When I took a homiletics (i.e., preaching) class in seminary, I heard it said that a good preacher could preach the Bible’s genealogies. I hope that’s not true, because yours truly will not be preaching a sermon series on the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles any time soon!
Nevertheless, last Sunday evening I had a moment of insight into a passage of scripture that I’ve always read—thoughtlessly—as if it were a genealogy: the call of the disciples in Mark 3:13-19. The insight comes by way of Asbury Theological Seminary professor Joseph Dongell, who created Seedbed’s new Biblical Journey Bible study on Mark’s gospel. In verses 13-14, Mark writes:
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
Dr. Dongell observes from these verses that the main task of a disciple is not to go out and do something; it’s to be something. Disciples are those who are desired by Jesus, who come to Jesus, and who are appointed, first, in order to be with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus, therefore, not the things we do for Jesus, is our top priority.
We are, Dongell said, not God’s “workforce,” but the “being-with-Jesus force.”
How easy it is to lose sight of this!
As I told my class on Sunday, I’ve had to attend many seminars and read many books over the years related to “church leadership” as part of my pastoral training. One thing they all have in common is this almost Pelagian emphasis on the things that we must do in order to be successful pastors: there’s always some eight-point plan, or four-point program, or five-step process to follow. I promise no one has ever told us that we need to spend more time praying or listening to God’s Word. Being with Jesus never comes up.
Why? It can’t be because all of us pastors are already so great at that part of the job that seminar leaders and authors can afford to take it for granted! I know from painful experience, as I’ve preached before, that we can be so busy “doing church” that we pastors face the temptation to become professional Bible readers and professional pray-ers. God forbid!