We have friends that are going to be with family members that are not Christians this Christmas. Some of their comments lead me to believe that they expect to feel the pressure of being a Christian in an unwelcoming environment. You know the feeling: like lambs led to the slaughter.
The other day when I was reading my Bible, but not particularly thinking about the situations my friends would encounter, I read the story of Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples. He sent them ahead of him to the places where he intended to go. He told them this was a “harvest” situation and to pray earnestly “to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:1-12). He gave them specific instructions about what to bring, where to stay, with whom to stay and what to do when they got there. When the disciples returned, they were filled with joy and stories about what happened. The most notable story was that they experienced the dark powers of demons “subject to [them] in [Christ’s] name!” Talk about thrilling! What could be better than knowing the powers of darkness were no match for the authority of Jesus in their service? Well, Jesus told them what was better: “Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Lambs will always be weak and vulnerable and led to the slaughter, even when they are fully dependent on Jesus’ name for power to serve the kingdom of God. And no matter what happens, your name has a permanence of place.
As I read the rest of the chapter that tells the story of Jesus’ making his way to Jerusalem “to be taken up,” it occurred to me that the whole chapter was instructive for the prayer life of lambs who will go into hospitable and inhospitable places where Christ is to be magnified.
Here are ten things lambs can pray for as they go to those place:
- Pray to be a faithful laborer because there are never enough of us.
- Pray for direction to places where peaceful people live.
- Pray for the sick and those oppressed by the powers of darkness for healing and deliverance.
- Pray for personal protection – you’re a lamb after all in need of the Shepherd’s presence at all times. Wolves are everywhere!
- Pray that you keep the right perspective – it’s not about demons being subject to you, it’s about your name written in heaven. Rest in that.
- Pray for opportunities to be a lamb-like neighbor. Show mercy at all times – even when you don’t feel like it.
- Pray for time to experience the “good portion” of being a lamb at sitting at Jesus’ feet.
- Pray to be convinced about Satan’s defeat and that the Father has revealed to you his gracious will.
- Pray to bring the kingdom of God near wherever you are.
- Pray for the same determination that Jesus had to do the Father’s will.
Lately, I’ve been wondering about the “thing” that authenticates the mission of the church. I want to know what the church I serve can do to reach our community with the message of Christ. Was there some method we were missing? Some program to “bring them in”? What events might we do to attract people to our church. We have a beautiful building in a spectacular location with a view of ht Rocky Mountains.
Well, I thought an answer shouldn’t be too hard to determine because Jesus said it and prayed for it — unity among Christians who really love the way Jesus loved.
Then while studying John 17, the great “high priestly prayer” of Jesus, I came across this comment by pastor Bruce Milne and author of the Message of John (from The Bible Speaks Today series edited by the late John Stott). Milne’s comment quite literally “wowed” me.
[The mission] of the gospel has two hands. The ‘first hand’ is that of proclamation, the communicating to the world of the revelation of the FAther in the Son, climaxed by his self-sacrifice for the world’s sin . . . . But the mission has a ‘second hand.’ It is visible as well as verbal, relational as well as audible.
Evangelism is a community act. It is the proclamation of the church’s relationships as well as its convictions. The preacher is only the spokesperson of the community. The gospel proclaimed from the pulpit is either confirmed, and hence immeasurably enhanced, or it is contradicted, and hence immeasurably weakened, by the quality of the relationships in the pews. In this sense every Christian is a witness. Every time we gather together we either strengthen or weaken the evangelistic appeal of our church by the quality of our relationships with our fellow church members.
The biggest barriers to effective evangelism according to the prayer of Jesus are not so much outdated methods, or inadequate presentations of the gospel, as realities like gossip, insensitivity, negative criticism, jealousy, backbiting, an unforgivng spirit, a ‘root of bitterness,’ failure to appreciate others, self-preoccupation, greed, selfishness and every other form of lovelessness. These are the squalid enemies of effective evangelism which render the gospel fruitless and send countless thousands into eternity without a Saviour. ‘The glorious gospel of the blessed God,’ which is committed to our trust, is being openly contradicted and veiled by the sinful relationships within the community which is commissioned to communicate it. We need look no further to understand why the church’s impact on the community is frequently so minimal in spite of the greatness of our message. We are fighting with only one hand! (pages 250-51).
Like I said, Wow!