I’ve enjoyed my encore ministry, working with congregations in strategic planning and in the process of calling a new pastor. One of these congregations is in need of some scenario planning. That involves considering several possible scenarios for future ministry decisions and making some plans according to those scenarios. Some of these end up with clever names: He stays/We Grow; He stays/We decline; He leaves/We grow; He leaves/We decline. Or, School thrives/We expand; School thrives/We limit; School falters/We recruit; School Falters/We limit. We don’t know what the future brings, but we make plans that take into consideration the possibilities of which we are aware.
The Apostles were not doing scenario planning on this occasion. They were doing scenario living. They were living out a deflection in the trajectory of God’s mission they did not know they would need to consider. They trusted God and were committed to the Great Commission Jesus had given them. They realized, also, that they needed to have a 12th Apostle to join them in giving witness to Jesus’ resurrection, and providing leadership and stability for the fledgling church.
Little did they know how dramatically this need would become evident in the years to come. The Day of Pentecost was at hand. Three thousand new believers would be baptized that day. The message of Jesus would spread to foreign lands and even the Gentiles would be brought to faith. This would create a crisis that would require the Apostles’ guidance and decision as to how the church would receive these new believers.
And there is the matter of Jesus’ resurrection. The Apostles would serve as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. This was the cornerstone the Christian faith. That message would be an essential part of the witness of the church, and the truth that would define Jesus’ followers, and drive his mission.
These men were no longer fishing for fish. They would be fishing for men, women, and children. They would not be hanging around for long waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They would be filled with the Spirit and would speak the word of God in the languages of the various people gathered on the Day of Pentecost. The needed to restore the number to 12, based on the scripture: Let another fill his office. (Psalm 109:8)
God is setting the table for a remarkable expansion of his kingdom. He is using these Apostles in a singularly unique manner. All this was unfolding in real time for the 11, soon to be 12. It was the same for the other 100 plus believers.
The believers were living in times of defining moments. And so are we. What was guiding them should also guide our decision-making processes. Prayer, discernment, and a desire to further God’s kingdom should be top on our list of decision-making criteria – if we want to be part of God’s work in the world today. That is God’s will for us. And it is right, blessed, and good.