Ministry Happens in Community
“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” -Mark 6:7
Leading up to this passage, Jesus has gone around teaching among the villages. In verse seven, we see that Jesus has gathered his disciples into one place. Of the many people following him, Jesus selects the original twelve, which he appointed as apostles in Mark chapter three. He called the twelve and sent them out “two by two.” This is significant. Jesus is teaching us something about the work of ministry. Jesus could have sent them out one by one and reached 12 different areas with the good news of the kingdom; he could have sent them out one by one and healed twice as many people. But Jesus, in His matchless wisdom, chose to send them out in pairs for several reasons.
First, Jesus sent them out in pairs because it meets the legal standard for reliable testimony. In Deuteronomy 17, a precedent is set that a legal charge must be established on the evidence of two or more witnesses. This has to do with legal conviction, but this also plays in many other charges in the Bible. Evidence is needed to affirm the integrity of any claim, and one man’s word is often never enough. Ask yourself, if you hear an outrageous claim from one person, how likely are you to receive it as truth? But if you have two eyewitnesses to prove the claim, would it be more acceptable to receive the claim?
Second, “two is better than one.” Have you ever heard that phrase? It comes from the Bible. It comes from the wisdom of Solomon. In Ecclesiastes, he wrote, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone. When he falls and has not another to lift him up (Ecc 4:9-10).” This reminds us that ministry is to be accomplished in community. The truth is we need each other. We need each other in the Christian life because we do fall. We all stumble over rocks and trenches that we do not see. Sometimes in the Christian life, we walk in the dark, and we need companionship to hold our hands and pull us along. Other times in the Christian life, we don’t need someone to help us up, as much as we need someone to pick us up and carry us along.
I am reminded of the last chapter of Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and Hopeful face the river of death. On the other side, they can see the Celestial City. As they start to cross the river of death together, Christian begins to sink and cries out, “I am sinking in deep waters! The billows are rolling over my head; all his waves are washing over me!” Hopeful replied, “Take courage, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is firm!” Christian then cried out, “Ah! My friend, the sorrows of death have encompassed me! I shall not see the land which flows with milk and honey!” with that, great darkness and horror fell upon Christian so that he could not see ahead of him. He also lost his senses so that he could neither remember nor talk coherently of any of those sweet refreshments which had been met with along the way of his pilgrimage. But all the words that he spoke still tended to manifest his horror and heart fierce, that he would die in the river and never obtain the entrance at the gate. Hopeful, therefore, labored hard to keep his brother’s head above water. Yes, sometimes Christian almost drowned, but then in a short time, he would surface again half dead. Hopeful would also encourage him to say, “Brother, I see the gate and men standing at the ready to receive us.” Then they both took courage. Christian, therefore, felt firm ground to stand upon and found that the rest of the river was shallow. Thus, they both crossed the river.” This is a powerful story to illustrate the necessity of Christian fellowship for lasting on mission.
Jesus Gives Authority to Those Who Are on a Mission
Jesus gives authority to those whom he sends. This is a reminder that no institution in the world has the right to declare who is fit and unfit for the ministry of the gospel, except Jesus Christ alone. He alone is the one who gives authority to those who are his witnesses. No seminary, no church, no government has the right to determine someone’s fitness for ministry. It is Jesus Christ who grants authority to those who know him. The only qualification that the disciples have to go on mission is their relationship with Jesus. Their relationship with Jesus alone is the standard of who is worthy and not worthy. If you know Jesus and have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you are qualified for the work of ministry.
Seminary and training programs are great for honing skills and teaching us how to rightly divide God’s word. They should not be neglected or looked down upon. We would be remiss to neglect our opportunities in America to receive formal theological training. Formal theology and training help us lead the church. However, no one will stand and answer to seminaries on the last day. But all will answer to Jesus Christ alone, for the authority we have been given in ministry. He who is faithful in little will be faithful in muc. Him who has ears to hear, let him hear.