When I read through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, I often wonder how He knew when to engage varying modalities of ministry. What was it that prompted Him to teach publicly one day and then perform a healing miracle privately the next? What led Him to interact with crowds in the open here and then carve out time for an in-home meal there? As someone who is continuously looking for the most effective avenues of impacting people’s eternity, I’d love to know if Jesus had a program template or ministry calendar that gave direction to His outreach initiatives. But as I sat in a meeting earlier this week with an experienced minister, I was reminded of a simple reality that needs constant refreshing:
Jesus wasn’t engrossed with program planning and calendar mapping as much as He was simply attentive to people and their real needs.
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He talked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” John 1:35-38, NKJV
SELF-PROMOTING VS SPIRIT-PROMPTING
Jesus, probably just two days removed from His 40-day wilderness experience and the intense affirmation of His divine mission, quietly approaches the scene of John the Baptist’s revival and reformation ministry on the banks of the Jordan. This would be the prime place to advertise His own evangelistic campaign, yet Jesus doesn’t feel the need to draw attention to Himself or His own agenda, nor does He feel the need to sweep large swaths of spiritual seekers to follow Him. While Jesus doesn’t try to hide His mission of salvation, He surely doesn’t promote it at the top of His lungs. He goes to where the people are, to where He can sense that the Holy Spirit is moving on people’s hearts. And because God’s Spirit is actively working in people’s lives, namely John the Baptist’s and those who are receiving His message, Jesus allows people to choose how they’ll respond to the promptings of God’s Spirit through the Baptist’s declaration: Behold the Lamb of God!
How does a church or ministry emulate Jesus’ example here? Of course, we aren’t called to hide our light under a bushel, but maybe there’s a self-promoting extreme of overt marketing at the opposite end that isn’t quite our calling either. In our ministry efforts, we need to be in proximity and rub shoulders with those who are open to the promptings of God’s Spirit. While we may plan for providing information and exposing people to who we are, the goal is for our intended audience to respond more to the invitations of the Holy Spirit than to our charisma.
SEE WHAT IS SOUGHT
When two of the Baptist’s disciples are moved to action, Jesus turns and does two significant things that highlight His primary approach to ministry: 1) He sees them following, and 2) inquires what they are seeking.
While Jesus is completely assured of His identity and His ministry calling, Jesus’ ministry method is fully about the other. He sees them, pays attention to them, and takes interest in what they are interested in. He didn’t design a program and impose it upon them. He didn’t formulate a favorite curriculum and invite them to enroll. He started with their interest, their felt need, their heart longing and desire. And I think that’s where Jesus wants His church to start too.
Over the next few posts, I want to explore together the way Jesus took interest in the needs He saw right in front of Him and how He moved in ministry from that starting point. I hope and pray that we as a church, that we as followers of Jesus will re-discover how to approach people not for our sake but for theirs. And may we find ourselves driven in ministry not just by our own program calendars but by the work of God’s Spirit in people’s lives all around us.