Jesus’ formula for success: pairs of disciples


Scripture: Luke 10: 1-11; 16-20 Nigel Bunce

Jesus’ formula for success in mission: pairs of disciples.  It allows complementary strengths to develop, as well as mutual support.  It has stood the test of time, and it has worked here at St. George’s in my ministry with Jan Savory.


We have two excellent readings today. I’ve chosen to preach on the Gospel. I’ll talk about Namaan’s leprosy at Evening Prayer on Wednesday.

Jesus’ formula for success

Luke’s account of Jesus sending out disciples ahead of him comes right after his rejection at the Samaritan villages Jan spoke about last week. I assume that the group had now left Samaria. Putting them into Judea, more friendly territory.

However, based on what had happened in Samaria, the 70 disciples must have been pretty anxious about their task. The Twelve had done the same exercise earlier. But this was a new crew of recruits. Their training wheels were off.

Jesus told them not to take anything with them. No purse, no extra clothes, not even a spare pair of sandals. They must depend entirely on the hospitality of the villages that they visit. If the people treat them hospitably, the disciples must give, “Peace upon this house” and cure the sick.

Like our exchange of the peace each Sunday; this ‘peace’ is almost like a tangible gift. It is much more than “Hello.” If the villagers fail to accept the gift of peace, the disciples should take it back. Just as last week, Jesus comes off in this passage as rather uncompromising.

Expectations on the disciples

Alyce McKenzie wrote that the invitation tells you what to expect at an event you plan to attend. “Dress business casual” at a workplace social event means you’ll be schmoozing. Look professional, but pretend you’re not trying too hard. “Wear comfortable shoes” at a hiking club means expect to do a lot of walking.

Hence we get clues about the purpose of Jesus’ disciples’ mission trip from the instructions. What to pack. What to leave behind are . The disciples are representing Jesus. They are announcing the coming kingdom of God (“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals etc.”

They will be relying on other people for hospitality. It will be hard work, because it’s a big job and not enough people have signed up. (“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”). Some people will be hostile and will reject them. (“See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves).”

The Gospels consistently record Jesus as being pro-countryside and anti-towns and cities. Rural people received his message positively. Also, his healing ministries were successful there. However, things were different in the cities. People in Nazareth, his home town, rejected Jesus. His healing ministry was unsuccessful.. In Jerusalem, the crowd turned against him and Pilate crucified him.

Pairs of disicples: formula for sucess

So off the disciples go, in pairs. Sort of like the animals stepping off Noah’s Ark after the flood! But when they come back, they seem to have had excellent success. They didn’t just cure the sick. Even demons submitted to them, suggesting they were able to help people with mental illnesses as well.

But I notice that Jesus always sent out his roving missionaries in pairs. The same way that Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness missionaries operate. Be polite when they visit your front door. Like Jesus’ disciples, they’ve been warned that not everyone will receive them warmly. But there’s no need to be hostile.

Why the emphasis on pairs of disciples? I think it’s much more than friendship or mutual support. Even though it is both of those. I doubt that Jesus chose his pairings randomly. I assume that he selected people who would (a) be compatible and (b) bring complementary strengths to the task.

Because ministry is exactly that. The melding of complementary strengths. Combining those individual and unique gifts that St. Paul wrote about. In this regard, I have been exceptionally fortunate in my ministry here at St. George’s.

Jan Savory, my co-pstor at St. George’s

This morning, I want to acknowledge very explicitly that Jesus apparently decided to send a pair of missionaries to St. George’s. I’m referring, of course, to my comrade-in-arms (or partner in crime) Jan Savory.

It began on the Friday before Thanksgiving 2010, when I received this call from Jan. “Hi Nigel. Susan Wells in in hospital with a broken ankle. Can you take the service on Sunday?” Then, when Susan left St. George’s in 2011 to take a position at St. Matthew’s House in Hamilton, I somehow took over.

I say somehow, because more than a year later, I received a call one day from the Bishop’s office. ‘When did you start at St. George’s and what is your official title there?” “Well, you started paying ne on November 1st 2011, and I’ve been calling myself priest-in-charge. Is that OK?”

“Then, I guess I’d better get Bishop Michael to issue you a licence backdated to last November.” Yes, this is all true.

Complementray strengths: formula for success

As far as I’m concerned, Jan and I have co-pastored this parish ever since. Jan has much better attention to detail than I. That’s part of Jesus’ formula for successs. Think of the smooth running of parish meetings and Corporation. Exemplified by the recent MAP process.

I recognized immediately that Jan has a marvellous pastoral relationship with some parishioners. I’ve been happy to support that. Why interfere with something that works? My only regret is that the diocese pays priests-in-charge, but expects licensed lay readers to work for free.

It has been a wonderful partnership in ministry and personal friendship for almost 12 years. And I hope that you have been able to recognise two different styles of preaching. But a single approach to the Scriptures.  Another part of Jesus’ formula for success.  We even subscribe to the same heresies!!

It’s been a tough decision for me to set all this aside. But I recognize that I can’t bring the same energy to the parish that I had 12 years ago. But for today, let me just reiterate how much my co-pastor has meant to me in my ministry here. Thank you, Jan Savory. And a very happy birthday to you.