Ministry with Jesus doesn’t take on everyone at once.
Five thousand men plus women and children. Five thousand men PLUS women and children. That is A LOT of people to feed. If you want to get overwhelmed quickly, start calculating the needs of the world. Spend even an hour at a soup kitchen, under a bridge, in a nursing home, orphanage, or prison, and you can make yourself crazy with all the needs you feel unable to meet. Look at a group of 5000 men, plus women and children, who are hungry, with no one else around them to feed them, no restaurants in sight, no money for food, and only 5 loaves and 2 fish, and think to yourself, “How could I ever serve them all?”
In the story, Jesus tells the disciples to seat the people in groups of fifty (Luke 9:14). OK… a group of 50 seems more manageable. But, there are still at least 100 groups!
However, each disciple is only sent to one group of 50 at a time. And, my bet, He even sends them in pairs. Earlier in the same chapter of Mark that this story appears, we see this:
And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. – Mark 6:7 (ESV)
It seems simple enough to me, to draw the conclusion that the disciples are used to serving in pairs by this time, and follow suit in this situation, too. So, in PAIRS they go to a group of 50. They take what they have and they get up close and personal with each of their 50, serving them what the Lord has called them to serve.
They haven’t forgotten about the 4,950+ other people waiting to be fed. They haven’t failed them. They have gone where Jesus told them to go. They have faith in their fellow disciples that those other groups of 50 will be fed, too. They have faith in Jesus to deploy teams where they are needed so that everyone will have their fill. And, they know that, when they have served their first group of 50 well, they are ready and willing to go to the next one Jesus directs them to. So, everyone WILL have their fill, through the efforts of ALL, in time, and according to the perfect order and will of God.
When we serve with Jesus, we are not called to serve everyone at once, but to go to our group of 50. Ministry with Jesus is personal and directed. It is relational. You cannot be relational with 5000 at once, but with 50, you can encounter each person and look them in the eyes. Over the course of time you may be given many groups of 50. A lot of groups of 50, even. Maybe even over 100 groups of 50. More than 5000 total. But, in each case you are only ministering to one of those groups of 50 at a time. You take them on one at a time.
And, this is super important, we are not sent alone. He sends a support team to go with us. Partners. Fellow Disciples. We effect the most change for the body by operating AS the body, not in isolation. We are stronger together.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”– Genesis 2:18 (ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV)
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. – Matthew 18:19-20 (ESV)
We are the body of Christ, not the lone rangers of Christ. We must trust our fellow workers in the field with the harvest, and focus on the part of the field that has been set before US, not them.
Now, to be fair, once you have put on those compassion-colored glasses I talked about earlier, it can be hard to look away from the other groups of 50. That is why we have the Holy Spirit.
My husband and I have a question that we ask a lot when we are faced with a situation of need: “Lord, is this my chaos?” Yes, I SEE a need here. Yes, I WANT to help. But, BEFORE I move. . . “Lord is this where you are sending me?”
This might seem in conflict to my point in an earlier post about serving WHOever and WHEREver, but that was said with the understanding that Jesus was directing your course. Be open to HIM shifting the plan, NOT you.
Not getting overwhelmed by things that are not ours to take on is so critical. God has every battle covered. And, we are not responsible for the ones that we have not been assigned to. The Lord is so gentle with us and He wants us to be successful, so He puts everything in place for that to happen, we just have to follow His lead. When we jump into a battle that isn’t ours, that He hasn’t prepared us for, we can do more damage than good. Burn out. Broken relationship. Pain. Depression. Our greatest tool in ministry and life is the voice of God. We must train ourselves to call upon it in every situation, it will NEVER fail us.
Today, ask the Lord to help you define the group(s) of 50 that He is sending you to. Spend time with Him listening to why He has chosen you for that specific group. Ask Him to highlight to you the partners He is bringing around you. Pray for your group of 50. Pray for those partners He is bringing to you. Pray that each of you will hear clearly the direction of the Lord. Pray that each of you will be unified to His heart for your group of 50, and thus to each other. Pray for first steps and action plans. Listen and pray. It never fails.