Mark 3:13–19 NRSV
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
And he appointed twelve . . . to be with him. I think this is where we miss it in today’s typical church discipleship ministries. We are good with appointing people to get involved in the work of the church. We excel at getting people on committees and boards and even ministry teams. We send them out to teach and preach; not so much when it comes to driving out demons. Come to think of it, we can be pretty clear about the necessity of “be[ing] with him,” Jesus, in a personal relationship.
The thing we have lost is this practice of appointing people that they might “be with [us].” If we are following the Holy Spirit’s pattern with respect to making disciples, we will follow Jesus’ example and appoint others to be with us. It sounds audacious and perhaps even prideful. After all, who am I to appoint others to be with me? The big point, however, is in being with me (or you), they are actually with Jesus in me (or you).
This is the purpose of his calling the Twelve to be with him, so they could in turn appoint others to be with them in the same fashion. In fact we wouldn’t be here were it not for this apostolic appointment process proceeding from then until this very day.
Making disciples happens in fellowship. It requires being together over the course of time. Discipleship can’t be reduced to the transfer of information; nor can it be simply going through the right training regime or getting the right education. Making disciples begins with the appointment to be with another person and to enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with other people over a period of time.
Jesus is not calling me to appoint people to be with him. What if he’s actually appointing others to be with himself through me? Through you? It would behoove us to discern who those people may be and invite them to share in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with us.
Discipleship isn’t this program or that small group. It’s a life rich in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit shared in a day-in and day-out ordinary life context with other people.
Being together with him is not a means to another end either. It is the means and the end. Discipleship cultivates a context of holy friendship wherein the authority of Jesus is shared among us for the benefit and blessing of others. Authority is not a transactional reality. It is a community dynamic. Soon Jesus will be sending out these disciples two by two. It’s our discipled relationships lived out in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that create the context for the exercise of kingdom-of-God authority for the love of the world.
So often authority gets couched in terms of enforcement of the law. Jesus turned that on its ear. For Jesus and his followers, authority became the license and empowerment to help people.
While driving through a fairly rough and run-down part of Shreveport, Louisiana, I came across what looked like an oasis. It was some kind of church. The sign said, “The ‘From Bondage to Freedom’ Victory Center.”
Wow! I thought to myself. What would it be like to work there? I could imagine a pastor colleague asking me, “So, where do you serve?” I would reply, “I work down at “The ‘From Bondage to Freedom’ Victory Center,” and you?” He or she might look down at their feet and say, “Uhhh, I work down at First Methodist.”
Friends—we serve at “The ‘From Bondage to Freedom’ Victory Center”! That’s the kind of authority we share in.
Ready to go to work?
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Can you remember a time or season in your life when you found yourself in real fellowship of discipleship? What was that like?
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