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A Training Manual for Mission Trips

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 10:1–9

We are all part of the Lord’s plan. And as with the seventy-two disciples Jesus sends out to proclaim His message, He offers us sound principles to follow that will give us realistic expectations and a clear focus that will help us successfully complete our mission.


Near the end of World War II, a plane carrying members of the U. S. military crashed into the dense New Guinea jungle, where cannibals were known to live. A daring rescue attempt was needed from the air, and it did succeed.  

A lieutenant colonel stood before sixty-six men in his battalion. He needed ten volunteers for the mission, but first he gave them an honest portrayal of what it involved. First, they would be jumping into unchartered territory. Second, the jungle was so thick they might not get past the trees. Third, if they survived the jump, the tribes who lived in that valley were cannibals. When he finished, he paused and then asked for volunteers, and all sixty-six men stepped forward.[1]

How’s that for a recruiting strategy? Life will be difficult, there will not be much rest along the way, the natives will be hostile to your message; but there are people in that valley who need to be rescued.

What happens next in our chronological study of the Gospels is recorded in Luke chapter 10. Jesus is giving seventy-two disciples an honest portrayal of the harvest field before He sends them out on what we could call their first missionary journey. Jesus presents the training manual beginning in verse 1:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others [that is, other than the twelve disciples] and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

Sending them out two by two not only provided fellowship and encouragement, but it also fulfilled the Old Testament’s requirement that two witnesses were needed to provide valid testimony.

Who are these seventy-two unnamed disciples? It’s possible that many of them were people whom Jesus had healed—formerly blind and lame men and lepers. Because they had been healed by a man whom the religious leaders were opposing, these people had never really been allowed back into Jewish society.[2]

And now Jesus appoints them, Luke writes. Here is a wonderful principle to draw from this scene: God has appointed you for a place, and He has appointed that place for you.

The word here for “appointed” refers to the appointment of someone to an office.[3] Jesus is not just tossing these disciples to the wind. He is appointing them to a place within His divine plan.

Let me tell you, beloved, you are not just randomly going through life in some haphazard series of circumstances. Your life is not an accident; it is an assignment. You happen to be on assignment from God.

Let me draw out another principle: There is always more to do than you can accomplish. Note what Jesus says here in verse 2:

“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.”

That is a nice way of saying, “You are going to need help. The job is too big for you. So, pray for helpers.” Maybe you have already discovered that you are always going to need one more volunteer!

Take heart, beloved; you are praying to the Lord of the harvest, and that phrase means He is in charge of the entire operation. He alone can provide the people and the provision you need as you serve Him on assignment. So, pray and trust Him to provide.

Here is another principle from their training manual: Obedience to Christ will not automatically make your life comfortable. Jesus says in verse 3, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” That’s like saying, “Strap on your parachute; I am going to send you down there where cannibals live.”

There is nothing more defenseless than a lamb among a pack of wolves. But the most important words in this text are these: “I am sending you.” That is another way of saying, “You are not going to be alone.” You see, their defenselessness will remind them of their dependence. If they live or die, it will be by His appointment and only by His permission, because He sent them. And because He sent them, no one can stop them unless by His own divine appointment.

Is the Lord asking us to do something He would not do? Oh, let me remind you that Jesus will eventually show these disciples what it means to become a lamb surrounded by wolves—the Lamb of God will be crucified, according to divine appointment.

Here is a fourth principle as you keep a realistic perspective on your appointed assignment: The Lord is just as interested in developing your walk as He is in your delivering His word.

We get that from these traveling instructions beginning here in verse 4: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Jesus is not telling these disciples not to be friendly but to treat their mission with urgency. In these days a “greeting” could last through a meal or an entire day. The lack of a moneybag and extra clothing created total dependency on the Lord’s provision.

When you are serving the Lord, it is easy to become more interested in what God is doing through you than what God is doing for you and miss those moments of provision. I think that is the point of verses 5-6 and the potential of a “son of peace” being their host. A “son of peace” would be someone interested in believing their gospel message.[4] These disciples will have to trust the Lord to lead them to such a host—and they are going to have to trust Him when they do not find someone sympathetic to their ministry.

Now here is another principle: Don’t forget that people you encounter are to be served, not used. In verse 7 Jesus says, “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide . . . Do not go from house to house.”

In other words, don’t be on the lookout for nicer lodging or a better offer. These disciples are not supposed to try to move up the ladder as they stay in some village. Jesus tells them to stay in the first house that offers them hospitality.

Here is another principle: Expect your personal comfort zone to be stretched in ways you did not expect. Note Jesus’ instruction in verse 8: “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.”

He is saying that wherever you land, and whatever home offers you hospitality, eat whatever they are cooking. When my three brothers and I traveled with our missionary parents, and we pulled into some driveway where we were invited to eat dinner, my mother always turned around and repeated that little poem: “Where He leads me, I will follow; what He feeds me, I will swallow.” That is exactly the point here with these seventy-two men.

There is one more principle I want to highlight—principle number 7: Make sure you deflect any praise back to God. Jesus says in verse 9, “Heal the sick . . . and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” They are representatives of the King of a coming kingdom.

You can imagine the excitement in these villages over these miracle-working disciples. The blind can see, the lame can walk, the disabled are cured, and the paralyzed are up and walking about without pain. The village leaders would want to meet them; the crowds would want to honor them; invitations for housing and meals would follow.

So, notice carefully what the seventy-two are told to say: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” This is not about them; this is about the kingdom of God. This is about our King. This is a taste of His power, and He alone deserves all praise and honor and glory.

[1] Mitchell Zuckoff, Lost in Shangri-La (Harper Perennial, 2012), 213.

[2] Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1984), 247.

[3] Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon L. Rogers Jr. (Regency, 1980), 169.

[4] Thomas Constable, Notes on Luke, 2017 edition (Sonic Light, 2017), 169, 

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