With Him

In Mark 3:13-15, we see Jesus appointing the twelve.  As the text states, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve, that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (NIV 2011)  As we observe the reasons for this calling out, our attention is often drawn to the two-fold ministry of preaching and casting out demons.  These, of course, are two activities in which Jesus himself engages.  The apostles are appointed to participate in and further the ministry of Jesus!  As we apply this story to our own experience, we find that we are given the same opportunity.  Though in different ways than the apostles, we also share in and further the ministry of Jesus as we carry the word and minister to the oppressed.  In this light, the calling of Jesus on our lives centers around what we do on behalf of Jesus and the kingdom.

To stop here, though, is to miss another extremely important part of the story.  The apostles are indeed appointed to further Jesus’ ministry, but they are called for another purpose as well: “to be with him.”  Note that this reason for their calling comes before the others and is certainly of equal importance.  In fact, Jesus will not send his disciples out in ministry for another three chapters.  They must first be with him before they go for him.  And after they go for him, they will return to be with him yet again.

Ultimately, this call to be with makes a lot of sense.  The apostles must be with the one to whom they will testify after the resurrection.  They must learn the content of their preaching from him.  They must observe his ministry before taking part.  All of these are very practical necessities that demand being with the one who calls.

But the fulfillment of these practical necessities is not the only thing we see happening to the apostles as they are with Jesus, as if they must simply observe Jesus’ preaching and teaching and go do the same.  No, we see much more transpiring in this with relationship.  The apostles are pulled and stretched, they are challenged and rebuked.  The apostles are formed by their relationship with Jesus.  This forming will enable them to embody the kingdom that they will proclaim.  And we can also posit that the disciples are simply with Jesus.  They fellowship and break bread with him.  The disciples are not called to be mere workhorses for the kingdom.  They are called to fellowship with the king himself!

Just as it is important for us to hear the call to kingdom activity as we listen to this story, so it is also important for us to hear the call to simply be with the king.  In this, we hear the call to simple fellowship, and we learn that we are worth more to Jesus than only what we can do for him.  And we also hear the call to formation, for it is often in being with Jesus that we are challenged and formed and thereby come to embody the kingdom that we proclaim.

In the end, I’m not sure that there is any one prescription for being with our Lord, though I would suggest prayer and spiritual reading as foundational disciplines for relationship (even these will be pursued in various ways).  More than the how, which can differ from person to person, I want to stress the call.  We are called to be with Jesus.  And as we are with Jesus, we find that our activity for Jesus flows from this relationship with the king.  Let us, then, rest in the presence of the king.  Let us hear his words anew.  And let us revel in the privilege of being with the one who calls and saves.

The Mission of God

We often think of mission as something that happens “over there.”  In a sense, this is not a bad definition.  God does, after all, call missionaries to take the gospel to far-away places, and it is our privilege to support missionaries in this endeavor.  But the definition can’t stop there.  No, it must extend far past the work of the few to the work of the many.  Mission is the vocation of the whole church, not just a segment of it.  But even this understanding of mission is not grand enough.  A dynamic, full-bodied understanding of mission must reach past the few to the many and then even to God himself.

The theological parlance for this wider missional understanding is found in the term Missio Dei (Latin for “Mission of God”), and this shift in focus from us to God is significant.  As Jenson and Wilhite note in their book The Church, “This is not a mission from God, but the mission of God.  Where the first emphasizes divine sponsorship of our program … the second emphasizes a divine program in which we graciously have been included.”[1]  God is on the move, and we are caught up in his movement.

So just how are God’s people caught up in God’s mission?  I would suggest two ways.  First, we are the recipients of God’s mission.  This is seen clearly in our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  At one time, we were estranged from God because of our sin, but God has reconciled us to himself in Christ.  Not only this, he now makes us new as we are transformed by the Holy Spirit and walk in the ways of the kingdom.  We are first recipients of God’s mission because he saves us!

Second, we become instruments of God’s mission.  Like Paul, who called himself Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), we have become witnesses to God’s saving action in the world.  At times we are given opportunity to speak the message of salvation to those around us.  Always, though, we are called to live the message.  As Saint Francis of Assisi reportedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  As Evangelicals and Baptists, we believe that words are very often necessary.  After all, “faith comes from hearing the message.” (Romans 10:17; NIV)  At the same time, the quote above calls our attention to an important truth: the spoken word of the gospel should not be divorced from the lived life of the gospel.  In an importance sense, our lives are sermons in themselves!  How is this so?  Because God is working in us, transforming us through the work of the Holy Spirit and leading us in the ways of the kingdom.  And as he does, our transformed lives become signs to those around us of what God is doing in the world!

Of course, being an instrument of God’s mission can be intimidating.  After all, we’re not perfect and often fall short of the mark.  But perfection isn’t the point.  Rather, responsive obedience to God’s leading and working is the key, and here is where things get interesting.  As we welcome God’s work into our lives and are made new, we continue to be recipients of God’s mission, and our continued reception forms us into useful instruments of the same mission.  We receive and further the mission of God, and it turns out that these roles are more intertwined than we may have thought.  For our formation into the image of Christ has a missional aspect in itself, and as we walk with God, we are caught up into his beautiful movement toward the world.


[1] Matt Jenson and David Wilhite, The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed (New York: T&T Clark International, 2010), 155.

A Disciple’s Song

I will follow you wherever You lead
Carry my cross, bow at Your feet
I will walk in Your ways
And seek Your face
I’ll learn to love You and walk in Your grace

I’ll cry out to You
I’ll wait for You in the still and silence
I’ll live my life for You
I live my life for Your glory
I give myself to You

I will walk when I grow weary
I will walk despite the pain
I will follow You wherever you lead
To see Your kingdom come on this earth and in me

I’ll cry out to You
I’ll wait for You in the still and silence
I’ll live my life for You
I live my life for Your glory
I give myself to You

Give Me A Vision

Rescue me, Father, from visions of self
That darken my eyes to Your ways
From visions of grandeur, from visions of wealth
That so often guide me astray

Call my devotion to higher planes
Teach me to know Your will
Strengthen my spirit that so often wanes
In me your fervor instill

Give me a vision that’s worthy of You
That calls down your kingdom, that is built on the truth
A vision that’s worthy to give myself to
Give me strength to obey

Raise me up, Father, above where I dwell
That I may see as You see
Help me to step beyond myself
That more than I am I may be

Call my devotion to higher planes
Teach me to know Your will
Strengthen my spirit that so often wanes
In me your fervor instill

Give me a vision that’s worthy of You
That calls down Your kingdom, that is built on the truth
A vision that’s worthy to give myself to
Give me strength to obey