Each year God gives me one or two lines of thought that are added into my slow growth into wisdom. This year two verses have been thrust into my thinking. Matthew 10:27Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. Luke 12:3Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.
Both verses are given in the context of taking the message of Christ’s gospel to a lost world that is resistant. Both verses are given with a follow up statement encouraging the disciples not to fear what has power to kill them but has no power over their eternal destinies.Both are followed by a declaration of the Father’s loving interest in their lives.
In Matthew 10:27 the Lord Jesus sums up the manner of his discipling ministry. He taught his disciples in the darkness of private or hidden conversation and he limited the scope of his instruction largely to their individual ears. Jesus scaled back his audience to those he might teach around the retiring fire of the night and those who might listen to his instruction in a small inner room of the house at the end of the day. Jesus is acknowledging that his discipling ministry seemed small in scope. But then he tells his disciples that this approach will result in their being able to amplify that message in the bright light of the day and on the broad housetops of the world. It is a promise to them that their work would be expansively impactful.
I think the disciples, at first, mistook the vision Jesus was giving them of their future ministries. To their way of thinking success in the ministry of making disciples would put them before ever growing crowds of people who would gather under their influence and message. Most of us have this same misunderstanding of how our discipling ministries should go. Pastors usually think that success in ministry is represented by how many attend the services of their local church. They think these words of Jesus indicate that their success will be reflected in the size of the crowd they influence from week to week. For this reason, the limits placed upon our ministries by Covid has been particularly discouraging to us pastors. To put it crassly we have been taught to keep score of the success of our ministries by the size of our congregations. But Covid has dismissed the crowd and our score card has been taken away and torn up. We are waiting, most of us, for the game to be played once again and ourselves to begin re-amassing the crowds we will teach and instruct each week. We are waiting to be given a new score card and to play the same old game.
But in Luke 12:3 the Lord once again goes back to his statement of Matthew 10:27. This time he speaks to the disciples as they stand before what is likely the largest crowd ever gathered to hear Jesus. They must have been quite excited at this opportunity to gain a greater audience. Jesus’s acknowledgement of the crowd is only for the purpose of warning his disciples before it. They are not be distracted from their mission. Appealing to the crowd will bring upon them the rotting spore of hypocrisy. BEWARE of seeking to influence the crowd, he tells them. They will influence you to become a hypocrite and one day all hypocrisy will be exposed. This is the meaning of Christ’s words in the first two verses of Luke 12. Then Jesus tells his disciples the secret to amplifying the gospel message into the bright light of day and out from the roof tops to as many as possible. “You will teach a few around the retiring fires of the night and you will instruct those listening in the inner room at the end of the day.” The process by which the gospel goes out into the light of day and out from the roof tops in broadcast? It is taught faithfully person to person and life to life. Beware of keeping score before the crowds. Be faithful to speak God’s truth to others before the evening fire and in the small rooms of fellowship.
Covid 19 may be God’s judgment upon a church committed to amassing crowds and advertising them as their success. The approach has made us promoters and posers and exposed us to the temptation of hypocrisy as we seek to maintain our poses and promote our good cause. God’s judgments are merciful. They mean to correct us. God is limiting our options in ministry so that we may get back to the instruction Jesus gave his disciples. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it (Matthew 10:12-13a). We are to go through the oikos, the private lives of people, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not to count the seats in the pew but the hearts God places in our hands. The numbers will seem few but the Lord Jesus has promised that through this humble way of disciple making that the gospel will go out in increasing amplification. Do you have faith to believe this? Then let us see Covid as our opportunity to renew ourselves and call our fellow pastors into the work of oikos evangelism and discipleship and count our successes in the relationships where we teach a few to teach a few more.
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