The Day I Became Internet Famous

One year ago today I had my fifteen minutes of internet fame. The evening before, during the 2016 Olympics, Michael Phelps was preparing to swim in the semifinal of the 200 Meter Butterfly against South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. Le Clos’ prerace antics drew a grimace from Phelps known affectionately on social media as #PhelpsFace. CpadBn0XYAI33vo

Like many others, I tweeted a picture of Michael Phelps with his opponent in the foreground. Given Le Clos’ beige and green outfit, I captioned the picture “When you’re about to swim against someone dressed like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”

By the next morning, the tweet had attained viral status, and by the next day, online news outlets were posting lists of the top #PhelpsFace tweets. Most notably, my tweet was ranked #10 by USA Today. A year later, the tweet has received 1,720 likes and 662 retweets. Teens at my church loved that their pastor was #relatable, and I think I gained a total three new twitter followers that day. I caught quite a bit of shade from a few South Africans and enjoyed some trash-talk with them, but viral social media fame offered no real lasting benefit.

The allure of social media is, in part, a notion of an audience and apparent relevancy, but it’s short-lived. A few teenagers at church think their pastor is a bit cooler than they might have thought before, and I can remind my wife that the internet thinks I am funny even when she doesn’t. All the other attention that tweet brought is gone, but it didn’t really matter anyway.

And I promise you, the irony of writing a blog about this experience isn’t lost on me.

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Why we should keep the Johnson Amendment…

 

Ironically, the Johnson Amendment does not prevent me from critiquing the executive order on religious liberty. The section of the order which refers to the rarely enforced Johnson Amendment seems to be mostly lip service. Since 1954, it has rarely been enforced even when it has been violated. How congress addresses or does not address religious liberty issues and how courts interpret any actions on religious liberty would have much more affect.

 

A bit of education on the Johnson Amendment seems necessary. It is not the boogie man it has been made out to be. The Johnson Amendment does prevent the official endorsement of a candidate or the financial support of a candidate’s campaign by a church or similar non-profit. As a pastor, I’ve never felt my religious liberty was infringed upon by the Johnson Amendment. I have always been free to express my appreciation or displeasure with an elected official, political issues, laws, or legislation. I can do that from the pulpit, in writing, or any other official capacity without endangering the tax status of Madison Heights Baptist Church. I have tried to exercise that freedom responsibly and sparingly. I pray I have done that well. God forgive me if I have not.

 

Though rarely enforced, to do away with the Johnson Amendment would open the door for the creation of partisan churches. If some churches choose to endorse or financially support particular candidates, the Church of Jesus Christ would be further fractured through the creation of GOP churches and DNC churches. Do we really want a church to be known as the Democrat Church or the Republican Church? Based on what parishioners have told me, I know members of my congregation voted for at least three different candidates for President. Madison Heights Baptist Church is a beautifully diverse congregation, both theologically and politically. During this most recent and divisive election season, I continually encouraged them to stay unified in their shared faith. They did that, and I love them for it.

 

I am grateful that my connections to the larger Baptist world have similarly spoken out against this executive order. John Upton, Executive Director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, said yesterday “I’m saddened by today’s executive order.” Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, wrote “Partisan politics have no place in our pulpits. In fact, it’s the absence of that very thing — partisan politics — that gives us the power to speak with moral authority on issues of the day.” Click the links above to find their full statements.

 

Regardless of this executive order or any congressional or judicial response, the pulpit at Madison Heights Baptist Church will be used for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, not to campaign for a candidate. The gifts placed in the offering plate will be used to finance ministry and mission in the name of Jesus, not for filling the coffers of any candidate’s campaign fund.

 

But still, let’s keep the Johnson Amendment.

 

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Black lives do matter. Police lives do matter…

Along with Psalm 74, these were remarks I shared in worship on July 10, 2016 after the death of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and five officers in Dallas. I stand by these words still in the wake of news from Tulsa and Charlotte.

This week, I was at the courthouse as we were closing a chapter on an act of violence in our own community. As I talked with our Commonwealth Attorney, we discussed the growing litany of violent news stories that keep us rattled. I told him that there is a certain fatigue that comes with trying to say something meaningful and holy in the aftermath of Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris, and the list goes on. It’s hard. Not hard like it is for so many whose lives are on the line or for the political, social, and community leaders in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas, but the words are difficult to come by. I’ll try anyway.

We’ve just finished looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. He wanted a unified church. Our tendency is toward an “us vs. them” attitude. How sad that so many screaming at one another bear the title of Christian. The apostle Paul pounded home the point that it can’t be us vs them among the people of God. Whatever our differences by skin color or profession, our shared nature as humanity, individuals created in the image of God, and among us, as disciples of Jesus, we can’t allow the loss of life to make us turn against our brothers and sisters. The world needs the witness of a unified church.

Catchphrases and hashtags fill up our news and social media.

#blacklivesmatter            #bluelivesmatter             #alllivesmatter

Black lives do matter. Police lives do matter. And Satan would have us believe those two views are mutually exclusive, as if someone can’t hold both of these truths in one heart and mind. You see, I know you all. I know that in reality that black lives do matter to you. I’ve seen you worship, serve and share communion with our brothers and sisters from Rose Chapel. That matters. I know that the lives of law enforcement matter to you. I have a brother-in-law that wears a badge to work. You have people you love who put on a badge to go to work. Members of this faith family have taken an oath to protect and serve.

I’m an optimist. It’s a job hazard, and I believe that most people believe both black lives and blue lives matter. I don’t know all of the motivations or details behind the terrible news stories we’ve heard this week, but I don’t believe we need all the details in order to lament the loss of life. I do believe a few bad actors on either side want us to believe we have to choose just one hashtag. It appears that black lives matter protestors and Dallas law enforcement were getting along well, walking together on a difficult day. That’s just what our culture needed most after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. But one man couldn’t tolerate these two sides walking together when he believed they should stay divided and set against each other. What a satanic and evil act to turn a peaceful protest into a shooting gallery. He killed Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa, and wounded several more.

Black lives do matter to us. Blue lives matter to us, and we can’t allow the political garbage that’s been attached to those phrases to obscure the truth. Neither statement should be hard to say for the disciples of Jesus. The Son of God boldly believes Samaritan lives matter, children’s lives matter, and lepers’ lives matter. I have come to believe it’s not wrong to say that specifically black lives matter and police lives matter, rather than a generic all lives matter. Those statements are only divisive if we allow them to be. It’s the black community and law enforcement community feeling the weight this week in a way that I can’t quite comprehend. I have several friends who are the parents of young black boys, and they are deeply concerned for their sons. My brother-in-law, Michael, was so little when I started dating his sister that he feels like my son at times, and in my mind and heart, I say a prayer for him every time I know he’s wearing his badge. It’s not easy to be black or to wear a badge right now.

As the world is hard at work driving wedges and building walls, the church must work just as hard build community. We are a counter-cultural revolution that sees the value in everyone because God made everyone in his image. The world needs our witness. So, I’m going to love my black neighbor and accept that I haven’t walked in their shoes. I’m going to love my law enforcement neighbor and accept that they have to do a hard and dangerous job.

I’m thankful for our local law enforcement. They know their neighbors. They do a hard job with integrity. We in Amherst County and Lynchburg ought to model for the world that we do not have to be divided. We can be proactive in the way we continue to build community. We can build up the kind of goodwill that can hold back the division that desperately wants to creep in.

How can we translate this desire into tangible action? I think it begins in simple ways. If you know someone in law enforcement, ask them about their concerns. Pray with them. I don’t mean say you will pray for them. Ask to pray with them. Hold their hand, and voice your prayers out loud. For your black friends and neighbors, ask them how they are experiencing the news that keeps coming at us. What are their fears? Pray for them, and again, not a passing statement that you will pray, but stop and pray with them.

We underestimate the power of prayer to change us and change the world. In the passage I intended to preach from today, “we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Paul assured the church of his prayers for them, praying for their continual progress in their discipleship. What a word to pray for one another! Along with praying for their peace and protection, perhaps we pray for black and blue neighbors to continue to grow in their knowledge and love for the ways of Jesus, knowing the good fruit of that will come of it, knowing that they will be “made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and…be prepared to endure everything with patience.”

Prayer

Lord you are light when it is dark. You are peace in the midst of war. You are our firm resting place. He come to you with sad hearts and confused minds. We’re seeking to make sense of the news around us.

After Cain killed Abel, he chafed at even the reminder of his existence. (Russell Moore) So, we will not allow these to the nameless lost. We lift up to you O Lord, the families and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. On behalf of them and their loved ones, we claim your promise to walk with your people through the valley of the shadow of death. We lament their losses Lord.

Lamb of God You take away the sins of the world Have mercy on us. Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world, We plead for remission. For the terror of absence from our beloved, We plead for your comfort. For the scandalous presence of death in your Creation, We plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God You take away the sins of the world Have mercy on us. Grant us peace. (www.commonprayer.net)

Your son said “Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted.” Let them experience you’re the holy comfort of your Spirit. Let them be comforted by your church Lord.

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The Parable of the Tow Truck Driver and the Disabled Motorist

In Asheville, N.C., the owner and driver of a tow truck would not tow the car of a stranded, disabled lady who had just been in an accident. His reason for not towing the car was the Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on her car. The tow truck driver, Kenneth Shupe, professes to be a Christian. In his own words in this video, Shupe said “I think the Lord came to me, and said just get in the truck and leave.” (http://wlos.com/news/local/tow-truck-driver-refuses-to-tow-motorist-over-bernie-bumper-sticker)

As I read articles on the story, the parable of the Good Samaritan keeps running through my mind. The parable in Luke 10 begins…

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NRSV)

In the Parable of the Tow Truck Driver and the Disabled Motorist, a religiously minded person left a traveler on the side of the road, broken down and alone. I cannot help but draw some parallels. In each story religious beliefs and political ideologies prevented the religious adherent from being a neighbor.

Some will claim that Mr. Shupe has no legal obligation to serve someone with whom he has religious or political differences. That may very well be true. But it is also not the point. As a professing Christian, he has chosen an ethic higher than the law. He has chosen to follow in the way of Jesus, the way of grace and the way of neighbor. In Jesus’ greatest sermon we have on record, the Sermon on the Mount, he commanded his disciples to go the second mile and love our enemies. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5%3A38-48+&version=NRSV)

Through my current and previous pastorates, I have had the opportunity to be pastor to two wonderful tow truck drivers who profess faith in Jesus by word and deed. Steve and Jimmy do difficult and dangerous work. I cannot fathom the circumstances under which they would leave a disabled young lady stranded by the road. In their walks, they have been the Good Samaritan to me and many others.

I know my words may sound like harsh judgment and so I offer them with fear and trembling. I know I have left travelers along literal and figurative roads on my journey. I also know that our when our religious and political beliefs prevent us from being neighbor to another, we find ourselves playing a role in the story of the Good Samaritan that we did not intend.

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Thank you Campbell University

I became a Camel in 1997, my freshmen year at Campbell University. After two years of hanging around Day Dorm, in 1999, I finally found my Day Doll, Kimberly Huggins. I was beginning my third year at Campbell. She was finishing her third day on campus. In 2002, I proposed to her in her apartment kitchen at University Manor. Trust me. It was romantic. We went on to marry, and we have two beautiful daughters who are Fighting Camel fans. Between the two of us, we have four diplomas from Campbell, and we still enjoy cheering on the Fighting Camels, especially when they come to central Virginia.
In Buies Creek, I had the opportunity to learn about ministry, preaching, the history of the church, public speaking, pastoral care, the environment, music, theatre, and so many other topics. Lessons learned in and out of the classroom come back to me daily. I had professors who became friends and colleagues. I went to a lot of basketball games in Carter Gym. I wore a lot of orange and made a lot of noise. I made friends that, though separated by distance, still occupy much of my memory.
I was able to go back to Campbell again and again because of the support and generosity of my wife, the Taylor Family of Troy, N.C., and my parents. At each opportunity, I could have gone to other schools, great schools that I respect immensely. And I thought seriously about those schools, but I am Camel. To consider what life would be like without Campbell’s part in the story, it would not be the same life. I would not be the same person.
I have the pleasure of serving on the Board of Ministers and so have a regular reason to go back to campus. On the next trip, I will get to share this great place with college students who are considering Campbell as place to prepare for ministry. It is a place and a story I like to share.
Happy 129th Birthday Campbell University! You look as vibrant and bright-eyed as you ever have.
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Palms of Celebration

It’s been almost a year since I lasted posted a blog. So, I think maybe it’s time for another. Just some thoughts that offer what how I’m thinking each Ash Wednesday and Lenten season. It’s nothing new. I wrote this poem in ’09 (I think). “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Palms of celebration

Become ashes on my head.

They call it an imposition,

But my cross doesn’t make me bleed.

What imposition is a cross on my head.

You had yours slammed on your back.

I’ll carry my cross,

But I get to go home tonight.

No whips, no spears, just a soft warm bed.

My wilderness is easy.

But you went out alone

You stepped into wilderness the moment you left Mary’s womb.

You left heaven for earth,

You left Him for us.

Then I came along

I gave up Starbucks,

And felt like I had done something.

You gave up blood and breath and life.

No, this cross in no imposition.

The imposition is a poor sinner,

One just like me.

Who needs Wednesday’s ashes,

Again and again, year after year.

So I’ll wear my ashes

Humble as I can

From Ashes I came

To ashes I’ll return

A repenting, believing sinner,

Palms of celebration

Become ashes on my head.

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Discipleship Reflections: Luke 9:23-27

This series of blogs, Discipleship Reflections, are a part of an independent study for my Doctor of Ministry studies. Read, enjoy, comment. Thanks for reading.

In chapter 9, we are given Luke’s account of several critical discipleship moments for the Apostles. In the first six verses, Jesus sent out the disciples with instructions to preach or proclaim the “kingdom of God” and to cure individuals of diseases and demonic possessions. While the Apostles were off on their first ministry experiences, we are given an account of Herod’s confusion over Jesus’ identity, just as in the other synoptic Gospels. When the Apostles returned, their debriefing with Jesus was interrupted by the crowds clamoring to be with Jesus and the feeding miracle was once again recounted. After this, Peter made his groundbreaking declaration about Jesus’ divine identity. The flow of the events is similar to the other synoptic Gospels. So, what I would like to point out in Luke 9 is what is recorded in verses 23 through 27:

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus gave a stern warning about the cost of discipleship. He let them know full well that the path of following him would not be easy. He compared this suffering to the cross. This is an interesting comparison. No doubt the Apostles were aware of the crucifixion practices of the Romans, but at this point in the Gospels, Jesus had not died on a cross, and the crucifixion for them, was not associated with Jesus. As we read these verses today, we have a difficult time reading these verses without thoughts of Jesus’ own crucifixion, but it would be assuming too much to think the disciples were imagining Jesus on the cross as he spoke these words. These words must have seemed especially peculiar to the Apostles who could not yet imagine carrying out Jesus’ ministry without him, much less him willingly dying to fulfill his ministry. Yet, journeying with Jesus was compared to carrying a cross. The Apostles, in the ministry that followed, both before the events of the Passion and after, would learn that being Jesus’ disciple was not an easy road.

We are quick in evangelical life to highlight the benefits of professing faith in and following Christ as his disciple. We are perhaps, not as quick to explain the costs of discipleship. We might do well to properly inform prospective disciples with a complete picture of the life we invite them into. Maybe then we will make deeper disciples.

What Jesus shared with his disciples was not all bad. He also informed them of the life-giving reward that his disciples would receive. His explanation of the reward was simple: “those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” A short and profound offer to receive true life through the giving up of one’s life. A life is not an easy thing to give up, but Jesus offered no small reward in return.

• What costs will disciples encounter today in the contexts where we minister?
• Are we preparing disciples to understand the cost of discipleship?

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Discipleship Reflections: Luke 6:12-45

This series of blogs, Discipleship Reflections, are a part of an independent study for my Doctor of Ministry studies. Read, enjoy, comment. Thanks for reading.

In the beginning of the 6th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, at least some of the Disciples had broken Sabbath laws with Jesus by gathering grain on the wrong day, and seen Jesus heal on the Sabbath. Both events drew criticism from the Pharisees, and a strong retort from Jesus. The Disciples to this point included at least the fishermen disciples and Levi (Matthew), as they had been specifically called by Jesus in chapter 5.

In chapter 6, we read similar teaching to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. The twelve Disciples, who had just been certified in verses 13-16, gathered with a large group of disciples of Jesus to observe Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry. The crowd that gathered probably included the twelve who would become Apostles and other followers. These Beatitudes constitute the first recorded teaching material he offered to his newly commissioned Disciples. So, the content ought to be seen as significant.

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a] on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

These beatitudes recapitulated the definition of God’s blessing and promises. It could be viewed as a message of divine hope for followers who would certainly face trials, temptation, and persecution during Jesus ministry and after his earthly ministry was completed.

It is also important to consider how we as disciples who also lead and teach not think too much of ourselves. After cautioning his disciples to avoid judgmental attitudes, Jesus continued with a parable:

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

He made it plain that teaching and leading was not about judgment, but came with a responsibility to know oneself, to know our own sins and shortcomings. If we don’t know our own failings and humanness, we are likely to be the blind leading the blind. When we know ourselves we will be better able to teach and lead others. As he stated in the following verses, the quality of the teacher or tree determines the quality of the fruit that is produced.

So, again questions arise.
• How are we transferring hope to disciples?
• How are conveying a sense of blessing to the ones who will ultimately go out and make disciples?
• Are we teaching from a perspective of fellow learner or detached authority?
• Are we authentic with the disciples we are tasked with leading?

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Discipleship Reflections: Interview with Gary Chapman of the Christian Leaders Link

This series of blogs, Discipleship Reflections, are a part of an independent study for my Doctor of Ministry studies. Read, enjoy, comment. Thanks for reading.

On Tuesday, February 26, I visited with Dr. Gary Chapman, Director of the Christian Leaders Link (the Link). The Link may be unfamiliar to some, but it is a ministry of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board that began in 2005 and exists to offer leadership training for churches, ministers, and laity. I have come to know Gary well through planning training opportunities, and having served as an instructor with the Link. On a personal note, his ministry through the Link serves as encouragement to a group of young pastors who meet and dream with him regularly.

Gary graduated from Southern Seminary in 1978, and returned there later to complete an Ed.D. Though he began vocational ministry in youth and recreation ministries, Gary found his passion in teaching and education ministries. He served much of his vocational career as a Minister of Education before launching the Link in January of 2005.

The goal of discipleship, Gary said, is the process of “spiritual transformation in an individual.” It is about “becoming more Christ-like, becoming more spirit-filled” and leads to a “genuine transformation in the way you think and speak and act.” In his own work, Gary sees the training of leaders as the natural next step on the continuum of discipleship, and reading the ministry of Jesus to the disciples bears that out. They were disciples who learned, grew and became the Apostles, leaders of the early church.

In terms of what is working well in ministries of discipleship, Gary was adamant that “you don’t disciple people en masse,” and so discipleship is taking on more individualized approaches in the midst of small group ministries. This is nothing new according to Gary. He believes “the model was set by Jesus; that was a small group.” He also sees churches successfully being more intentional about “calling out and developing disciples to become leaders” not just in church life, but also spiritual leaders in the other areas of life such as home and the workplace. The church too, will do well learn the kinds of questions people are asking, and leaders within groups of disciples should become comfortable with asking good questions. Churches should also celebrate the work, growth, and accomplishments of these small groups of disciples.

On the horizon for churches that will do well with discipleship, according to Gary, is the use of technology for furthering community, not in a way that technology manages all of community interaction, but becomes another vehicle for interaction. Community is essential component to discipleship, and whatever ways technology can contribute to fostering community ought to be utilized. As I heard in an earlier interview, Gary also agrees that more attention should be paid to connecting Christians in one on one relationship where spiritual friends can mentor each other.

So, as I reflect on my conversation with Gary and his ministry with the Link, here are some questions I am continuing to ponder:
• How are we equipping leaders to ask good questions?
• How are utilizing technology to encourage discipleship and community?
• How are we celebrating the movement of disciples along their journey?

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Discipleship Reflections: Mark 6:7-13, 30-32

This series of blogs, Discipleship Reflections, are a part of an independent study for my Doctor of Ministry studies. Read, enjoy, comment. Thanks for reading.

The sixth chapter of Mark has a couple of important points to consider in understanding the ways that Jesus discipled his twelve. By this point Mark’s Gospel, the disciples were witnesses of several healings and heard a significant amount of Jesus’ teaching and preaching, and this preaching ministry led him back home to Nazareth where his preaching offended those listening. At that point, Jesus was ready to send the disciples to carry out his ministry.

7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

It is important to note how he sent them out. They were sent out in pairs rather than alone. Mark did not provide how they were paired off, but that Jesus sent them out together. When we send others off to minister, especially those early ministry experiences, it is probably best that we send them together. There is support in doing ministry together and a greater joy in carrying out the work of ministry together.

Jesus also empowered his disciples. He did more than simply say “Go.” He transferred authority to them so that they could carry out the kinds of ministry acts that they had seen him do. One of the greatest gifts we can offer to those who are going out to serve is to empower them. I believe the church’s role in helping people experience and express calling is two-fold. We are responsible for creating the kinds of environment in which people perceive some kind of ministry calling. We also are responsible for equipping people to use those gifts. Few of us can transfer any kind of supernatural authority in the way that Jesus did, but we can bless with our encouragement, our promise of prayers, and with proper preparation and equipping before sending them out.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

After an aside telling of John the Baptist’s execution by Herod Antipas, Mark returned to the disciples’ story of their first ministry experiences. Nothing is told about their experiences. All we are told is the disciples returned to Jesus and shared with him what had occurred while they were gone. He invited them into a time of rest and debriefing after these initial experiences. It is unclear how long they had to process their experiences before a crowd began to gather, but it is apparent that this time of reflection was important in their formation. This time seems to have been cut short by the crowd that gathered to be with Jesus, but Jesus made a point of the importance to rest and reflection after busy seasons of ministry.

• How do we prepare, equip, and empower disciples for ministry in the name of Jesus? Are our methods and ways purposeful and meaningful or haphazard at best?
• How are we offering time and space for disciples to reflect on and learn from ministry experiences?

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