifted to practice where they are not gifted, but allow believers to practice. The more you can train like Christ, the more Christlike others will become.
D You can only impart what you personally POSSESS
You can only impact what you are personally model. Do you have Christ? Do you follow His Word as your absolute authority? Is Christ your first love? What you want to see in others must first be seen in you. What you want your children or disciples to become must be lived out in you first. Do you genuinely have Christ?