‘Do not take a purse or bag or sandals’ Luke 10:4

My followership is what really matters. Certainly way more than my leadership. That’s where I’ve landed following a couple of months sabbatical recently. I’ve preached a few times since re-starting and whilst I’ve grappled with different passages, the summary of my conviction as the UK church emerges from pandemic restrictions is ‘be the church’, and to everyone who belongs to Jesus ‘be holy’. My sense is we are about to enter the most turbulent season for the church that I have ever known. My prayer is it will become the most fruitful.

I’m passionate about seeing everyone joining the missional movement of Jesus, so I’m hardly going to turn down an opportunity to speak about ‘from addition to multiplication’, am I? Where do I begin?

The passage of scripture which gave birth to Seventy-two is Luke 10:1-12, so that’s where I’m starting. I’m meeting with an amazing group of leaders. I want to provide people with the answer to their question ‘how’? Everyone has their own story. There’s a whole room full of gifted people, committed followers of Jesus, leaders of larger churches, yet I know the collective reality, which is a microcosm of the whole UK church; we are shrinking numerically.

12 x 6 = 72. Jesus sending out the seventy-two is a great place to look for the ‘how’. After all, Jesus only sends out ‘the twelve’ in the previous chapter and there are seventy-two one chapter later. How many does he send out in chapter eleven? We’re not told. In my view, it’s a good job we’re not, as people like me will work out the equation and if the answer had been 432, which is another multiple of six times seventy-two, then that’s what I’d be hoping for.

The other side of my talk, I’ve not provided any answers for anyone else, but through dwelling in the passage the Lord has highlighted the words ‘do not take a purse or bag or sandals’ and I’m left facing the question what must I do whether I have the money, resources, or material means, or not?

Jesus is Lord. That’s why the seventy-two went when he sent them. Jesus is my Lord and I try and be responsive to his sending. I’m trying not to get hung up on the exact words ‘do not take a purse or bag or sandals’, although I am secretly grateful Jesus says I don’t need to buy a pair of sandals to follow him! My sense is Jesus is helping the seventy-two to walk in such a way where they are wholly reliant on him. It’s more a case of ‘give us this day our daily bread’ than ‘don’t worry the stipend will keep coming, regardless’.

Jesus is in fact repeating himself. In Luke 9:3 he told the twelve ‘take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt’. If the twelve needed to be reminded, then I need to be reminded. In other words, the fact that Jesus was my Lord yesterday does not equal automatic assumed obedience today. Lord help me to not simply listen to your words, but truly hear what you are speaking into my life.

There’ve been many occasions when I wish it had been different, but when I first responded to Jesus’ ‘come follow me’, he provided everything I required in order to do just that. I wasn’t exactly told this, but the answer to my question what do I do now?, was in a nutshell, pray and read your Bible. I’ve discovered since then that I can trust the Holy Spirit of God and I can trust the word of God. I’ve been exploring disciple-making-movements (DMM) and desperately want to see a similar impact through everyday Christians (these don’t rely on paid clergy) here across the UK. One of the criticisms is, because of their rapid multiplication and because of their lack of paid clergy they are somehow inferior or their knowledge of the Bible is shallow. Here’s the thing – you’re more likely to become a heretic by attending a Bible college in the western world than by listening and obeying the plain reading of scripture.

Here I am. I’ve been a Baptist Minister for thirty-five years. I’ve been reliant, therefore, on the people of God, for most of my life and the vast majority of my working life (my pension from Barclays Bank amounts to around £100/year). I’ve remembered the song the Chinese fellowship taught when I first started following Jesus, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back’. This is still about today – where, who are sending me to today Lord?

I’ve accumulated responsibilities over the years. Some of them can become heavy, especially when it’s the future livelihood of another Minister or the future of a church. This question comes into play what must you do whether I have the money, resources, or material means, or not?  The pandemic has pulled back the curtain on reality. As those who have become followers of Jesus – are we? As churches planted by and for the gospel of Jesus – is that our raison d’etre? The essence of the mission of God as we read it in Luke 10 is about people bringing the kingdom of God to other people. When money or resources or material means get in the way, then we must ensure our focus is upon Jesus alone.

Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Network. He facilitates the life of the webnet team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.