Do you pay for your mobile device by contract? Lots of us do, but the model of ‘pay as you go’ still appeals. It offers flexibility without a fixed term. We stay at arm’s length – and we’re free to opt out whenever we want.
In the Christian life, we can slip into a ‘pay as you go’ attitude. We’re happy to give Jesus a go, so long as it doesn’t involve too much commitment, or the need to declare our commitment in public. If things get awkward, we can always jump ship.
The Gospels set the record straight. Luke 9 shows us what it means to be part of Jesus’ mission. We’ll need to let go control and be like children, listening and ready to follow instruction. It will be costly, even dangerous. People will oppose us. We can’t look back or get distracted.
Chapter 10 tells how Jesus surveyed the towns and villages before him, then sent out not his closest disciples (the Twelve) but 72 others, in pairs. It was risky – travelling light, they’d be like lambs among wolves – yet he trusted them with his reputation, to prepare people for his coming.
What were his instructions: Stick together? Remember your lines? Get people on side? No: 'Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field'. Not ‘pay as you go’ – but a commitment to ‘pray as you go’.
If we join Jesus on his mission, he calls the shots.
In Jesus’s mission, we don’t retain an opt-out clause, nor can we avoid long-term commitment. If we serve him, we’ll seek to go to his places and speak of him whatever the cost. Because he knows what lies ahead, we must humble ourselves and place our confidence in him. We’ll become part of the answer to our own prayers.
How does this work in practice?
Consider a church prayer gathering. Do we work efficiently through a list of church activities and concerns, hardly referring to the Lord who seeks to gather the lost? Or do we centre every aspect of church life praying for a corporate willingness to make Jesus known? If we don’t pray for open doors, it’s unlikely we’ll walk through open doors.
Similarly, we might love to pray for mission and mission partners over there, but excuse ourselves personally. God’s mission isn’t a triathlon for the super-fit and super-keen. We don’t need a one-off thunderbolt from heaven telling us to join in. All Christ’s followers have a part to play in making Jesus known to all nations.
But the call to get involved is also local: across the office, at the back of the church, over the street, or through a neighbour’s front door.
Jesus has told us everything we need to know about the task before us: his message will divide. We can expect to feel weak, but we’re not alone. We may feel like lambs amongst wolves in conversations at the student union or office. Let’s take opportunities as they arise. We are the workers, and he is Lord of the harvest.
At times we will feel like opting out or beating a retreat, so let’s pray as we go.
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