By Dr. Bob Blincoe
Dr. Blincoe, what is the most important thing pastors and elders can do to mobilize our congregations for mission?
I’m glad you asked, but maybe it’s best if I don’t give you my opinion, it may put a strain on our relationship.
If I were joking, I would say, “My nephew fell into an upholstery machine. The good news he’s fully recovered.”
. . . . Ok, you’re not joking. You don’t want to tell me the most important thing?
The last time a pastor asked me, and I told what I think is most important, he stood up, reached for his coat and said, “It looks like it will rain; I should be going.”
C’mon, you know I’m not like that. You’re holding out on me.
I wish we knew each other better.
This is exasperating. Tell me or I will stand up and reach for my coat.
Blincoe. I believe church leaders would mobilize ten times as many Christians to go to “the regions beyond” if pastors and elders would remember the story of our Lord and the centurion. Here is what happened:
As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13
The centurion knew his soldiers so well that he sent each on an important mission that fitted the man. The centurion understood his own mission as one of studying his soldiers, training them, testing them, and then directing them, “Go here and do this,” or “Go there and do that.”
A pastor and elders should likewise be more directive. This is the first lesson for church leaders. For the love of God, we are to “shepherd the flock”; our people want to hear the shepherd’s voice, close up and personal.
It is good for a church leader to “mention missions” from the platform. But mentioning missions to the
entire congregation is not mobilizing. Mobilizing languishes because pastors do not know the abilities and “faith” of each “soldier” in their congregation. Do you know pastors who know their congregations so well that they feel the burden of the centurion to actually direct their members?
Of course, the pastor and elders have a biblically excellent way to discern God’s will for their congregation, and this is an advantage that the centurion did not have. Pastors and elders should pray and fast and wait on the Holy Spirit to speak.
In this way church leaders might hear the Holy Spirit say, “Set apart for me this one to go there, and this one to go there.” After hearing, it is time for leaders to do the bold thing.
Pastors, ask this one to consider God’s mission and go “there.” Ask that one to consider going “here.” This voice of the shepherd, humbly and bravely, up close and personal, is the number one thing that needs to be heard today. Believe me, God is calling ten times as many to sell their possessions and go to the regions beyond.
The centurion said he was “a man under authority,” but it is so interesting that he said it like this, “I too am a man under authority.” Wow. Did the centurion know that God in heaven sent Jesus Christ and gave Him all authority?
There is some mystery here. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” God is the sending One. This is the missio dei.
The pastor is “a man under authority.” Church leaders should understand part of their own mission as that of studying their “soldiers,” training them, testing them, and then saying to some of them, with great humility, “I wonder if God is calling you to go here and do this,” or “Go there and do that.”
Dr. Blincoe, do you know any pastors who are as directive as the centurion?
No, not one.
If I were joking, I would say I fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of myself.
. . . Ok, you’re not joking. What makes you think this is the time to make such a controversial proposal? Pastors and church leaders are living through challenging times.
Unfortunately, the challenges in the church today have made us more centered on “M and M
Christianity.” More and More for Me and Mine. This reaction will not save our churches.
Jesus said to those who listened to his conversation with the centurion that a better day is coming as a result of the work of message bearers (alternative term for missionaries), “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Be assured, the unreached peoples will take their places at the feast.
But what of ourselves? Jesus warns the followers that the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. That is why in my opinion the number onething we can do as church leaders is knowing our congregations well enough to send them as message bearers to the regions beyond.