Let’s review progress
Over the past few months I have been looking at the development of a Serving Profile to help people find a fulfilling and fruitful place of service in the church. Of the seven components that make up this profile – Skills and Talents, Spiritual Gifts, Calling, Heart’s Desire, Temperament, Time, Spiritual Maturity – I have so far addressed the first two. These are the main ones that define what a person ‘brings to the table’ ie those features which indicate what contribution a person may make to a ministry through their natural or spiritual aptitudes. The remaining five will not take as many weeks!
We will now turn our attention to matters which affect how these aptitudes may be applied effectively and appropriately to specific ministries. First, Calling.
After Jesus sent the disciples out two by two on their first ministry trip (Mk 6:7-13) they came back on a high! They had seen the sick healed, demons being cast out and, perhaps, many saved. They were tumbling over themselves with good stories that they wanted to share with Jesus and their friends.
I am sure that Jesus was thrilled to see their excitement and no doubt felt an inner joy and satisfaction that they had proved to be good learners. I wonder where they were when they all met up again? Perhaps, in their absence, Jesus had himself taken the opportunity to mingle with the crowd in the local town. Or maybe he had been sitting under a tree, watching the passers by. Wherever they were, clearly they were not alone for Jesus decided that they should go away to a ‘desolate place …. for many were coming and going’ (Mk 6:31).
So they boarded a boat and set sail along the coastline of the lake; perhaps Jesus had a favourite cove in mind where they could sit and relax. But the crowds saw him going and the quiet cove was anything but quiet when they ran the boat up onto the beach.
At this point Jesus had a dilemma. He had made a commitment to the disciples and yet he looked on the crowd and saw them as ‘sheep without a shepherd’ (Mk 6:34). What should he do? Was the enemy throwing a ‘red herring’ across his path to stop him continuing to instruct the disciples? No! Because he had a deep sense of calling he felt peace to stop his intended course of action and teach the people. This calling was embedded deeply within his soul, a reference against which he could make the decisions of life. Where did it come from?
I like to think of the familiar passage in Isaiah 61:1-3, which is often called the Kingdom manifesto, as Jesus’ job description (which also applies to his body, the church). Prophetically Isaiah looked down the tunnel of time and saw Jesus being sent to earth with the express purpose of bringing good news to the poor (which includes you and me), of binding up the broken hearted, of setting the captives free and so on. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians we find that Jesus willingly embraced this commission, counting not equality with God a thing to be grasped but being willing to take on the form of a servant (Phil 2:6,7).
So, when there was the possibility of a ‘red herring’ that was clearly not the case. He knew his call was to minister to those who were as sheep without a shepherd. So he put his previous plans on hold and sought to bring them good news.
Next time we will consider how this principle applies to us.