I recently spent some time on-line reading about a thing called the Joshua Project. The Joshua project is a ministry of the U.S. Center for World Missions. The goal of this project, according to its website, is “bringing definition to the unfinished task.” In other words, the goal of the project is to show the church how many people still need to hear the gospel message. As I read through the information provided by the Joshua Project I found some staggering statistics.
For instance, “There are approximately 6,900 total languages in the world, about 400 of which are considered “nearly-extinct….” Approximately 2,500 languages have some or all of the Bible.” This means that “About 4,400 languages are without Scripture portions available, with some 634,000,000 speakers.”
Here is another staggering stat: “Of the 16,309 people groups by country, 6,631 are still considered unreached.” I did the math, that is over 40% of the people groups in the world that either have not heard the gospel, or less than 2% of the people claim to be Christians.
Over 2000 thousands years after Christ commanded us to take the Gospel to the world we still have a lot of work to do. In fact, we still have a lot of work to do in our very own country. Here we have the bible, most people have had access to the gospel, and yet there are still so many who have not accepted Jesus. Even among those who would consider themselves to be Christians there is a great deal of confusion about even the most basic truths about Jesus. This was made abundantly clear when the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life did a survey on the religious life of Americans. This research was done in the summer of 2008 and included the answers of over 35,000 Americans. One of the questions on the survey was whether or not you agree with the statement that many religions can lead to eternal life. This is a question that you would expect evangelical Christians to get right. However, over 57% of the evangelical polled said that they believed that more than one religion can lead to eternal life.
All of this research reveals just how desperately the world around us needs the message of the Gospel. And in Mark 6:6b-13 we are going to see how to deal with this need. [Read Passage] Here we have the account of Jesus sending out his 12 disciples. This account was recorded for us in order to reveal the importance of Jesus’ followers proclaiming Jesus’ message. Just as Jesus ministered the gospel so too we have a responsibility to do the work of evangelism. This is clear from this passage, it is clear from the rest of the bible, and it is clear from the desperate needs that we see around us. As Christians we must be involved in the work of evangelism just like Jesus was. And thankfully this passage in Mark helps us to do this very thing. In this passage we see 6 characteristics of Christ-like evangelism
I. Christ-like Evangelism Imitates the Example of Christ (v. 6b)
The first characteristic of Christ-like evangelism that we see in this passage is that Christ-like evangelism imitates the example of Christ. We see this in the second half of v. 6 where Mark writes, “And he went about among the villages teaching.” The “he” in this verse is obviously Jesus. Here we see what how Jesus kept himself busy. Really this verse is like a bridge between the previous passage and the one that we are looking at today. In the last passage Jesus was rejected by His own people in Nazareth. As a result of this rejection Jesus left to continue teaching elsewhere. Or maybe a better way to say it is that after Jesus was rejected in Nazareth He simply resumed His normal ministry schedule.
In v. 6 we see what Jesus’ ministry was like on a day-to-day basis. His focus was to teach the people while He was among them. This is why He went from village to village teaching the people. This was His priority, and it had been that way throughout His entire ministry. 1:14-15 reveals that since the beginning of his public ministry Jesus was focused on proclaiming the gospel. In fact, in 1:38 Jesus said that one of the main reasons that he came was to preach.
Jesus’ preaching and teaching ministry was absolutely vital to His overall mission on this earth. In fact, Jesus’ teaching ministry was even more important than all the miracles and healings that He performed. Think of it this way, if Jesus had simply dropped out of heaven and died then where would we be today? We would have no idea who He was, or why He died. This is why He was so determined to teach the people. He was preparing them for His death and resurrection.
With this in mind it is easy to see why Jesus spent so much of his time teaching. This concentration on teaching is reflected in the amount of material in the gospel accounts that describe Jesus’ teaching ministry. One such example is found in Matthew 9:35-38. In fact, in Matthew’s account this passage immediately preceded the account recorded in Mark 6:6b-13. What is so interesting about this passage is the fact that it reveals the motivation of Jesus. Jesus spent so much time teaching because He had compassion on the people. He knew that they had no one else to lead them spiritually. Like a sheep needs a shepherd these people needed him. They were helpless to overcome their sins without his help. This is what motivated Him to go about from town to town teaching. And this should be our motivation as well. All around us are lost and dying souls. As Jesus put it in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus had compassion on those whom He was ministering to. For this reason He was never complacent about His ministry, and He never let rejection (even by His hometown) derail Him. Jesus fervently reached as many people as He could with the Gospel because He knew that they were helpless without it. And the same is true today. Men and women are helpless without the gospel. You are helpless without the gospel! This should motivate us not only to accept the gospel but also to proclaim it to as many people as we can. In this way we must be like Jesus, and faithfully proclaim the message of salvation.
II. Christ-like Evangelism Obeys the Commission of Christ (v. 7a)
So, the first characteristic of Christ-like evangelism is that it imitates the example of Christ. The second characteristic is that Christ-like evangelism obeys the commission of Christ. We see this in the first part of v. 7 where it says, “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two….”
In this verse we see that Jesus called together, or assembled, the 12 disciples. These are the same 12 guys that Jesus had set apart in 3:13-19. These 12 were a part of the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry, and had been following Jesus around for some time now. In fact, there is no doubt that they were with Jesus when he was going throughout the villages teaching. But now, Jesus was assembling them together because He had a mission for them. They had been watching Jesus minister, and now Jesus was sending them out to minister on their own.
The word in this verse translated “send” ( ) is a word that is used to refer to an authorized official mission. Thus, Jesus, with all of His authority, was commissioning the 12 for a special task. This was the real deal. He was giving them their orders. [ILL: The Need to Authenticate Orders on a Submarine] It is important to make sure that you confirm your orders, but in this case there was no need for an authentication process. The 12 were getting their orders directly from the commander, and these orders had to be carried out.
Part of the orders that the 12 received involved the disciples going out in pairs of two. In fact, on author referred to these teams of two as the original “dynamic duos.”  This may seem a bit strange to us, but it was a normal practice to send out representatives in pairs of two. The Jews did this when they would send out missionaries to proselytize, and John the Baptist did this with his disciples as well. This was a normal practice primarily for practical reasons. First of all, it fulfilled the OT requirement of the testimony of two witnesses to confirm the validity of a claim (Deut. 17:6). Additionally, the task was difficult and the help of another person would have been immensely beneficial. Thus, the disciples went out “two by two.” It is worth noting that in Matthew 10:2-4 Matthew records which disciples were paired with one another.
As we investigate Jesus’ commissioning of the 12 it would be easy for us to think that this commissioning only applied the disciples. And to an extent this is true. This commissioning was for these individuals to minister at a specific time and in a specific place. However, the principles that we learn from this commissioning remain true for us today. In fact, there are many passages throughout the New Testament that do commission us as believers to do the work of evangelism. May the most famous of these passages is Matthew 28:19-20. This passage makes it clear that every Christian from the time of the disciples on has the responsibility to do the work of evangelism.
Therefore, the commissioning that we have received is clear. We are to take the good news about Jesus to the world around us. But even though the commission is clear it doesn’t make it easy to carry out. Quite frankly, the work of evangelism is usually not easy. There are all kinds of reasons why we don’t do the work of evangelism:
- “It is embarrassing”
- “I haven’t had any opportunities”
- “It could ruin my friendship with so-and-so”
- “I never know exactly what to say”
- “It really isn’t that it important for me to do—isn’t that why we have a youth pastor”
- “I don’t know any unbelievers”
These are just a few of the reasons why the work of evangelism is so hard. However, when you compare them with the commission that we have received from Jesus they pale in comparison. In fact, when you really think about it they seem more like excuses than real reasons. This is why Christ-like evangelism obeys the commission of Christ. Think of it this way. If the consequences for a soldier disobeying order from a superior officer are bad, then how much worse will the eternal consequences be if we don’t obey Christ?
R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 135.
 Note the alternating comma and kai pattern in Matthew’s record.