By David Harkrider
This is a story of how the church at Jerusalem provided transportation to its services. The story is based on supposition. However, you may not think this speculation farfetched when considered in the light of certain facts. Brethren in the twentieth century have devised a scheme for gathering crowds to church services called the Bus Ministry. This plan utilizes an appealing form of transportation, coupled with door prizes, as an inducement. Realizing that the Jerusalem brethren were no less brilliant and certainly as zealous to follow every scriptural means of gathering crowds to hear the gospel, gives us a good basis upon which to rest our supposition about the Jerusalem Mule Ministry. Add to this the fact that some among them were inspired with the mind of Christ, and we may be certain that no available and legitimate means of getting people to church services was overlooked. When brethren today question the Bus Ministry they are accused of being against getting people to hear the gospel. Surely we can not conclude that there was any such reluctance on the part of the Jerusalem brethren. Therefore, since the means were available, and the necessary zeal and wisdom were present, it seems inevitable that we must conclude that the Jerusalem brethren had a Mule Ministry. After all, do we not read in Acts that tremendous crowds assembled to hear the gospel preached? What further proof could we require to convince us that our supposition is well founded?
It is likely that the Pharisees had already established routes throughout Jerusalem transporting children to the synagogues. This seems apparent from the fact that they compassed land and sea to make one proselyte (Matt. 23:15). Not to be outdone by the Pharisees the Jerusalem brethren sent their mule trains on the same routes. They would get there earlier and offer bigger and better prizes to ride the Church of Christ Joy Mule Train. No doubt they even painted the mules bright colors and added some exotic forms of transportation. After all if twentieth century brethren can import buses from England, the Jerusalem brethren were wise enough to see the advantage of using camels from Egypt.
I can see that the Jerusalem brethren had a great advantage over the Pharisees. The apostles had the power to multiply loaves and fishes and there was no way the Pharisees could outdo them in offering prizes for coming to church. Multiplying loaves and fishes was proven to be an effective way to gather a multitude. In John 6:24 we read: “When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they themselves got into the boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.” Jesus identified that which prompted the multitude to assemble in verse 26: “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate loaves and were filled.” So here we have positive proof that the apostles had the power to employ a gimmick that was a verified crowd getter. The rebuke spoken by Jesus in verse 27 offers some problem. But surely it was not an insurmountable obstacle. We judge this because twentieth century brethren seem to have no difficulty harmonizing this scripture with their Bus Ministry.
In all likelihood, the Jerusalem church had some problems controlling the crowds that rode their mule trains. Children attracted by the excitement of the transportation and the prizes, seem for some strange reason to lack interest in gospel preaching. They seem to react in much the same manner that a fish, drawn by an artificial lure, reacts when he feels the hook. But the fish who swallows the worm is hooked, and fight though he may, he still must submit to the will of him who fooled him with the worm.
Obviously though, humans cannot be controlled like fish and .such conflict of purposes inevitably will disrupt the services and distract those who came to worship God. No doubt the Jerusalem brethren experiencing such problems brought in Timothy, Titus and other young preachers and conducted special services for their Mule Ministry pupils. After all, who could expect children who have never been to church services to sit still and listen to an old head like Peter. Even promising them a picnic if they would sit quietly did not seem to help. The perfect solution was the Jerusalem youth church. Of course their limited attention span had to be accommodated and not much teaching could be done. But the whole program was considered worthwhile because it kept the children out of the synagogues of the Pharisees and gave the zealous Christians of Jerusalem a deep sense of personal satisfaction to work so diligently for the Lord by driving the mules.
It ought to be added that the parents of the Mule Ministry children didn’t seem to object to the indoctrination of their offspring. They seemed to welcome the free baby-sitting service and whatever teaching took place was not very apparent because all their children talked about was the fun they had riding the mules, attending the “fellowships” and getting the prizes. The brethren had so cunningly taught them, that even the children didn’t know that they had been indoctrinated.
The Mule Ministry was a tremendous success though it is somewhat strange that the Bible doesn’t mention it. Is it possible we have supposed too much?
Truth Magazine XXII: 19, pp. 310-311
May 11, 1978