This is the fourth post in our series about missional ministry. You can read my prior posts by following the links:
Today we’re talking about the relationship between missional ministry and vulnerability. I’ve been centering my thoughts on the narrative of Jesus’ sending of the seventy-two, which is found in Luke 10:1-23.
As he is commissioning the seventy-two to be his ambassadors of the kingdom, Jesus inserts a strange sentence in verse 3,
Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
In some respects, these are startling words. Their frankness strikes us as we take them in. What is Jesus’ point?
Jesus is naming the reality both of the kingdom of God and of the mission of God. Both are marked by the profound paradox that God uses the marginal and the weak to transform, change, and overwhelm the powerful.
In the case of the Old Testament, God deliberately chooses a people for Himself who are not numerically large or militarily powerful. He elects them so that they will be a blessing for the other nations, a people dedicated to Himself. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is shown to be great because of God’s power rather than it’s own.
Move forward to the New Testament. In Christ, the church is elected to be the new Israel. A new community united to God by the Gospel of the Kingdom. Again, God chooses a marginal group of people and through their weakness God does great things. In fact, through the ministry of the early church the entire Roman culture and Empire became “Christianized.”
In many ways we are in the place of the earliest Christians. Our commission is to re-evangelize Western culture–a culture that has moved beyond its Christian moorings. And again, God will use a marginal people to perform a wondrous mission.
This places Christians, once more, into a position of vulnerability. We’re in the midst of rediscovering the risk-taking, vulnerability of pursuing the mission of God in a post-Christendom world. Why? Because vulnerability is central to the Gospel and central to its outworking in community. We are, as Jesus said, sheep going out into the midst of wolves. Lord, help us.