Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
This is an interesting passage. A few verses earlier Jesus sent the twelve disciples on a mission to preach the good news of the Kingdom in nearby villages, to heal the sick, and cast out demons. Things went pretty well for them, but not entirely. Jesus chastised them for their lack of faith when they could not heal a boy with a demon.
So then the disciples encounter a stranger who is successfully casting out demons – despite not having the benefit of the personal teaching, training, mentoring they had received from Jesus. The nerve of this guy! We’ve got to stop him! But Jesus says to leave him be. He didn’t need to be authorized by Jesus or the disciples to do the work of the Kingdom.
We’re in an interesting time in the life of the American church, particularly the Lutheran church. We’re in a season in which there are more churches that need a pastor than pastors to fill the vacancies. It wasn’t always so. For many years there was a surplus of pastors, which was reflected in the preparation of pastors for the church. There were lots of requirements and processes to fulfill in order to be approved and ordained. Some of it made sense, but lots of it had little to do with actually equipping people to serve as solid pastors for the church. We’re starting to see that change.
It’s simple supply and demand. We need pastors so the church is becoming more flexible and inclusive in approving people for ordination – which is a good thing. We need people who are outside traditional boxes, who have a deep sense of call and who understand the rapidly changing landscape for ministry. And most importantly, we need people who have demonstrated fruitful ministry even if they don’t have the academic or scholarly experience required in the past.
But, just like the disciples in our passage, there are church leaders who’ve been through the traditional processes who object. I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same. Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to see the value of those who bear wonderful fruit for your Kingdom. Frankly, the church needs them. Amen.