What is America's greatest need? The answer: The same as every other nation on the face of the earth. America needs divinely appointed messengers who will take the truth – the truth of Christ, the living Word, the truth of the Bible, the written Word – to the masses. Jesus admonished, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2)
In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus' commission of the 70 demonstrates what should characterize his messengers and what they can rightly expect.
1. They must be willing to be vulnerable and exposed to the rejection and violence of the world system. Jesus said they would be as lambs in the midst of wolves. (v.3)
2. They must be willing to live day by day in faith. They are not even promised the security of knowing where their next meal or other necessities of life would come. Jesus said they were to take no purse, no bag, and no sandals. (v.4)
3. They must recognize the urgency of their message and avoid worldly distractions. God's servants should know that lives and souls are at stake and there is no time for what's trivial, unproductive, or outweighed in the balance with eternity. Jesus commanded them to salute no one on the road, which was a ceremonious and, most often, very time consuming Oriental greeting in his day. (v.4)
4. Their motivation should be one of peace and the well-being of others. Jesus commanded that they use the greeting, "Peace be to this house!" (v.5)
5. They can expect to both be received and rebuffed. Jesus explained that a "son of peace" would welcome them and their message. Individuals who refuse or refute them only give evidence of their estrangement from God. To receive the Lord's messenger is the same as to receive Him. (V.6)
6. They are not to be preoccupied with the quality of their hospitality or their provisions, but neither are they to feel guilt about subsisting on the generosity of others. Jesus commanded them to stay in the same house, not pursuing from one home to the next a better or more comfortable arrangement. They should eat and drink what was provided, for the laborer is deserving of his wages. (v.7)
7. They are to always be gracious to their hosts, respecting non-moral cultural norms. This instruction additionally implies an acceptance and initial tolerance of where people are in life's journey. Jesus said they should eat what was before them, which relieved them of the Jewish dietary laws that might come into conflict with their stay in a Gentile home. (v.8)
8. They should understand the message of the kingdom is like a double edged sword - one side cuts a swath of salvation and the other a swath of judgment. Jesus makes clear the preaching of judgment is no less important than the more positive responsibilities of healing the sick and proclaiming the blessings and privileges of kingdom life. He instructs they should make a public display of wiping the dust off their feet from any town that rejects God's grace. (vs. 9-12).
There is much here upon which one might elaborate and make contemporary application at length. Nevertheless, a necessary point today is that America desperately needs proclaimers of God's truth who will operate in this fashion.
I am of the firm belief that much of what is wrong with our nation is what's wrong with the pulpit. When I see pastors who associate success with public accolades and acceptance, huge church budgets and large churches, when I read from Barna and Focus on the Family that 80% of pastors quit the ministry in their first five years and 1200 ministers leave the ministry every month, when I hear a pastor say he is unwilling to preach on the more controversial social issues of our day and prefers to concentrate only on the positives, it seems to me much of our problem is that we have many in the ministry who fail to fully understand the dynamics of God's call.
Don't misunderstand me; having served as a pastor for more than twenty years and as the executive director of the Christian Action League for 14 years, I am most sympathetic with clergy who are unjustly treated. But an individual with the calling of God on his life must recognize he is to be a good Christian soldier, a Cross-Bearer, someone who anticipates deprivation, impoverished conditions, rank and painful opposition.
A preacher unwilling to "stick with the stuff" in bad times, as well as the good, may be no more than a hireling and needs to leave the ministry.
Let us pray that God will turn our nation around by sending dedicated laborers into his harvest.