Over the next few days I will share with you some of my thoughts regarding how we prepare young people to serve God. I believe that the most effective leaders are not the ones who are taught, but the ones who are discipled. Jesus knew what he was doing when he took twelve disciples to follow and serve with him for three years rather than opening a school offering classes on theology.
Jesus’ ultimate purpose in taking disciples and training them was to one day send them out to teach and do ministry on their own in a similar fashion to how they were doing it with Jesus. But Jesus didn’t just dump them on the world. Before he sent them out permanently, he sent them out temporarily.
Before sending them out, Jesus instructed them on what to do (preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick) and when they returned they reported to Jesus all they had done. (Luke 9:1-10) Jesus took them away to a quiet place to get some rest (Mark 6:31) and presumably “debrief” them on all they did and encountered. When Jesus sent out 72 disciples in a similar fashion in Luke 10, it is clear that Jesus was careful to correct some potentially dangerous thinking when he debriefed them. They excitedly reported to Jesus that even demons submitted to them in his name. But Jesus warned them to be excited about their salvation, not about their presumed spiritual power.
By sending the disciples out for a “short-term mission” they not only gained valuable experience for when the time came to do it on their own, but Jesus was also able to teach them in ways that would be impossible if they hadn’t had those experiences. By debriefing them, Jesus helped prepare them even more.
Another interesting point is that Jesus didn’t send them cross-cultural for this experience. Certainly, that time would come and we see it when we read the book of Acts. However, in Matthew 10:5-6 he says, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” It would be a mistake to say that it was because Jesus was teaching them to look down upon outsiders that he didn’t send his disciples to them. No, at the end of the same book (Matthew 28) we see Jesus sending them to “all nations.” My thought is that Jesus knew they would only be going for a short time so he sent them to people with whom he knew they could make an immediate impact. Sending them to other ethnicities would have required more time for them to learn the languages and cultures. That would come later (Acts 2 when they were given the ability to speak these other languages), but for now, they would serve with people in their same culture. By doing this they were still prepared to do so cross-culturally in the future.
Note: It would be incorrect to call what the disciples did on their short-term trip an “internship.” That is because an internship is usually done under the tutelage of someone more experienced. It would be more appropriate to call the three-year time they spent with Jesus their “internship” and their short-term mission a “trial ministry.” If we prepared our young brothers and sisters in the US for ministry in the same way, they would do a three-year internship under the tutelage of an effective minister/ministry while being taught through that experience, and then they would be sent out to do ministry in a separate, unsupervised location, for a short period of time as a trial ministry, before being sent out to do permanent ministry.
Seven post summary:
1. Jesus’ life was already an ongoing example of effective ministry, of which he later included them, before he called them and before he sent them out to do ministry on their own.
2. After spending time in prayer Jesus chose specific people to be his disciples, to live with him and follow him for about three years. He chose a limited number of people and poured himself into them rather than trying to get as many as he could.
3. Jesus didn’t simply make scheduled teaching appearances with his disciples but invited them to live with him 24/7. They did not only hear what he was about, they saw it every day.
4. Jesus spent time teaching his disciples important concepts and truths so they would have understanding. He taught them in ways that were not available for those in the general public who followed him.
5. Jesus responded to events, circumstances, questions and persecution in society and used these as a context to teach and train his disciples.
6. Jesus trained his disciples and gave them special abilities to minister to the felt needs of the people. In helping people with their physical problems they would have an audience for their spiritual message.
7. Jesus sent his disciples out to do ministry (preach and heal) on a temporary basis so they would have experience for when they would do so permanently. When they returned the disciples reported what they had done and Jesus debriefed them, teaching things they would not have learned except for their trial experience. Jesus didn’t send them cross-culturally but to those of the same culture so they could have an immediate impact.