Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Messy, Inconvenient, Self-sacrificing Ministry of Loving People

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. 

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Mark 3:13-15, 20-21

Sometimes being in youth ministry is painful. Oh, I don't mean the kind of pain that I feel the day after I try to keep up with a bunch of fifteen year olds playing basketball. No, I mean a much more selfish kind of pain. What I am talking about is the pain that I feel when that one teenager talks my ear off after Wednesday night church. He doesn't realize that Wednesday is my longest day of the week or that I'm tired and just want to go home. All he knows is someone is finally listening to him, loving him, and showing him the attention he so desperately craves. So he soaks it up as long as he possibly can. While I, selfishly, stand there wishing he would catch a hint and let me go home. This is the problem with people though. They don't fit neatly on my "To Do" list, and they don't stay within my schedule preferences. Yep...investing in people, really ministering to them (which we all do whether we are pastors or not), is messy and self-sacrificial. It requires putting their needs above our own and acknowledging that our agenda really has no place. We follow God's agenda to help that individual move farther down the maturity path that God has prepared for them. 

I find it amazing that Jesus chose to do ministry exactly this way. Think about it! He could have come to earth in the 20th century and used the internet and air travel to communicate His message to the whole world, but He didn't. In fact, even by the standards of His own day, He didn't travel that far or preach to that many people. Paul very likely took the gospel to more people than Jesus did and definitely traveled a lot farther. Jesus chose a different strategy. He chose to invest in people. We see this in two ways in this passage.

First, He chooses twelve disciples to pour His life into. These twelve men lived with Jesus and were given greater access to Him and His teaching. These disciples are Jesus' grand outreach plan. Jesus Himself will not take the good news of the kingdom to the nations. Rather, He will sacrificially invest in the lives of these twelve men, and they will take the gospel to the nations. How interesting that God chose this way of all ways to spread His message. How could anyone share the message better than Jesus!? But God knew best. These twelve ordinary men received a most precious and rare gift. Jesus dedicated His short life on earth investing in them. What a privilege!

But Jesus didn't shut everyone else out. This passage also reveals that Jesus gave of Himself sacrificially to the crowds even to the point that He didn't have time to eat. His family said He was out of His mind! They thought Jesus was taking it too far. But Jesus knew He would one day take it even farther than this. He knew that one day, one of those twelve men He had poured so much into would betray Him and He would give His all for the people He so loved. 

In what ways do you need to make time in your schedule to invest in people? Do you need to make time for your children? For your spouse? That annoying co-worker who clearly needs love and a listening ear, but no one really wants to listen to? This week choose to invest in people. Choose to invest in the messy, inconvenient, self-sacrificing ministry of loving people.

For further reading...
  • Matthew 26:14-50- How hurtful must this have been for Jesus?!
  • Acts 1:1-8- Jesus' outreach plan in action. It wasn't until after He had returned to Heaven, that they would be sent out in power.
  • Philippians 2:1-11- (See especially verses three and four.) Follow Jesus' example by considering others above yourselves.

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