What was the most important ministry of Jesus? It is a question that you normally do not hear, mostly because most people do not normally rank the various ministries of Christ. However, hopefully you can tell from reading the past four entries that I am not exactly what you might call a normal human being. So, we’re going to go there! If we were to chalk up a list of Christ’s most important ministries that He had while He was on earth, what would top the list? What would be the number one seed if we bracketed them up (sorry, it’s March)?
Certainly His love would make the list. He is love! The man is the definition of love. We do not even have to go to Webster or UrbanDictionary for that one. Jesus Christ emulated love everywhere He went. He loved everyone and proved it by sacrificing His own life and His own comfortable place in heaven to come down with the expressed purpose to die for the same people who spat in His face on His way to Calvary. But, is the love of Christ His most important ministry?
If you say no, then you might say that instead, teaching people was His most important ministry. Jesus was always teaching somebody, somewhere. In fact, the man never stopped teaching! He used every opportunity available to teach somebody something. He would use random situations to teach His disciples. I bet half the reason that they were so confused all of the time was because their teacher would try to help them learn a principle or a lesson while they were simply traveling. Christ looked at the simple things in life and then used them to teach others. Still, are His teachings His most important ministry?
So then what is it? What is our Savior’s most important ministry? Well, I would submit to you that while He loved everyone and taught many, He only equipped a few. Specifically, He equipped twelve (or eleven) to continue on His ministry even after He ascended into heaven. He could have done everything else that He ended up doing. He could have even died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven, but without the Church spreading the message of the gospel to people, a couple years later no one would have really cared about Jesus. He poured His life into twelve men so that they could build upon the extraordinary foundation that they received by ministering with Christ for three years and found what eventually because the Church that we have today. Every other ministry of His succumbs to this one, because without it, no one would have ever known about his other ministries.
The same goes for you as well. Your most important ministry will be equipping others, or in other words, discipleship. This is the point of everything that you do as a Christian, beyond just worshipping God, you are to emulate Christ so that others emulate Christ. You might even become a famous Christian leader. You can have books written about your influence, and critics questioning your philosophies of ministry, and people who call you their hero. But eventually, no one is going to read those books, and the critics will all forget about you, and no one will know who you even are, much less call you their hero. There are people in the Old Testament who lived for almost an entire millennium, and all that we know about them is their name, how long they lived, and who their descendants were. I do not care how famous you get, you will not last!
However, you can be influential to a couple of people throughout the course of your life, and though those people may call you their hero, that is not what will last. What will last is how they respond to how you discipled them. What will last is not the books that they write about you, but the rewards that those people store up in heaven because of your influence. What will last is not the philosophies that you came up with that originally brought them to Christ, but the soul that was rescued from eternal damnation because you stepped up and carried out the Great Commission to their benefit. And beyond that, any souls that are birthed out of that soul, and any soul that is birthed out of that soul, and so on, all the way down the line of disciples, will be a part of your legacy as a Christian leader.
Therefore, you should not strive for those things which will not last, and instead should strive to pour your life into the discipleship of others, so that you might leave a legacy is not necessarily about you as much as it is about the lives changed because your changed life was poured into there’s. Those people will then pour into the lives of other people, who will consequently pour into the lives of more people, and soon, you have impacted hundred, maybe thousands, just through your lowly little life here on earth that the Lord blesses you with. Paul talks to Timothy about this very thing in his second epistle to the young pastor:
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
– 2 Timothy 2:2
When Jesus founded His Church, He knew that this would happen. He knew that it would multiply and grow bigger and bigger, because this is the way that the Church works. People hear about Christ, enter into a relationship with Him, grow in Him through discipleship, then go and repeat the process with other people. With each person, the impact gets larger. In fact, if everyone did as Jesus did and poured their entire lives into twelve different people, and those people did the same thing, and those people did the same thing, it would only take eight and a half generations to reach the entire population of mankind with the gospel of Christ. Yet, how many generations have we had since the time of Christ (I’ll let you do the math on that one)?
As a Christian, and especially as a Christian leader, it is your responsibility to disciple others. We are commanded in Scripture to do so, and we know that without discipleship the church would not just stop growing, but it would die as well. If you look at a church that is completely dead and not growing at all, then you will see that one of the central things that they are missing amongst their body of believers is discipleship. It is essential for the growth of the church as well as your effectiveness as a spiritual leader.
However, how does one go about discipling others? This all sounds great, but how do you get started? Well, first of all, you must know who you would like to disciple. If you have no one in mind, then pray for opportunities to be able to disciple someone and the courage to stand up boldly and work with them on it. But if you do, then the first step beyond simply identifying that person is to be intentional with approaching them about discipleship. Seriously. Ask them. Talk to them about it. Bring it up. Go to them and speak with them about how you see potential in them to be a great spiritual leader. And actually mean that when you say it. Do not just pick some people who have zero potential, because then the Lord still has some more work to do with them before you can really impact them through discipleship.
Still, the point is to equip others to be able to equip others to be able to equip others, etc, to emulate Christ in everything. In order to do that in the first place, you must be the one to seek them out. Christ did not just wake up one morning with twelve guys surrounding His house waiting to be taught. He called them all out individually, going to them and intentionally calling out for them to follow Him. Now, we don’t have that kind of authority, but can tell others what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” This should be our message to people as we intentionally call them into discipleship.
The second step of discipleship is that we must actually teach them. This can be from a variety of things, but should at the very least include teaching them from the Word, as well as from our own experiences and our reflections on their experiences. These three things are a great foundation to start with when you are longing to start discipling someone. Teach them also that the purpose in you doing this with them is so that one day they can be in your place while discipling someone else. Establish this from the beginning, so that the goal is never in question, and constantly remind them of why you two are doing what you are doing in discipleship.
Thirdly, let them actually act upon what you are teaching them. Let them do something. Part of the problem today in discipleship is that when we sit down to make a disciple, we do not let them do anything. They are taught everything, but we give them no homework, and eventually no only do they forget everything that we said to the, but they also prevent them from actually acting upon what they did learn from what you taught them. They will become hearers of the Word and not doers. Teaching them something in Scripture about evangelism and then holding them back from practicing it because you think they are not ready is really holding them back from what they need to do! Do not hold them back, but instead give them homework that comes straight out of the commands of Scripture and watch the Spirit of the Lord do His thing in their lives. Watch them grow into doers of the Word, to the point that they too are making their own disciples as well.
This is the point of it all. When discipleship does not come full circle then we have impacted no one in a lasting way. As a spiritual leader, I am assuming that you want to impact many people for the cause of Christ. This is the way that Christ Himself did it. Now it’s your turn.