“One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names: Simon (whom he named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).” Luke 6:12-16

For some reason, I tend to forget that Jesus had a large number of disciples before he called forth the twelve apostles. I guess I’ve seen too many movies that began with the birth narratives, baptism of Jesus by John, temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, calling of the Apostles… wait a minute, we missed something. Jesus had already announced his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, been rejected there, preached, traveled, performed a significant number of healings (including a favored story in youth ministry of the paralytic lower through the ceiling by his four friends), cast out demons, calls disciples, drawn huge crowds of followers, and then, after all this, “went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night” and called twelve to be apostles from among a crowd of followers. Then the mission moved to another level beginning with teaching contained in the Sermon on the Mount. These apostles (other than Judas Iscariot) would be the very ones who would take Jesus’ message to the world.

Our faith today is the result of this decision by Jesus to move his ministry to another level and empower leadership in others. Three years later, the resurrected Jesus breathes his Holy Spirit on these same apostles, gathered behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. (John 20:22) “Peace be with you” were Jesus’ first words to them. He repeats this and adds, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Out of fear and darkness emerges a group of leaders who take on the powers and principalities of the world and overcome brutal evil with the living gospel of Christ.

Our opportunity to share this same message, “once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3) and delivered to us through the direct and indirect actions of these apostles – passing the message on from generation to generation – these leaders who were chosen by Jesus from among possibly thousands of other disciples. By being with Jesus, they were transformed from disciples who learn into apostles who teach. A disciple is a learner who follows. An apostle is a learner who follows and also leads.

So now, we are challenged. How do we lead? How do we empower the “Adults Who Empower”? How do we continue a legacy that has been passed on to us? How do we transform disciples into apostles? How do we form missional communities that change the world?

We invite fellow disciples to a deeper commitment. Contained in the parable of the King’s wedding feast, Jesus remarks, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) We extend the call and see who God is leading forward. We observe how they respond. We pray, maybe even all night, and ask some to move into positions of greater responsibility and authority. In ministry leadership, God puts us all in a place of making the decision about who to invite to the next level of service. It is all part of transforming disciples into apostles. It is essential for the perpetuation of the mission and the spread of the gospel.

In YFC Deaf Teen Quest, we have a national ministry team of seventeen leaders. These individuals exhibit passion, commitment, desire to serve Christ, unique gifts and vision. They are called to empower other leaders. The national team has been asked to take on matters that affect the entire mission of YFC Deaf Teen Quest. You can see a list of these leaders by clicking HERE.

Over the past decade, we prayed, we asked, and each one responded. What these leaders do, in addition to their ministry in their local areas, is essential. None are seeking accolades (and most will be embarrassed by my words here) but this is a special group of your colleagues who serve quietly, self-sacrificially, and in the midst of busy, often overwhelmed lives. I praise God they have responded affirmatively to my invitation to move their commitments to a deeper level.

So my challenge to ALL the leaders of this mission is: go back and read carefully what Jesus did and how he did it. He is our model and mentor through his Holy Spirit. Who within your circle of influence needs to be given the opportunity to take more responsibility? Who will rise to the challenge? Pray and see who you sense God is calling. Ask and listen. Pray and challenge. Stay sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and be willing to take risks on disciples who seem to be the ones God is calling to deeper responsibilities. Help open some doors.

Many may be called but few respond and even fewer are chosen. Many will remain faithful disciples (much of the crowd continued to follow and adore Jesus; this is a wonderful thing) but some will be called, and transformed, into those who lead and empower others to lead. Who do you know who simply needs an opportunity, an “ask”, to consider a deeper level of responsibility? Who can come alongside you, be mentored by you, and develop into a called and capable leader? Who do you know who needs to be transformed from a disciple into an apostle?

 

Comments? Bob Ayres

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