The summer is mission trip season for many congregations. I love mission/service trips because not only do they help meet the real needs of others in on their turf, there is also great potential for faith-formation (for every age) by going out and serving people in context that just talking about it could never teach.
Jesus knew this important leadership lesson. He sent his disciples out into the community to preach, renounce evil and pray for healing in people’s lives (Mark 6:12-13). They did it, and had returned.
Jesus knew something else we commonly forget – they needed to process what they did, learned and experienced. So upon their return, they gathered together to share. Notice that they are now called ‘sent ones’ or ‘apostles’ upon gathering together.
In Mark 6:14-16, we are told that this ministry of Jesus had become known – even by King Herod. It seemed that once the word got out people sought Jesus out. This made it difficult for them to find time for privacy – or even time to eat (Mark 6:31). But Jesus went out to meet the crowd and its demands so these apostles could still reflect upon their experiences and rest.
We too often give up the opportunity to process our experiences because we think we are too busy – but that is where the real learning happens.
– Have you ever had some intentional reflection after a meaningful experience?
– What did you learn?
There are three other little lessons to glean from this story –
1. Jesus doesn’t send the crowd away – he has compassion on them and ministers to them.
– How could our churches meet needs in our community yet keep a focus so we don’t burn out or do many things poorly rather than a few things well?
2. Jesus saw “They were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). People want a leader. In the absence of one they find another.
– What other shepherds do you see at work in our communities/society/world (other than Jesus)?
– Are those other shepherds constructive or destructive? How can you tell?
– What does Jesus teach by his leadership?
3. Jesus preserves the apostles time to reflect and recover so they can get back out there to serve again. (The next story is the feeding of the 5000, followed by other healing stories – its teaching by sharing, reflecting and doing.) Too often we just think of ourselves as religious consumers and think about what we might “get out of it” by participating. But Jesus turns us around to keep asking, “Where can I serve?”
– Where might Jesus be calling you to serve in new ways?