Here Matthew describes the process and method of Jesus' missional training of his twelve disciples:
- Selection ("he called to him his twelve disciples"): The first step in the training of missional leadership training is selection. Jesus called many more than twelve to be his disciples. In fact, in Luke chapter 10 we read there were seventy others that he sent out beside the twelve. But out of the many disciples that had chosen to follow Him, Jesus selected twelve for his missional training program. His main mission over the next 3 years of ministry before he was crucified was to raise up twelve missional leaders who would continue his ministry after he died and rose from the dead. On the eve of his death, he prayed this prayer: "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Jesus did not train everyone who came to Him but he selected these twelve men for special training as the foundation for the future movement that would transform the world. The selection principle: less is more.
- Clear Mission ("gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction"): All twelve men knew why Jesus called them--it was not just to be somebody but to do something. As a missional leadership trainer, Jesus clearly defines the goal of his training: authority and power to cast out demons and heal the sick. It was a very "hands-on" on-the-job training program. The training method is learning-by-doing, not by sitting in classrooms with pen and paper. Unfortunately, many theological schools and seminaries are modeled on Greeks' philosophical schools rather than Hebrews' discipleship methodology. No one can sign on to Jesus' missional training program without getting their hands dirtied.
- Qualifications ("The names of the twelve apostles are these"): Some wisecrack has suggested that if today's head-hunting agency were to look at the CVs of the twelve disciples, they would have rejected all as uneducated and brutish except for Judas Iscariot because of his financial acumen! Jesus spent a whole night in prayer before he decided who he would invite to be part of his missional training program. If we look at the names, we will have realized that four were fishersmen (Peter, Andrew, James and John); one was a tax-collector (Matthew), one a political zealot (Simon), one a financial accountant (Judas Iscariot the group treasurer, the one who sold out Jesus) and the rest had no CV worth mentioning! Temperamentally, none were the "executive" type nor have "management potential". They were crude and loud and quarrelsome. Yet, three years spent with Jesus transformed all (except Judas Iscariot who lost his bearing because he loved money more than God). They were ready to replicate their Master's ministry: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master" (Matt 10:24-25). Missional leadership training is not focused on who the disciples were, but on who they can become. The ultimate goal of missional training (discipleship) is transformation so that the disciples can become like the Master.
- Missional Instructions ("These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them"): Before sending the disciples off, Jesus gave them very specific mission-oriented instructions:
(1) where to go: "go nowhere among the Gentiles... go rather to the lost sheep of Israel"
(2) what to say: "And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’"
(3) what to do: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons."
Training to be missional has to be instructional and practical. Not abstract philosophical theology of ministry, but rather down-to-earth practical theology that is field-based and practice-oriented. Too much discipleship training focuses on teaching "truths" that are stored only in the head (knowledge), but not enough focuses on instructing the heart (changing attitudes) and the hands (imparting skills). Jesus' missional training includes instructions about what to bring ("no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bags for the journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff")-- in other words, travel light. Jesus even instructed them on what to do and say as they go visiting door-to-door. Nothing is left to chance.
- Missional Principles: In his training, Jesus embedded some important principles:
(1) principle of grace ("you received without paying, give without pay... the laborer deserves his food"): we have received freely from God. So, now we are to give freely to others, without expecting any rewards. However, that doesn't mean we cannot receive from others who want to support us in our ministry to them because a worker deserves his wages.
(2) principle of focus ("if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave"): Focus on those who receive you; don't waste time on those who don't.
(3) principle of wisdom ("wise as serpents, innocent as doves"): We are to be wise (shrewd) like serpents (i.e. don't be naïve), but innocent (harmless) as doves because we live among people that are often manipulative and malicious.
Father, open our hearts and minds to receive from the Lord Jesus Himself how we should train and make disciples. Amen.