We often down-grade the job we are asking people to do. 'It won't be that difficult' we say. Or, 'Just on a temporary basis.'
Luke 10:1-20 is a favourite passage of mine. Jesus sends out the seventy two. According to Luke, Jesus told his workers he was sending them out like lambs among wolves (there are so many biblical injunctions to hate the Wolves it is untrue). He told them the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few. He told them to take no sandals and then later reprimanded them for failing to bear in mind they had the authority to trample snakes and scorpions. One tough gig. A skeleton workforce, a dangerous opposition and insufficient protective clothing. The dragons would say, 'I'm out.'
Wimps. I'm fed up of people thinking that the Christian life has an opt-out clause for the slightly-poorlys, the bit-busys and the don't feel-like-it-todays. It's meant to feel tough. It's meant to be full of rejection. You're not supposed to trust in anyone but the one who sent you - the sandals are a metaphor see. You're meant to spend your days with a vague feeling that you're lamb and there's mint sauce on the breeze.
Yesterday someone in permanent pain came to church, grimaced through the sermon and left a bit early. That person gets it. Hurts, but knows that 'nothing will harm you.'
We prayed for an hour every weekday at 6.00 a.m. as a church, throughout August, preparing for a big vision and a new ministry. I asked someone who doesn't normally do early mornings why they came. 'Because it's difficult,' was the answer. That person gets it. Tired, but knows that 'names are written in heaven.'
Here's a challenge. It's to my local readers first but if it's a help to any others of you out there than have it too. Forget who the co-workers are; you only need one to go two by two. Forget the equipment and the training. It's a big harvest field and our job is to be in it. There will be something useful to do there. No more excuses. If you were sent by Jesus, albeit in a round-about way, you're trained.
I posted on Facebook this morning that I needed encouraging. Someone phoned me to do just that and in passing made me realise I'd made a mistake in my sermon yesterday (I'll explain on Trendleblog). I was quite cheered by the thought that I didn't need encouragement, that was a bit selfish, just to get on with the work and do better next time. What did I expect, a lottery win?
The reality for Christian ministry is that people will be ever seeing but never perceiving, ever hearing but never understanding. Isaiah knew that, several centuries before Jesus. Normal is people not getting it. The two examples of those who got it, above, are immensely cheering for me. This is church. This is where I heal my hurts (good line, paraphrased, thanks Maxi Jazz).
It's not meant to be easy. If it was we'd feel we'd done it ourselves. When someone new gets it, rejoice. It will make up for the many who caused you to shake the dust from your bare feet. Disappointed? Let down? Frustrated? Good. Let's go again.