Recovering Evangelistic Fervor


Matthew 10:5–16 (NLT)5 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, 6 but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. 7 Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.* 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!

9 “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed.

11 “Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. 12 When you enter the home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. 14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. 15 I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.

Jesus chose 12 of his many disciples to send out as apostles (10:2-4).  These 12 would be the key leaders of the Jesus movement.  Jesus would spend some three years closely with them.  As they followed Jesus, he would teach them both through his actions and words.  The apostles were ambassadors or messengers authorized and sent with the authority of Jesus Christ (v. 1) “to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness.”

Now Jesus sends them on a mission.  They are to go only to the towns of the Jews.  Later, when Jesus is leaving to return to heaven, he commissions them to take the Good News to the whole world (Matt. 28:19, 20).

Specifically, at this point, they were sent to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.  Sheep are lost as a result of the neglect of the shepherds.  The shepherds of Israel, the priests, scribes, and leaders of Israel, were bad shepherds in contrast to Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).  The fact that Jesus is going first to the Jews is not a matter of discrimination, but of strategy.  Jesus’ strategy from the beginning has been to go to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles.

The mission of the 12 is the same as the mission of Jesus.  They will preach the same message that Jesus and John the Baptist preached:  “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”  (Matt. 3:1; 4:17; 10:7).  The miracles that the 12 perform are the same as those that Jesus had accomplished.  They will heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and deliver people from demons (10:8).   These miracles are signs that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  By doing these signs, the 12 demonstrated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

The principle with which they minister is “Freely you have received, freely give.”  (v. 8)  The disciples had freely received the grace of the Kingdom of God through Jesus’ ministry.  It was not given for them to possess or keep for themselves.  It was given for them to give away.

The disciples ministry was modeled after the ministry of Christ.  They would not take any money, or even supplies for the trip, but would depend by faith upon God to provide for them through the hospitality of those to whom they are being sent.  The reason that they can trust God is that the worker is worth his keep.  (v. 10)

They would trust to the hospitality of strangers (v. 11).  But this means that they may also be rejected.  To any place that refuses to welcome them, the disciple was to shake off the dust of his feet when leaving, as a prophetic sign to them.  (v. 14)  Jesus says that it would be worse for them than for Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment.  Part of the wickedness of these cities was their rejection and mistreatment of the messengers sent from God (Gen. 19).  To reject the disciples and their message was to reject Jesus Christ.

Ch. 10 is an important discourse in helping us to understand the mission of God.  God the Son sends out these 12 disciples on a mission, just as Jesus was sent on the mission of God.  John 1:14 “So the Word became human and made his home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

In this first mission trip, the disciples are sent out to fulfill God’s promises to the Jews, but later they will go to the whole world.  They will continue this mission until Christ returns (10:23).

The disciples will be equipped with the authority of Christ.  And the ministry that they will do is essentially the same as that of Jesus’ ministry while he was on earth:  preaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers and delivering people from the power of evil.

Each of these ministry acts present themes for the mission of the church today.  Preaching the Good News is still central to the mission of the church.  The ministry of the church is to “go” and so we are sent to “make disciples of all the nations.”  But this is one of the most difficult aspects of the mission.  Many people decry the decline of the church in the United States.  In the United Methodist Church, people cite many reasons for this decline.  From my perspective the number one reason for the decline of Methodism in the US is that we have lost our evangelical fervor.  We have built ourselves comfortable churches with comfortable pews and invited people to come.  But that is not the command.  The command is for us to “Go!”  We have forgotten the “Go!” of the Great Commission.

Now, as it was in the 1st Century, we must go to the people.  We cannot expect them to come.  Attractional ministry still has a place.  We need facilities to do the work of “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and teaching these new disciples to obey all the commands” Jesus has given to us.  But we cannot rely on “Open Doors” to attract new people to the church.  We must find ways to reach those in the community around us.

And the primary way that that happens is much the same as it was in the 1st century, as it was when Methodism spread throughout the entire United States by the early pioneers.  A Christian family moved into an area to live.  They would tell their friends, relatives, associates and neighbors about this Jesus Christ, who they have come to know as Lord and Savior.  They would tell them about the change that has come into their lives as a result of an encounter with the living Lord.  In response to Peter’s first sermon in Acts, the multitude asked, “What should we do?”  Peter replied, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:37, 38)

Lord, help us to recover the evangelistic fervor of John Wesley and Francis Asbury.  Help us to remember our heritage of faith and to be faithful to the ministry to which you have called us.  Help us to understand how to reach the lost sheep around us.  Help us to minister in the same power of the Holy Spirit as did the 12 that we may see people healed, resurrected, cleansed, and delivered.  Give us the boldness of our faith, so that we can reach those in our circle of influence:  our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors.  Amen.

One response to this post.

  1. Thank you for the post. For more on Asbury and Wesley, please visit the website for the book series dedicated to Francis Asbury. The Asbury Triptych Series opens with the book, Black Country, detailing the early preaching years in England of Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is Enjoy the numerous articles, podcasts, videos, and pictures dedicated to these amazing men of God.


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