How to catch a virus

There’s a virus that going around the world. It’s a dangerous virus that could change your life. Unlike most other viruses, I hope you catch it.

This virus is the 10:2b virus. It comes from Luke 10 and verse 2.

These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.

The 10:2b virus started when a couple of friends of ours, John White and Kenny Moore, were discussing one morning over breakfast how to find more church planters for their state. As they chatted, they remembered the verse in Luke 10 where Jesus commanded the disciples (both the 12 and the 72) to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into the harvest. They decided to try it for a week–calling each other daily on the phone. The week extended into months and eventually years of prayer together on a daily basis.

The results were so life-changing in terms of the number of people starting churches in their state as a specific answer to this prayer, they knew it needed to spread.  And so the idea of the Luke 10:2b virus was born. As John and Kenny told their story everywhere, others joined them, praying in pairs daily over the phone that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out more laborers into the harvest. Many people set the alarm on their phone for 10:02 am or pm to remind them to pray.

Luke 10:2 comes from Jesus teaching to his disciples on how to reach out to others. Luke 10 is a foundational passage for disciple-making and church planting movements around the world.

  • According to Jesus, the problem isn’t the harvest.   In another place, Jesus says to the disciples, “You say there are still 4 months left until harvest, but I tell you, the harvest is ready now” (paraphrase of John 4:35).  We give God excuses as to why the harvest isn’t ready–”My area is too hard, no one is interested,”  As soon as I finish this, (think of an excuse) I’ll go out and find a ripe field.”  But the Lord of the harvest says, “Now’s the time!”
  • The real problem is too few workers.  But hold on.  Jesus had 72+12= 84 workers.  That’s 42 pairs of people who were going out into the harvest.  Surely that’s enough!  If we had that number of committed church planting teams here in our area, we’d be thrilled.  But according to Jesus, that’s inadequate for the task.  It reminds me of the old story.  How do you get a herd of cows to produce more milk?  Do you feed them better food, give them extra vitamins, play them soothing music in their stalls?  That might help a little (well the food and vitamins, anyway).  No, the best way to significantly increase milk production is to add more cows to your herd!  It’s a bit like this here.  It’s easier to see more harvest by increasing the number of workers than by trying to persuade the existing ones to work harder or smarter.  
  • Jesus’ solution to the problem is this:  Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the harvest.  We are to pray (beseech, beg) the Lord to send out more workers.  The Greek word used her for “send out” is ekballo which has an element of violence in it.  It’s the word used for casting out a demon. This is not a quiet, gentle prayer. It’s a violent, take it by force prayer.

We won’t see a disciple-making movement without a prayer movement.  


Photo credit: Christophe Pasqual (Creative Commons)

A successful pattern for multiplying disciples

It’s 2001, and Tony and I are in India where we are speaking at a conference. Another of the speakers is from India, and he’s someone we’ve wanted to meet for a long time because we’ve heard that he’s in the middle of an extraordinary, multiplying church planting movement. So in every break, I take the opportunity to pummel him with questions.

One of the first is this: “Where do you find the principles that are leading to the extraordinary growth you are seeing?”
His answer? “They come in Luke 10.”

In fact, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, if you ask the people who are seeing exponential church multiplication, they come back to this same passage.

So let’s take a look at Luke chapter 10. Note that there are similar principles discussed in Luke 9 and Matthew 10. It seemed to be Jesus’ modus operandi when reaching out to places he hadn’t yet visited. We’ll meander through these verses over a series of blog posts.

*The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.* (Luke 10:1)

Often when we train people, we’ll have them study this passage looking for four symbols: a question mark (is there something you don’t understand?); a light-bulb (what was an “aha” moment for you in this verse, something that seemed to make things come clear?); an arrow (what do you need to do or change in order to obey this verse?) and an ear (who do you know who needs to hear what you’ve been learning? Who will you share it with?)

Here are some of the points that usually come out of verse 1.

1. Jesus chose 72 others. Who were they “other” to? The twelve (see the beginning of Luke 9). So in all, he had 84 disciples he was working with.
2. He sent them ahead of him to all the towns and places he planned to visit. If Jesus sends you somewhere, for example, if you change jobs, or move house, it’s because he wants to touch the new workplace or neighborhood via you.
3. He sent them out in pairs, not in large numbers. Often, when an established church is trying to reach a new neighborhood, they send out a team of people including a musician, someone who can teach, people to take care of the kids etc. That wasn’t the way Jesus operated.
4. Why in pairs and not alone? For support and accountability.

Jesus had a plan for that area and a strategy for reaching it. He sent the disciples out—“You two can go to this village. You two will meet someone at an inn on the road to this city….”

What did the disciples have to do? They listened to Jesus and then they obeyed him.

Does Jesus have a strategy for your area? Of course!
How do we find out Jesus’ strategy? We listen to Him and we obey him.


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Commercial fishermen in the Kingdom

Jesus told his disciples who fished for a living, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Commercial fishermen are disappointed if, when they pull in their net, there is only a single fish flopping about.  They hope and expect to catch multiple fish at a time. Remember Peter’s dejection when he’s fished all night and caught nothing?

It’s interesting to note that in the Book of Acts, there are only two people who become followers of Jesus as individuals—Paul and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Everyone else becomes a disciple as part of a group.

  • Following a vision, Peter visits Cornelius who has gathered together a group of friends and relatives in his home. When they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by their speaking in tongues, Paul gives orders for them to be baptized. (Acts 10) A whole household follows Jesus in a single day.
  • When Paul goes to Philippi, he speaks to some women at the riverbank. Lydia opens her heart to Jesus and she and her household are baptized. (Acts 16: 11-15)
  • A few days later, Paul and Silas are jailed. A massive earthquake sets them free, but when they don’t take the opportunity to escape, the jailer invites them to his home where they share the word of the Lord with him and his household. Again, the whole household is baptized. “He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” (Acts 16:16-34)
  • When Paul finds a group of people (about twelve men) in Ephesus who have only been baptized with John’s baptism, he baptizes them and prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6)

What’s the difference? How did those early followers of Jesus get these results?

Jesus had taught his disciples how to be “commercial fishermen” for the Kingdom–not in the sense of making money, but in the sense of bringing in a large catch.

All around the world, God is using this pattern to bring in a massive harvest. Why not here too? We’ll look at how this works in later posts.

Catch of fish

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Making disciples

As part of my study on Disciple Making Movements, I’ve been reading through the gospels to see how Jesus approached making disciples.

Jesus invited people to become his disciples. In Mark 2:14, Jesus said to Levi (Matthew), “Follow me and be my disciple.” He didn’t tell him, “Follow me and when you’ve learned enough, you can be my disciple.” Too often, we make discipleship a teacher/learner process, whereas Jesus regarded anyone who followed (and obeyed) him as a disciple, right from the get go.

Our friend, Molong, in the Philippines has a very simple pattern of making disciples. He’ll say to someone, “You’re my friend and you believe in me, would you like to become a disciple?” Then he tells them about following Jesus. When they say “yes,” he baptizes them, and teaches them how to do the same for their friends. He now has disciples down to the 14th generation. If you follow him on facebook, you’ll come across posts like ” XXX (second generation) says they are going to baptize seven people today.” There are around 600 new believers who have become disciples in this way. Their “follow-up” consists of  living life together–not under the same roof, but as an everyday occurrence.

Within evangelicalism, one-on-one is a preferred method of discipleship . I have no doubt as to its effectiveness (wish someone had been there to disciple me as a young believer). However, recently I’ve been questioning this.

There were only two occasions I can find in the gospels where Jesus had a conversation with one of the disciples alone. One was with Peter over the paying of taxes (go and catch a fish) and the other, also with Peter, was about forgiving people seventy times seven times. As far as I can see, every other interaction that is recorded involves a group of them–of at least two or three.

There was one occasion where it specifically states Jesus was alone for a conversation with someone–the woman at the well. And we assume (although it doesn’t say so) that he was alone with Nicodemus in John 3.

Other than that, once he had chosen the twelve, Jesus worked with groups–groups of his disciples, the crowds, challenged groups of Pharisees and Sadducees. Other conversations where it appears he was talking to individuals, if you examine the context, were all within a group situation.

What can we learn from this?

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Were there women among the “seventy”?

I’ve recently become fascinated by the life of a woman I call Mrs. Zebedee, mother of James and John, wife of a fisherman from Galilee.


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This is what Matthew’s gospel says about Mrs Zebedee on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion:

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

When did Mrs. Zebedee join Jesus’ group? When he left Galilee for Jerusalem.

The first part of Luke 9 clearly takes place in Galilee. Then Luke 9:51-53 says this: As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival.  But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem.

This passage obviously refers to Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. If we marry these two verses, it sounds to me as though Mrs. Zebedee was with Jesus from this point onwards.

The remainder of Luke 9 is the passage where Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship. Luke 10 then goes straight into the story of sending out the seventy or seventy-two “other disciples.”  It’s hard to know if the rest of Luke’s gospel is in chronological order, but the end of Luke 9 and the first part of Luke 10 are clearly linked in time.

There’s no way to prove it, but it seems likely that Mrs. Zebedee and the other women were among the seventy that Jesus sent out to all the places where he planned to visit. They went out two by two, praying for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest. They put into practice the teaching about the “person of peace.” healing the sick and telling the good news of the Kingdom. They reported back to Jesus how even demons were subject to his name. And Jesus told them too that they had authority over all the power of the enemy.

And Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, thanking God for revealing truths to the childlike (Luke 10:21).


The life and times of Mrs. Zebedee

Sometimes the life of a minor character in the Bible suddenly comes into focus. Since I wrote a post on the female disciples of Jesus, I’ve been fascinated by “the women,” a group of women from Galilee who took care of Jesus. My imagination has been particularly captured by “Mrs. Zebedee,” a simple fisherman’s wife.

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There’s a few facts we know for sure, but there’s a lot we can legitimately surmise about the life of the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John.

Here’s the core verse:

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

James and John were among the first disciples Jesus chose. They were fishermen, partnered with Andrew and Peter in their fishing business (Luke 5:10). This was more than a “mom and pop” business since when James and John left to follow Jesus, they left Zebedee in the boat with the hired men (Mark 1:20). Were Zebedee and his family people of means?

Since Peter and Andrew lived in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:21, 29), it seems likely that their partners, Zebedee and his family, also lived nearby. I’m sure that James and John reported back to the family the story of Jesus turning the water into wine in nearby Cana (John 2:12). Were the Zebedee family in attendance at the synagogue in Capernaum the morning that Jesus cast out a spirit in the middle of the service? Later that day, after the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in Peter and Andrew’s home when the whole town came to watch Jesus healing the sick, were Zebedee and his wife there too?  (Mark 1:32) As word spread about what Jesus was doing as he traveled through Galilee, I’m sure the parents of James and John followed the news of what their kids were involved in with great interest. From time to time, did they join the large crowds from Galilee that followed him wherever he went? (Matthew 4:25)

Whatever they were involved in during Jesus’ early ministry, Zebedee’s wife became totally committed to the One who taught her sons to fish for men.

In the Matthew version of the women watching as Jesus hung from the cross and breathed his last, three women are mentioned, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of James and John (ie., Mrs Zebedee). The Mark version of that same story also lists three women, the two Mary’s and Salome (Mark 15:40). Was Zebedee’s wife’s name Salome?

Mrs. Zebedee was part of the group of women that accompanied Jesus on his final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 27:55). This group of women is described as Jesus’ friends (Luke 23:49). The journey from Galilee probably begins in Matthew 19:1.

This means that Mrs. Zebedee accompanied Jesus and was most likely present for the following:

  • Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:1-11)
  • The rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-28)
  • The teaching on leaders being servants (Matthew 20:20-28)–she is specifically mentioned as present for this.
  • The healing of two blind men (Matthew 20:29-33)
  • The triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11)
  • The clearing of the temple (Matthew 21:12-17)
  • The fig tree withering (Matthew 21:18-22)
  • Jesus’ telling of various parables (Matthew 22 and 25)
  • His altercations with the Pharisees (Matthew 23)
  • His foretelling of the future (Matthew 24)
  • Mary’s anointing Jesus for burial (Matthew 26:6-13)
Most passages just refer to the disciples accompanying Jesus for all of the above. Take, for example, the Mark version of Jesus teaching on the road to Jerusalem about leaders being servants (Mark 10:35-45). it would be easy to think that only the twelve disciples were involved. However, the Matthew version fills in the details. The mother of James and John comes with her sons, kneels before Jesus and requests they be allowed to sit on his right and left hands in his coming Kingdom. Jesus seizes this “teachable moment” to talk about servanthood (Matthew 20:20-28).


How often do we assume, when the Gospels refer to the disciples (as opposed to the twelve) that women were not present? This example demonstrates their involvement.

Mrs. Zebedee was certainly there watching as Jesus died.  She watched as his body was taken down from the cross and as Joseph of Arimathea laid it in his own tomb (Luke 23:55). If she was indeed Salome, she purchased burial spices and prepared them on the evening of the Sabbath with Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56). Then early next morning she may have also been present at the empty tomb when the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1). She was probably with Mary Magdalene and the other women as they told the eleven disciples that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:10).


Did Mrs. Zebedee leave for home immediately after Jesus’ resurrection? Or was she one of the five hundred who, at one time, saw the risen Jesus’ in person (1 Corinthians 15:6). Did she  “tarry in Jerusalem” until the Day of Pentecost? Was she one of the group of women who were part of the 120 in the upper room as the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:14)? Was she there when all the believers were gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1) and the Holy Spirit came like a rushing, mighty wind and tongues of fire settled on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (Acts 2:1-4)? Did she rejoice as 3,000 people became believers that day? Was she part of the early church in Acts 2?

I’d like to think so. What about you?