by Gordon Franz (continued)
The Reasons for Two-by-Two
As we have seen, there are no “Lone Ranger” missionaries in the New Testament; the pattern is always disciples going forth two-by-two with the gospel in order to plant churches. I believe that there are at least four reasons why Jesus and the Holy Spirit set this pattern.
The first reason is accountability to one another. When a person comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all their sins are forgiven – past, present and future. Believers have been saved from the penalty of sin (justification), are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and, one day, will be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). But until that day, believers still have a sin nature and sin. James the son of Zebedee admonishes believers to “confess your trespasses (or sins) to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5:16). If a believer is by himself, he is accountable to no one. Yet if there is a co-worker, the spiritual one can help with the restoration process. Paul writes: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such as one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1; cf. James 5:19, 20 and Eccl. 4:9, 10).
The second reason is for mutual encouragement. People, when they are alone and things start going the wrong way, become discouraged. They have no one to turn to for mutual support and encouragement.
The Church was fortunate to have a lesser know apostle named Yosef ha-Levi. We would say in English, Joseph the Levite. The apostles gave this man from the island of Cyprus the nickname, Barnabas, which in Aramaic means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4: 36). The nickname was well deserved because he had a solid reputation of encouraging people in the things of the Lord. The Lord used Barnabas to encourage Saul (later known as Paul) and John Mark at crucial points in their spiritual lives and to see potential in them for the work of the Lord.
The third reason to go out two-by-two is so that younger men can be taught with the help of a co-worker. Paul admonishes Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). The pattern of discipleship seen in the New Testament is not “one-on-one” discipleship, but rather, “two with a group of men.” For Jesus, it was twelve. At one point, Paul and Timothy had six men they were training in sort of a “seminary on the road” with practical “on the job training” (Acts 20:4).
The fourth reason is to maximize spiritual gifts. When Paul went on his second missionary journey he chose Silas, also known as Silvanus, to join him (Acts 15:40). Paul’s spiritual gift was that of apostle and teacher (Eph. 4:11), while Silas gift was that of prophet (Acts 15:32). While they were in Lystra, they invited a young man that Paul had led to the Lord to join them. Timothy had the gift of evangelist (Acts 16:1-3; II Tim. 4:5). Between the three men, they could effectively reach people with the gospel, establish and teach local churches, and train other men in the doctrinal truths of the Word of God, as well as ministry.
Applications for Today
The trend in missionary endeavors today is toward a team concept where several couples go to one place and work together. Recently I was teaching several classes on archaeology at two Christian schools in Bulgaria. A friend of mine was the regional director for SEND International in the Balkans. He was sharing how their mission board encourages a team effort in church planting.
There are several notable examples of team efforts in assembly mission work. One such example of a team effort was the “Auca Five” who were martyred in 1956. Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, and Edward McCully were friends from the assemblies and two of them had attended the same college. They planned and prayed together to reach the unreached Auca Indians in Ecuador. They were later joined by Nate Saint and Roger Youderian who were also laboring in that area with other missionary organizations.
This is not to depreciate the great work done by some pioneering missionaries who went to labor on the mission field all by themselves. Yet one wonders how much more effective they could have been if they labored together with other workers?
Some of the early gospel pioneers in the assemblies followed this pattern as well. For example, Richard Varder and John Rae labored from 1882-1886 in western Canada (Anonymous 2007: 13, 14). Another example is George D. Campbell and his fellow worker Gaius Goff who labored in Newfoundland and Labrador for three decades (Nicholson 2007: 18).
I was talking with an elder in an assembly about this issue and he mentioned that the assembly he fellowshipped at had sent out two missionaries to different countries, but commented they could never have sent the two out together because both had domineering personalities and would clash with each other! I thought to myself, “That’s no excuse. Yes, Paul and Barnabas both had strong personalities that could not be reconciled, but they still followed the Biblical pattern and went out two-by-two with one other individual.”
Also, Paul gave a command to the believers in Ephesus when he said: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, … submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:18, 21; cf. I Pet. 5:5; Gal. 5:13). One of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit of God, and every missionary should be filled with the Spirit, is submitting to one another! What a testimony it would have been if two strong-willed brothers went out two-by-two, submitting to one another for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel.
W. E. Vine in his booklet, The Divine Plan of Missions states: “Where two are working together they are able to render help one to another by way of comfort in sorrow, counsel in perplexity, and sympathetic advice and warning in times of temptation. An ear ready to receive wise counsel may mean deliverance from succumbing to temptation” (nd: 36). He goes on to say: “How happy, how effective, how sure of Divine blessing, is co-work carried on in the absence of selfish individualism in the spirit of mutual esteem, and in a constant recognition of what is involved in being ‘God’s fellow-worker’!” (nd: 38, 39).
The Lord Jesus set the pattern for apostles / missionaries going out two-by-two in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit reconfirmed this pattern in the Book of Acts. Will we continue to follow the pattern set forth by the Triune Godhead in our missionary endeavors? If we do, we might not see a high attrition rate!
2007 Richard Varder, Prairie Pioneer. Uplook 74/5 (Aug.-Sept.): 13, 14.
Bruce, A. B.
1971 The Training of the Twelve. Grand Rapids: Kregel Reprint Library. (This book is the classic on how Jesus trained the Twelve disciples to reach the world with the Gospel after His earthly ministry. It is highly recommended).
1926 Ecclesiastical History. Vol. 1. Trans. by K. Lake. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 153. Reprinted 1980.
1994 Lives of Illustrious Men. Pp. 353-402 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second series. Vol. 3. Edited by P. Schaff and H. Wace. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
2007 Review of Take the Challenge: The Life of George D. Campbell, by George Campbell and Gaius Goff. Uplook 74/5 (Aug.-Sept.): 18.
Thompson, Robert Ellis
1890 The Sending of the Apostles, Two by Two. A sermon preached in the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church. West Philadelphia, PA.
Vine, W. E.
nd The Divine Plan of Missions. London: Pickering & Ingles.