We often peruse Scripture for the most profound truths, which is great, but in doing so we sometimes miss the simplest truths and timeless insights that Jesus’ day to day ministry taught us.
Recently, the Lord has been reminding me of several fundamental principles of leadership as exemplified through his public ministry.
Here are five reminders that the Spirit has breathed upon me in my morning Scripture study this summer. Maybe some of them will resonate with you, as well.
#5: Jesus doesn’t need you as much as he wants you.
A careful examination of Scripture reveals something beautiful about Christ’s calling forth of the apostles from the group of disciples (Mark 3:13, Luke 6:13): while Jesus desired them, he didn’t “need” them, so to speak. Jesus chose to animate the gifts of those around him, calling them into loving service.
Christ came (in part) to establish the Church on earth, yes, but he wasn’t about to fulfill God’s mission alone. As the perfect leader, he understood the importance of delegation and empowerment in building God’s Kingdom on earth.
Notice that Jesus sought them out. He didn’t wait for them to come.
Do you actively seek out core members and catechists throughout the year or just wait and hope they come knocking on your door at a parish ministry fair?
#4: Jesus didn’t judge his team’s effectiveness by outward appearance.
Have you ever fallen into the youth ministry trap, for instance, of thinking you need the youngest, hippest core team of catechists? Or the adult ministry trap of believing only the older or most knowledgeable should be doing the teachings?
Let’s be clear:
There is no perfect core team.
Having all young souls or all older souls doesn’t create the optimal balance of energy and wisdom or of openness and life experience. Christ himself reminds us to look deeper than the outward appearance (Matthew 7:2). This is yet another reason that a core application process, ongoing training, and true discernment should go into every potential core member’s involvement.
Don’t just take warm bodies, and don’t just dismiss bodies that seem too out of the mold.
#3: Jesus didn’t measure ministry effectiveness by activities, but by prayer.
Jesus modeled delegation and dependence on others so that the ministry and mission could move forward (Luke 9:1-6).
If it was modeled by Christ, it’s time for all the one-person ministry shows to cease, allow others to help, so you, as the leader, can pray more!
#2: Jesus didn’t judge his success by immediate change.
People don’t just need time for their eyes to dilate to Christ’s light, but for their souls to adjust as well.
Don’t rush change.
Don’t put God on the clock.
Change takes time.
Re-read John 1:11 and Luke 8:15. The more people you bring along on the journey the better. Share and impart the vision (Habakkuk 2:2) and trust that, in God’s time, the collective journey toward God is going to pay off.
#1: Jesus knew how to handle frustration
Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is negativity.
Ministry is difficult. It is stressful at times. Certain souls in the kingdom— and, indeed, in ministry—can suck all the joy right out of you if you let them, so don’t! Choose joy, and breathe peace.
Take a page out of Jesus’ playbook.
Be steadfast in love and stand firm in truth (John 6:51-58, Luke 9:37-42). Don’t cater to the crowds and don’t react to negativity; virtue demands more. Stand in the face of adversity. Kneel in the presence of divinity. Laugh in the face of negativity.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).
Jesus didn’t do things in a manner that a lot of modern parish staffs would be comfortable with, to be sure. Christ’s Church has survived and thrived for two millennia, and will not cease (Matthew 16:18).
If you want your ministries and, indeed, your parish to thrive long after you’ve been called home to heaven, delegate now. Empower others with Christ’s mission and watch that commission change the face of the world for years to come.
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Mark has helped transform Catholic youth and young adult Scripture study in parishes, homes, and classrooms with his wildly popular Bible study programs, T3: The Teen Timeline (for teens) and Encounter (for pre-teens), as well as Altaration (a program about the Mass for teens).
A devoted husband and father of four, Mark’s humor and his passion for Scripture are helping hundreds of thousands of Catholics, young and old, begin to read and study the Bible in engaging, fun, and relevant ways. His latest project with Ascension, The 99, will offer parishes a new system for evangelization.
This article was first published on the Ascension Blog’s former home, The Great Adventure Blog, August 2004. To learn more about The Great Adventure Bible studies, click the banner below:
The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew painting (circa 1626-1630) by Pietro da Cortona sourced from Wikimedia Commons