Repost from 2010.-JB
“The Lord now chose seventy (-two) other disciples and sent them ahead of himself in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:1-3)
Part 2: “He sent them ahead of himself…”
Last time we noted that the church needs to be a “sending” community at it’s core. We have been far better at being a “gathering” community in the past. Like teaching teenagers how to drive, the best way to make disciples is not classroom lecture in the safety of an auditorium, but behind-the-wheel experience on the road to discipleship.
If being thrown behind the wheel of a 2 ton vehicle for the first time is scary, then today things get downright terrifying for aspiring disciples of the kingdom. Imagine you’ve chosen to follow Jesus, and so far it’s only been about traveling with his entourage, watching him work signs and wonders, listening to him teach in the synagogues, and sitting at his feet listening to parables around a fire.
Suddenly, however, the game changes completely as Jesus says, “Now I’m sending you out to do what I’ve been doing: proclaim the good news of the kingdom, heal the sick, cast out demons and serve the poor and outcast.” You respond, “Great, when do WE leave, Jesus?” Jesus responds, “We? Who said anything about ‘we’? I’m sending you out ahead of me.”
Yikes! Here’s the lesson I gather from this episode: Following Jesus often takes us one step ahead of certainty and comfort. Faith and fellowship with the Lord almost always involves going a step or two ahead of what God has made clear to us. In a sense, God is always with us (cf. Matt 28). Yet, in another sense, God sends us out ahead of Him, or at least beyond what he has revealed to us about where we’re going and what we’ll do when we arrive.
The key example in Scripture is Abraham. Remember the Lord simply told him to pack up and leave everything behind and go to the place I will show you. Abraham no doubt wanted a few more details — an itinerary, or at least a destination for goodness sake! But, like Jesus with the disciples here, he sometimes sends us ahead of himself and catches up with us later — so to speak. We may not like this. We may protest. But I hope we’ll respond with the same faith and courage the 70 apparently did in this story as we’ll soon see.
So, in what way has God sent you out ahead of Himself in your own life lately? Has he shown you the general career path to pursue, but not shown you the specific job yet? Has he sent you out to seek reconciliation with a friend or family member you’ve been holding a grudge with, but not revealed what you’re supposed to say when you sit down face to face? Do you sense the Lord is sending you into the mission field, but you’re waiting for him to catch up with you to show you where and how?
For Keri and I personally, we’re ending our season of ministry at our current church and sensing Jesus might be sending us out into a particular town to plant a new ministry. But somedays we feel like he’s said ‘Go’ but we’d rather linger around in his company until he gives us more details. To us, and others like us, I believe he simply says, “I’m sending you ahead of myself for now, but don’t worry because I’ll catch up with you when the time is right and provide what you need along the way.”
But God always seems to leave plenty of room for faith — which is taking one step beyond certainty and comfort.
Update: It’s surreal reading this post today (4/21/15) from 5 years ago, sitting here in the office of the new church we did indeed end up starting which is now bearing fruit because we were willing to “go out ahead” of Jesus and get on with the work he was calling us to — scary as it was!