Every model of ministry claims it is Jesus’ model for ministry
The attractional people point to how Jesus drew large crowds with his relevant teaching. The organic people point to Jesus’ small group of twelve. The missional people point to Jesus’ healing ministry and compassion for the poor. The social justice people point to Jesus’ defense of those who couldn’t defend themselves. The radical people point to Jesus’ call to sacrifice and self-denial. Everybody claims Jesus as the poster child for their ministry model. But I am convinced that there is a bigger picture which is often missed.
As a young pastor, I have to confess I had never really studied the life of Jesus looking for his model of ministry. I had studied the teachings of Jesus in depth. I had studied the ministry of Jesus and sought to emulate it to some degree. I had studied the person of Jesus and certainly preached what he did for us on the cross.
But I had never looked at Jesus as a model for ministry. I had never looked at Jesus’ ministry chronologically to discover what he did in year one, year two, and year three. When I began to do that, the lights started coming on. I began to see Jesus and his ministry in a whole new way that was life-changing.
Jesus is the model for ministry.
I am convinced that Jesus, Himself, is the model for ministry. Throughout scripture, we are told to walk as he walked (I John 2.6), do what he did (John 14.12), and think as he thought (Philippians 2.5). Jesus’ main invitation was “follow me.”
In Greek, akoloutheo means “to follow” or “to go behind” someone in a physical and at times in an “intellectual, moral, and religious sense.” The idea is that one holds steadfastly to and is being conformed to the example of another. When my girls were younger, we would go to the beach on vacation. Imagine me and my wife walking along the beach at sunset, and with every step we leave a trail of footprints in the sand behind us.
Now imagine one of my daughters following behind me, putting her foot in my footprint. She’s walking in the steps of her dad. That’s the idea here. To follow Jesus means to walk in his steps. It means to follow his example, to imitate his life, his heart, his character, and his behavior. The whole purpose of Jesus’ three plus years of ministry was to raise up men who were just like Him and who could do ministry the way Jesus taught them to do it. And he was successful.
Jesus wants you to look and act like Him
When the apostles stood boldly facing off the religious leaders in Acts 4.13, the skeptics were shocked and took note that these men had been with Jesus. I love this verse because I can just see the religious leaders taking a sidebar and whispering amongst themselves, “These guys talk just like Jesus, they act just like Jesus, and they’ve got the same swag as Jesus!” That’s what Jesus wanted then, and it is what he wants today – men and women who look and act like him.
The Apostle Paul understood this. He said to the Corinthian Church, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11.1). The writer of Hebrews challenged new believers. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12.2, NIV). Again he says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Hebrews 3.1, NIV). Obviously, Jesus was intended to be our focus. In order to do that, you have to take a serious and hard look at the life and ministry of Jesus.
Not just at its parts, but at the whole. As a young pastor of a struggling inner-city church, I realized that during all my church experience and seminary training, I had never really taken a serious look at how Jesus did ministry. I saw bits and fragments, like scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but I had never put those pieces together and seen the comprehensive picture of what Jesus did, how he did it, when he did it, and why he did it. That’s where I started, and that’s where you will need to start.
Years after embarking upon this journey, I’m convinced that Jesus’ model is the only model that is successful over the long haul and is the only model that produces genuine, reproducing disciples and healthy churches.
This blog features an excerpt from our book, Bold Moves.
This post originally appeared at: The Forgotten – Model Jesus as the Model for Ministry – discipleFIRST