Sent to Serve

by David Daniels on

Devotionals 6 min read
Mark 6:6–13

The Covid pandemic left an indelible mark on the church. Almost overnight, congregations were forced into isolation and weekly worship services shifted to an online format. Unable to socially distance, small groups resorted to virtual gatherings, computer screens serving as a poor substitute for biblical community. As restrictions decreased and eventually lifted, there was a flurry of conversations around religious liberty, civil disobedience, the nature of the church, and what it means for Christians to love their neighbors.

But, while Covid challenged our meeting, it never changed our mission. Even when the church cannot gather and perform many of the functions it enjoys, it can still accomplish its primary purpose.

In his excellent book The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary, A. R. Hay writes about God’s purpose for His people, “The Lord founded the church as a missionary organization. It was not an ecclesiastical organization with missionary endeavor as a department of its work. Its primary purpose was missionary and all its members engaged in the propagation of the gospel.” In other words, “mission” was never intended to be one of the things a church does; it’s the one thing we do.

Imagine a firefighter commenting, “Rescue is one of the things I do” or a chef saying, “Preparing meals is one of the things I do.” It would be a confusing statement, no doubt, because we know that rescue is fundamental to firefighting and meal preparation is fundamental to being a chef. Everything else each one may do is secondary—supporting the main thing.

For the people of God, mission is the main thing.

The next passage in Mark’s Gospel is a turning point. Jesus had been preaching and healing and exorcising demons and He was about to pass the mission baton to His disciples. The divine commission is recorded rather matter-of-factly: “Calling the Twelve to Him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits” (Mark 6:7). They were about to realize their purpose as disciples. They were being sent to serve.

There are several timeless mission principles we glean from this episode. First, we must start with Jesus. Before He sent the 12 out, Jesus called them to Himself. There is a correspondence between savoring Christ and serving Christ. The more we abide in Christ, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), the more we are moved to love our neighbor as our ourselves. Because we catch the heart of Jesus.

John expresses it this way in the opening of his letter to the church:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:1-2)

The disciples were not peddling a secondhand story, but a firsthand discovery. They had been with Jesus, watching Him, listening to Him, learning from Him, loving Him. And their mission was simply the overflow of that personal experience.

Second, Jesus urged them to partner with others. Mission is most effective in community, God’s people serving together. Ecclesiastes 4:9 rightly notes that “Two are better than one” and lists the personal benefits of community. But the missional benefits ought not to be overlooked. We need others to encourage us, pray for us, resource our work, strengthen us, and advise us. Whatever God calls you do, ask “Who can I bring with me?” Go together.

Third, we must trust God’s supply. Jesus gives specific instructions, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic” (Mark 6:8-9). Some think Jesus may have been wishing to lighten the load of His disciples so they could be more nimble, moving from place to place. But it seems more likely that Jesus was positioning His followers to trust Him as they traveled. Gospel ministry is an exercise in faith and, as we go, we must trust God to supply. We trust Him to open doors of opportunity (Colossians 4:3). We trust Him to give us the right and compelling words to say (Luke 12:12). We trust Him to change the hearts of hearers (John 16:8). And, we trust Him to give the gift of faith to others so that they may respond to our Gospel message (Ephesians 2:8). The whole work of the Gospel is the work of God and we must trust Him more and more along the way.

Fourth, Jesus’ disciples must prepare for challenges. It is significant that this commissioning text is sandwiched between Jesus’ rejection (Mark 6:1-6) and John’s execution (Mark 6:14-29). The Gospel of the Kingdom invites conflict. This is why Jesus warned the 12 that there would be times when they would be unwelcomed (6:11).

Though most Christians in the United States experience very little, if any, persecution, we must keep in mind that the mission of God invites mayhem from the enemy. The Gospel is spiritual warfare and Jesus’ disciples must be spiritually prepared.

Finally, we must aim for the Gospel message. As the disciples went out, they performed miracles of healing and liberating (6:13). But, their main focus was not the tasks, but the truth. The works that Jesus performed were only to validate the Word Jesus preached. We are sent into our neighborhoods to “do good,” but only as a platform to deliver the Good News. We urgently want others to hear truth, repent, and believe in Jesus. This demands that we speak as we serve.

Is Jesus’ main thing your main thing? Start by savoring Christ more. Come to Him so that you have something to share about Him. Broach the topic of mission with other believers. Imagine where and how God might employ you. Trust Him. Open your mouth. Join Him in mission. Do what you were made to do.

About the Author

Dr. David Daniels (D. Min. Dallas Theological Seminary, M. Div. Denver Seminary) is Lead Pastor of Central Bible Church and author of Next Step Church, Next Step Discipleship, Next Step JournalWonder, and An Unexpected King.