“Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” Mark 6:9
When Jesus sent his disciples out on their evangelistic “test run”, he gave them simple, yet profound, instructions. He told them to trust God and to trust his people to provide. We should go fully prepared with a deep and rich understanding of our message and our mission, but we should travel light. When we went to live in Mexico, we took a 10-passenger van, stuffed with “necessities” to the point that each of our four children had a hallowed out space around his or her seat. The floor was full. We did make sure it was legal…that is, we could see out the rear view mirror. My husband kept checking the tires. I know we should have paid more attention to the warning Jesus gave. When we arrived and settled in to the lodging (which was provided), I realized I had brought much more than I needed.
He also told them to “shake the dust from their feet” if they were rejected. In our day of meals in one minute and instant everything, we may be a little too hasty about the “shake the dust” instruction. Sadly, some ministers shuffle through churches like a deck of cards…looking for the perfect hand. Mission candidates often head for the field with their heads in the clouds and come back before they get through the initial culture shock. This kind of selfishness and immaturity is not what Jesus was talking about.
We are to work hard to prepare the soil, and to plant liberally. Of course, we are to have patience and allow enough time for the Holy Spirit to work in individual hearts or communities. However, we are not called to invest more and more when we know there simply is no harvest. So how do we know when to move on? When the gift of salvation is completely rejected and all doors remain closed. Where there is no repentance—no change—it may be time. What we have is valuable. Our time and energy are a gift. Jesus warns against continuing to push the Gospel on those who only hold it in contempt. Sadly we see this alarming trend in our own country.
We trust in God’s patience and understanding for the ministry decisions we must make. Often this is a grueling, burdensome part of following God’s call. If we have given our best, we have made an offering of our lives in good faith. As long as we remain true to God, he will not reject us. He will work in our lives for good, even if we go through dry and disappointing ministries.