On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles
were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria….Those who had been scattered preached the word
wherever they went. + ACTS 8:1,4
Movements of multiplication struggle to get off the ground in many churches due to an unhealthy, unbiblical dependence on professional pastors. Pastors, according to Greg Ogden’s book Unfinished Business, are traditionally identified by churchgoers according to four common roles: teacher of doctrinal tradition, caregiver (hospital visits), public symbol of the sacred (head of church in public life) and presider over rites of passage (baptisms, marriages, funerals).
While these functions are all positive aspects of shepherding, they could overshadow the pastor’s primary responsibility, allowing many to comfortably and passively receive. Paul states that God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Pastors are, thus, primarily leaders or directors in the multiplying of disciples. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, modeled this role of ministry by entrusting His message not to the masses but to the few—not as a public face but as a mentor to a handful of disciples. In his famous book on discipleship, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert E. Coleman notes:
Though he (Jesus) did what he could to help the multitudes, he had to devote himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, so that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of the strategy. Yet, strangely enough, it is scarcely comprehended in practice today. Most of the evangelistic methods of the church begin with the multitudes under the assumption that the church is qualified to preserve what good is done. The result is our spectacular emphasis on number of converts, candidates for baptism, and more members for the church, with little or no genuine concern manifested toward the establishment of these souls in the love and power of God, let alone the preservation and
continuation of the work… A few people so dedicated in time will shake the world for God. Victory is never won by the multitudes. Like mustard seeds and leaven, the kingdom of God advances when regular Christians, not just pastors, work their way relationally into a few lives that then work their way relationally into the lives of others. The church members, not just the pastors, have a part to play in the movement. In a sense, we should consider it our duty to continue and multiply the work pastors begin.
Read Acts 8-9 and answer the following questions.
1. The gospel message began to spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. Assuming we,
personally and as a group, have identified our “Jerusalem” or those closest to us in need of
Christ, who might our “Judea and Samaria” be? Are they those outside our closest networks
of friends and family but still far from God? How might we engage them with the gospel?
2. God’s choice of Paul—the chief of sinners—to be His messenger of the gospel to the Gentiles
should give us great hope that, for one, the arm of the Lord is not too short to save (Isa 59:1)
and, even more, that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). What sins or
shortcomings have we used as an excuse not to be a messenger of the gospel?
• Seek to overcome an unhealthy dependence on your pastors by taking initiative in your
spiritual development.
• Consider how you or you might support a missionary, perhaps through care, prayer,
finances, etc.
• Consider who you might consider common or unclean and thereby unworthy of the gospel.
Repent and pursue more diverse relationships.