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Eternity 117- Itinerant Christian Ministry And The Kingdom Of Heaven

(Matthew 10:5-15 NKJV) These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. {6} "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {7} "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' {8} "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. {9} "Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, {10} "nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. {11} "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. {12} "And when you go into a household, greet it. {13} "If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. {14} "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. {15} "Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

This first ministry journey of the twelve contains many principles that are valid for "apostolic" styles of ministry today:

1. Go to a selected target group and go to the lost sheep not to the saved sheep
2. Keep moving - "as you go, preach".
3. Preach a clear and declarative gospel message.
4. Accompany the message with clear signs of the presence of the kingdom, including the miraculous.
5.. Freely you have received freely give - ministry is not to be charged for.
6. The workers are to be free of financial concerns and are worthy of their food and basic necessities.
7. The gospel is to be preached to the worthy and righteous in the city and associated with those who are of moral standing.
8. The Christian worker is to bring peace and a blessing upon those he stays with and ministers to.
9. The Christian worker is to stay with the one family "until you go out" - not to be unstable in relationships with the community or choosy about accommodation.
10. There is to be a certain amount of finding out about the city "inquire in it who is worthy".
11. Receptivity is important. If the group is unreceptive and hostile, move on.
12. Rejection of the gospel proclaimed with power is not due to a poor messenger but to hard hearts. Thus the rejection of the messenger is the rejection of God and brings doom.

These are good instructions for itinerant ministries and indeed were adopted by the Franciscans and other medieval preaching orders. A well-targeted, mobilized, preaching ministry to the lost that offers the gospel freely while demonstrating Christs's power clearly in word and deed, and which builds good, wise relationships in the community and acts with financial integrity is going to be blessed.

Each of us probably has a part of the above verses which we like to emphasize. The evangelists will say "go to the lost sheep". The charismatic will say "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers", the Baptist will say "preach". The Franciscans will say "freely you have received freely give" and yet others might say "the worker is worthy of his food". However we need to combine ALL these emphases if we are to have wise rules for itinerant ministry.

Jesus knew that the Jews were losing their window of opportunity for salvation, and that their nation would be obliterated in AD 70. They needed the gospel NOW. The Jews were the priority for reasons of theology and reasons of prophetic history. In slightly less than forty years the Jews would reject the gospel and lose their nation. By the very end of the book of Acts the gospel has officially moved from the Jews to Rome:
(Acts 28:25-28 NKJV) So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, {26} "saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; {27} For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."' {28} "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!"

The Gentiles would have 2000 years to hear! So in this urgent window of time a certain people group (the Jews) is losing its chance to hear. Thus it becomes a ministry priority. Today this situation is particularly acute among the disappearing tribal peoples in the Amazon and in Papua New Guinea and inland China (who are often amazingly receptive to the gospel) and to the displaced urban poor in Asian mega-cities. In another 25 years many of these tribes will no longer exist or they will be changed beyond recognition. In another twenty-five years Asia's poor will have largely ceased the massive migration to the cities that makes them open to the gospel and the urban areas themselves will either have likely hardened into tough mean ghettos or undergone urban renewal and become middle-class and materialistic. There are some places that have evangelize NOW written all over them.

Other areas, such as North America, have heard until they are saturated. It now costs on average $1.5 million to increase the US church by one baptized believer. Yet in many tribal areas and among the poor in urban areas of Asia and Africa it costs only one or two thousand dollars per additional baptized believer! Surely the cost effective priority for itinerant ministry should be among the most receptive peoples of the world?

One lst comment. The evangelization of Muslims is a difficult issue as they clearly reject the proclamation of the gospel and we should perhaps be wiping the dust off our feet and moving on. Or should we? I sense that the time for Muslim evangelization has come. But we will only reach them with sacrificial love and the demonstration of spiritual power. I personally know of an area (which I cannot disclose) where a single healing miracle has led to over 100 Muslims becoming believers. When the Kingdom comes with power people believe!

Take a look at your ministry compared with Jesus' instructions above. What can you learn? What can you apply in your setting? How can you minister in a way that gives people a clear proclamation of the wonder of the Kingdom of Heaven?