Books and seminars on leadership dominate pastoral reading. And that is good. The axiom is true that an organization or a church does not rise higher than its leader.
But do leadership and ministry equal the same thing? I do not think so. Ministry includes much more.
When I am looking for an example or prototype for ministry, I first look to Jesus. How did He minister? What kind of a minister was He? If He is the Chief Shepherd (Pastor) and I the undershepherd, what kind of pastor or minister am I to be? If I am to follow in His steps, what were His steps?
Let me lift from His ministry a brief moment that encapsulates Jesus’ pastoral concern. I do not pretend that this pericope represents the totality of truth about Jesus as our model for ministry, but I find in it three essentials that serve as an example for us.
The incident I will examine is that of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman in Mark 5:21–34.
Mark notes that Jairus’ daughter is 12 years old (v. 42) and that the woman has suffered from a bleeding condition for 12 years (v. 25).
Jairus’ request was an interruption to Jesus’ schedule. The Lord had arrived on the other side of the lake and a large crowd had met Him. Leadership dictates that we give the crowd priority, but ministry dictates that we give the need priority. So Jesus broke away from the crowd and accompanied Jairus.
On the way, He experienced an interruption to an interruption. The woman broke through the press of people and touched the hem of His robe. He could have kept right on going. But He did not. Why?
Because ministry is about people—or should I say persons, one by one. Jesus’ life mission included unplanned moments when He responded to the needs of individuals.
Leadership says, “Spend time with the influential people because they can give back to you.” Ministry says, “Touch the people who cannot do anything for you.”
Jesus Gave His Time to Others
Why is it important for us to notice something so obvious? Because sometimes we get so busy in ministry, we forget ministry is about people.
You are not in the ministry to build church buildings (although that may be necessary) or to occupy a position or to consume yourself with issues or causes that take you away from your most vital responsibility of ministering to people.
Jesus let people get to Him.
Let’s face it. Our models for ministry are often so-called successful ministers.
There has been a recent trend for important pastors to have bodyguards. The minister enters the service at his time and leaves out the side door when he is done.
Jesus took time for the individual. And His ministry took something out of Him. The text says, “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” (v. 30).
William Barclay gives this analysis: “This passage tells us something about Jesus. It tells us the cost of healing. Every time Jesus healed anyone it took something out of Him. Here is a universal rule in life. We will never produce anything great unless we are prepared to put something of our very life, of our very soul into it. … No preacher who ever preached a real sermon descended from his pulpit without a feeling of being drained of something. If ever we are to help men, we must be ready to spend ourselves. … The greatness of Jesus was that He was prepared to pay the price of helping others, and that price was the outgoing of His very life. We only follow in His steps when we are prepared to spend, not our substance, but our souls and strength for others.”
How many times do ministers not call on people who need help, do not answer letters or email, and do not respond to phone calls? May the Spirit stir us from lethargy and indifference.
We must be willing to touch people for Jesus, in Jesus’ name.
I love the title William Barclay gave to this passage about the bleeding woman. He called it, “A Sufferer’s Last Hope.” Certainly, Jesus was the last hope for this woman as well as for Jairus’ daughter.
Under the Law, when the impure touched the pure, the pure were made impure. But with Jesus, when the contaminated touched the uncontaminated, the uncontaminated decontaminated the contaminated.
There is a reverse force flow between the Law and the gospel. Instead of the woman’s impurity defiling Jesus, His wholeness cleansed her. He does the same thing with our sin. He makes us righteous rather than us making Him sinful.
Ministry is about transformation. We bring the good news that Jesus is Savior, baptizer in the Spirit and healer. Jesus told us to lay hands on the sick. That is a physical sign of the health in Him being passed into the person with illness so health enters rather than death reigning.
Ministers who have the greatest effect on people impart the life of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit through their example and teaching.
George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit georgeowood.com.