When Ministry Gets Messy

When it is time to do something in ministry and there is a disagreement on what to do or how to do it, how do we work through it? If we are really allowing the spirit to guide us, will we all be happy or at least at peace with the decision, with the outcome?

Acts 15:36-40

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

Two men who worked together well for many years here have a dispute over the reliability and value to the ministry of a third man. Perhaps Mark was prone to homesickness. Or fear. Or he simply was not as committed as he should be. In any case Paul felt he would be detrimental, an unnecessary drag on the mission. Barnabas, on the other hand, felt that it was important to enable, encourage and disciple Mark by taking him back to the mission field. Who was right about what was best for the mission?



The great commission in Matthew tells us to make disciples and teach them to obey Jesus’ words. But perhaps we need to understand a bit more of what that involves. So let’s see what light Luke can shed. Here is what we read in Luke 24: 46-48:

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Is it possible to preach the good news without preaching repentance? That seems to be the style these days. But that is not how the early church was built. Listen to the words of Peter in Acts 2, through which 3000 were added to the church:

you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross…”Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.


And shortly thereafter the number of men in the church increased to 5000 when Peter addressed the crowd in Acts 3:

You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this… Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord

Pretty confrontational. American culture is not big on confrontation, but I believe we need to be more willing to call sin sin, and help people understand that cold reality, in order for them to understand fully their need to repent. Only if we do so will they be able to fully grasp the magnitude of God’s grace and love. Let’s take the whole message to the world, as Peter did – so that no one will miss it.

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