Random Tuesday Morning Strategic Thoughts

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time digging into what the Apostle John records Jesus saying in John 6 and 7.  This morning two major points stuck out to me about how Jesus approached ministry:

  1. He was terrible at giving a sales-pitch.
  2. He was 100% against self-promotion.
I’ll expound a little.  In John chapter 6, Jesus has a huge crowd of twenty to twenty-five thousand people following Him.  They’re loving His miracles, they’re captivated by His teaching,
so He gives this sales pitch to those who want to follow Him: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (and that’s just a small sample of what He says).   Jesus makes this statement knowing they will find it both difficult and offensive.   The result was many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  

Fast-forward to John chapter 7 and Jesus’ brothers are pushing Him to go to Jerusalem.  They tell Jesus, no one operates in secret if he seeks to be known openly… show yourself to the world.  Later on in the same chapter, Jesus does show up teaching at the temple in Jerusalem and He makes this incredibly significant statement: the one who speaks of his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.  I have not completely wrapped my mind around this but the incarnate Son of God consistently moves away from self promotion and challenges His followers to do the same: Matthew 6:2, Matthew 20:20-28, Luke 5:12-16, John 10:24-27.

The challenging part for me is that many times in the past sale-pitches and self-promotion have been significant parts of my approach to ministry.  I can remember many times when I’ve basically said to the community around the ministries or churches I’ve led , look at how good we are, look at how well we serve, look at how much we sacrifice for your benefit.  To be certain everyone knew how good we were at serving others, I’d make sure we had T-shirts and signage so everyone would know who was doing the good.  (Please understand that I’m not saying wearing T-shirts as a means of shared identity is bad- I’m talking specifically about my own heart motivation.)
I’ve also been very guilty of trying to figure out how I can find the right “hook” to get someone to say yes to following  Jesus.  You know how it works- focus on the whole heaven for eternity, purpose, peace, and joy on earth stuff and stay away from the deny yourself and take up your cross daily part of the message.   Please understand I am not against communicating the gospel in a culturally relevant manner, but if that message does not involve walking people through the offense of the cross then it’s something far less than the gospel.

If self-promotion and sale-pitches did not define Jesus’ ministry, then what did?  Here are a few (non-exhaustive and weirdly alliterated) thoughts:

  • Sacrificially serving others.  This thread runs all through the gospels, and significantly displayed when Jesus takes the posture of a menial servant by washing His disciple’s feet in John 13.
  • Supernatural signs.  Jesus and His disciples would perform miracles and people would know that God was behind it.  These signs always pointed beyond themselves to a truth God wanted to reveal.
  • Spiritually authoritative teaching.  People took notice that something was authoritatively different between how He taught the scriptures and the teachings of the religious leaders. They somehow new something (or someone) bigger was behind it.
  • Sense of “sentness.”  Jesus was a man sent on a mission.  He pursued the sick over the well and the sinners over the righteous.  He as laser-beam focused on pursuing the lost and the least.  The same sense of sentness is the apostolic impulse that later drives His apostles and the early church in book of Acts.
Not all of this always fits nice and neatly in my strategic thinking or my mental/theological/intellectual box of how I approach ministry… But if I’m going to authentically follow Jesus I must be willing to ask what changes does He wants to make.
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