Sandbox Ministries

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50 ESV

Twelve men carried the distinct honor of being called Apostles. And while there were many disciples with Jesus at the same moment, these dozen men experienced things in a unique way. Working in direct correlation with His ministry, Jesus sent them out with the specific instructions of using the same tools as He: preaching and healing. No doubt the Twelve were excited about their labors and who wouldn’t be? Going from town-to-town, changing a whole region one village at a time was both rewarding and awe-inspiring. They were all young men full of energy at the prospect of literally revolutionizing a world. These twelve men stood at the pinnacle of Jesus preaching and healing ministries.

And then came a day when the Twelve realized that apparently they were not alone. We are not given any specifics; we have no names of the man or where he even labored. Nonetheless there was another individual who had the audacity of being able to understand the powerful name of Jesus and use that name for developing a preaching and healing ministry apart from their direct association and contact.

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

To the Twelve Apostles, who were seeking greatness in their own right, this became a concern at best and they tried to stop the new miracle-worker. His main offense: casting out demons apart from association with them. The attitude is not a new one. Men have demonstrated elitism throughout long ages, worlds without end. The Twelve created the problem by looking at the ministry of Christ as if they only had the patent or registered trademark for properly executing the name of Jesus among the needy. Somehow the idea entered the thinking that only they could minister and help others. And this notion produced a distain for the wayfaring new miracle-working stranger. Their attitude is frighteningly close to the same the Pharisees and scribes exhibited toward them. What does Jesus say about this?

“Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

A wonderful and simple principle is made that should change the attitude of men with their select ministries. If they are not against you they are for you! The exclusive ministry approach has no place among God’s people and the Lord corrects this mindset unreservedly face-on. If I’m to read this straightforward, then even the direct, physical association with Jesus, such as the Twelve enjoyed, is not enough to force the exclusion of others from working in the name of Christ. I understand the natural tendency to disagree with and evaluate other Christian labors, but unless there is a direct hindrance to your ministry—it is not enough to rebuke another person for their labor.

So in a big world of many Christian works, how can there be a unified effort in cooperation? Reception as children is the key. We read of Jesus saying in verse 48:

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

You put a bunch of children together in a sandbox and somehow they seem to work out their existences in relationship to each other while playing in close proximities. Pecking orders and prominence seem to disappear until the child learns to become more mature and sophisticated. Surely if children can learn to work together in a sandbox, Christian ministries can value each other’s unique contribution and labor mutually for the benefit of this world through the constraining love of Christ.

J. Robert Hanson

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