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Of sheep and wolves

A call to commission the whole flock

by Perry Engle

The congregation chuckled when I told them the title of my message: “Finding joy and purpose in living like sheep among wolves.” I mentioned I would be focusing on the Scripture where Jesus commissions His followers by telling them, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:1–3).

Personally, I’ve always liked commissioning services where pastors, Sunday school teachers, and deacons are blessed for work within the Church. But I’ve come to consider it a shame that we don’t go to the same lengths for those who make up the majority of our congregations—those in the flock who head out into the workplace every day, with wolves howling and nipping at their heels. I’ve wondered lately what it would be like if we, like Jesus, celebrated and commissioned every believer for the work of the Kingdom, sending each one forth to live a life of mission and purpose in an increasingly anti-Christian world.

With this in mind, I interviewed some friends whose lives and vocations are centered outside the four walls of the Church. I asked them what it’s like to find joy and purpose in living like sheep among wolves.

Allison, a senior at a State University in California, told me that most of her professors are not sympathetic at all to her Christian values. “You need to know what you believe and why you believe it,” she said, “because your faith will be tested. It’s hard. But if you let it, the experience will definitely sharpen your witness for God.”

I spoke with Rod, who is vice president of human resources for a global architectural and engineering firm. He told me he prayed for two things his first day out of college: that God would help him become the best professional he could be, and that people would always know what he stood for. Certainly, there are times when he is asked to bend the rules in some “gray” legal areas of business. But his goal every day is to stand firm in his values and say no to moral compromise.

I interviewed Brooke, a middle-school math teacher in inner-city Philadelphia. “The need is so great,” she said, “and the work so all-consuming, that sometimes I feel close to burn-out.” She told me that she’s very aware that she can’t do the job alone and desperately needs the Holy Spirit for God’s wisdom and strength. She added that one of the greatest encouragements is when her church acknowledges that what she does as a public school teacher is a ministry and not simply a job.

I ended my talk that morning with these words of commissioning to the congregation:

“Jesus has appointed each of you to go and live a life of mission in your schools, jobs, communities, and churches. I commission you to live as examples of God’s love and grace in the midst of a broken world. Embrace every opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ, whether by word or deed. Be strong in the Lord, and put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Above all, never forget that the One who lives in you is infinitely greater than the one who is in the world. To this good work I commit you, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

This article originally appeared in the winter 2010 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle finds joy and purpose in his job as bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Conferences of the BIC Church. He and his wife, Marta, and their family live in Ontario, Calif.

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Comments

SHIRLEY MAE ALEX INFANTE Posted on January 25, 2011

PRAY TO GOD FOR LABORS OF THE FIELD.

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