Monday, May 03, 2010

Forgettable or Famous?

[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church entitled "Learning from Jesus' Interns". Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

In Mark 6, Jesus sends out His apostles two by two to preach in many villages. This mission is not a break in the work He had been doing to that point. In fact, the sending of these men is an extension of His ministry. His words became their words...His works became their works...His authority became their authority.

This is how faithful ministry continues today. Our words must be God's words. The work we do must be the work He has given us to do. Any display of supernatural power in our ministries must find its source in the One who taught us, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). Our faithfulness does not guarantee mass acceptance of the gospel, but one thing is certain...if we are not faithful to the gospel, then the danger is that men and women may accept a gospel which is no gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-7).

Thinking about these men as they went out to preach, three words come to mind: ordinary, unlikely, and forgettable. In choosing these men to be his twelve, Jesus certain chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). It is the third of these words (i.e.- forgettable) that has stuck in my mind this week. The list of apostles in 3:12-19 contains names that, apart from lists such as these, are almost completely forgotten.

The reason this sticks with me is that we live in a culture of fame. The line of thought seems to be that if we are going to do anything of lasting value for the kingdom of God, then it will surely draw the eye of many people. Being forgottable is unacceptable. The problem with this is that most of God's servants are in forgettable locations with forgettable has been this way throughout history. Of course, God sees and knows these faith men and women, and He will surely reward them. However, they are forgettable in a celebrity-driven culture...they aren't on Christian radio, in Christian magazines, or widely published.

Now, before you hit the 'comment' button and begin writing about your favorite radio pastor or Christian author, keep reading. I do think that God graciously exalts certain men and women in order to encourage and evangelize a wider audience. I have been greatly helped by several men whose ministries have been blessed in this way. However, it is deceiving to think that this is normal or, even worse, that fame is any real way of measuring success.

Even while we read the New Testament, we must be reminded that while God had certain men who were known far and wide (e.g.- Paul, Peter, Barnabas, etc.), most of those who were part of these first churches were people whose names are unknown to us. Here's a name you may or may not know...Tertius. Does that sound familiar? I have to be honest, it's a name I have forgotten more than once in my life. Yet, this man was used by God in an amazing way. He's forgettable, but the echo of his work still impacts us today. How so? Romans 16:22 indicates that he was Paul's scribe, taking down the letter to the Romans...yes, Romans! You may never have known his name, but you didn't need to in order for his work to be significant.

The normal way that God's work is done is through forgettable people in local churches. That's the plain and simple truth, and since this is God's primary way of achieving His purposes, then we must be content to do His will in His way. We will most likely never be famous...our pastors will most likely never be on the radio, on TV, or published. We won't be famous, but we must be faithful.