If you had to describe Jesus’ ministry in one word, you could come up with a few good descriptors. Empowered would be a good one. Compassionate would be another. But you wouldn’t get too far down the list before you got to a biggie . . .
Jesus’ ministry was uniquely relational. What do I mean by this? Jesus came to tell the world about the Kingdom of God. He came to teach people about Himself, the Way, the only path back to perfect relationship with the Father. He came to testify that He was the Son of God come to save the world. And He communicated all of this relationally.
He didn’t have to. Jesus could have done all of this in a detached way. He could have separated this knowledge transfer from life-on-life interaction. But He didn’t. He didn’t separate the ministry He did with His disciples (and others) from the life He lived with them.
The two were ingrained and intertwined.
Think of all the places in the New Testament where we see this. Here’s a few . . .
The calling of the disciples
Didn’t call them to join a program. He didn’t enroll them in a school. He said, “Follow me.” He literally asked them to leave the place they were, and begin a relationship with Him. And they did.
His healing and His miracles
When Jesus healed people or performed miracles, as He did all throughout the Gospels, the primary purpose was to show people He was the Son of God. But the secondary purpose was to dramatically help people. He didn’t have to do this. He could have simply stopped the sun in the sky, or any other number of miraculous (yet impersonal) things. But Jesus healed people’s afflictions. He calmed storms when they frightened His friends. He fed hungry people. He brought people’s loved-ones back from death. Relational ministry at its finest.
He engaged with the crowds that followed Him
Jesus didn’t shun the demanding, needy, imposing crowds that followed Him. He ministered to them.
His teaching was relational
Jesus taught as He went about His day, doing life. He didn’t hole up in a synagogue or the Temple and expect His followers to come to Him. He taught in relationship. He used examples that were rooted in people’s lives. He empowered His disciples to do as He did. He modeled what it meant to live the way He taught. There was no cold, one-way knowledge-dump. It was relational at its core.
He connected deeply with people
Think about the woman at the well. Think about Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus. Think about His disciples, both the 12 and especially His inner three. Jesus connected intimately with the people He ministered to. He knew them. He took time to engage them in a way that met their unique needs.
From a big picture perspective, the incarnation was as relational a thing as you can possibly imagine
God didn’t have to become one of us. He could have made another way. No one forced His hand. And yet, He chose to live among us, making Himself available to us.
Jesus placed a tremendous amount of importance on ministering to people relationally. I think we have to model this same relational investment.
It’s vitally important that everyone on our teams realize that the expectation isn’t to simply fill a task (say, to teach 7th grade, guy’s small groups on Sunday mornings) but to fulfill a role. Your role, and the role of your adult volunteers, is to shape lives. It’s to lead teenagers closer to Christ. This really can’t be done without modeling the kind of relational investment Jesus modeled.
Challenge your leaders to see embrace a deeper level of relational ministry. After all, if it was Jesus’ chosen model, shouldn’t it be ours?