Jesus’ method of ministry is all about influence. Jesus came to earth and didn’t have a public ministry for the first thirty some years of His life, and then after His baptism He started to call to Himself disciples who would make disciples who would impact the world in Jesus’ name.
In John 1 we read that John the Baptist said of his cousin Jesus when He was walking by, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Essentially John was prophesying Jesus’ death as a sacrifice of atonement for the world to bring the world into fellowship with God. When two of John’s disciples heard this they began to follow Jesus and they spent the day with him. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two and after spending time with Jesus he was influenced enough by Jesus’ character to go grab his brother and say, “We have found the Messiah (the Christ). And then he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41-42). Jesus influenced people by His teaching and ethos enough to excite people to grab friends and family bringing them to Jesus to become His followers (John 1:43-51).
Do we have the character and persona to draw people to ourselves to point people to Jesus?
If not, what aspect of my character to I need to lay before the Lord and pray that the Spirit of God would change in myself so that I become more like Jesus and less like the world?
People of this world like to cut each other down and one-up one another in most conversations so that we can prop ourselves up as someone to be admired. But the negative tone that goes with this way of being causes pain in others and even in ourselves when we sit alone and really think about how we engage people. With this type of communication comes manipulative behavior and soon we can find ourselves driving people or being driven by the more powerful. This is not the way of Christ.
Dr. Robert E. Coleman, who walked with Billy Graham, said this about ministry influence:
“Sheep, they wander without a shepherd. The difference between sheep and cattle is you don’t drive sheep…you drive cattle. You lead sheep.”
Robert Coleman is talking about influence. Jesus earned the right to lead by His character influence and people wanted to be around Him so much so that when He called Peter and Andrew, James and John to “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” they dropped their nets and left everything behind to be disciples of Jesus (Matthew 4).
Notice the number of disciples Jesus called to Himself – twelve. There were many other people who wanted to follow Jesus and who would for a time, but Jesus focused on “the Twelve.” Within this group of men He focused His leadership influence primarily on three men – James, John, and Peter. These are the three men who essentially led the Church soon after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus’ method needs to be our method. Pastors should focus on influencing 8, 10, or 12 guys and after these potential leaders have been trained they should focus on 8, 10, or 12 people in the church replicating what they have learned from the Pastor. If leadership of churches focused on leading churches this way, it might start out slowly but within 5 years or so the majority of the church will be shepherded and influenced to minister to one another and to new comers within the church.
I was reading a book a couple nights ago called “Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.” The authors, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, state that the church should break down into smaller, manageable groups called “gospel” or “missional” communities. Within these groups every Christian should realize we are called to be priests and shepherd one another. No individual is above another. Pastors, even, need to be shepherded. In other words, “We should encourage 360-degree pastoring rather than top-down pastoring. We should be ready for mess and indeed welcome it… The message of grace in the cross must be at the heart of our pastoral care… Our aim is for people to experience joy in Christ.” (pp. 72-73).
Living out of the grace and the joy of Christ will increase our influence. Speaking truth with grace and forgiveness will draw people to Christ and to a tight-knit community in which the love of God is the glue that binds. This way of living needs to begin with leadership and as the leaders live this way, more people will be drawn into this Christ-centered community called “the Church.”
When people don’t want to be influenced by you, one of two things might be going on: (1) the person might see flaws in you and might feel like you are beginning to drive them; or (2) the person might not want to be influenced. In these situations take a step back and ask someone close to you, “Am I legalistic or domineering? Is there some aspect of my character that needs to be refined? Do I try to over-pastor people?” And then go seek the Lord in the Scriptures to cleanse your soul and pray the Spirit of God helps you overcome this character flaw.
When people don’t want to be influenced by you, sometimes it is just them. Let it go, move on to the next person (I don’t mean don’t be friends or don’t love the previous person who rejected you. Still love them and reach out to them – but if they don’t want you to influence them then it is okay to stop or you might burn a bridge). Don’t take it personally, but look for someone who connects with you and wants to learn from you. Role with those who want to role with you and together seek the Lord and how to honor Him.
May God work in you this week to seek to be pastored and to learn to pastor others. Pastoring a church is the role of every Christian in the Church, this is a calling of laymen and women, not of professionals only (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). This is something we all should be doing, so turn to the Holy Spirit and to Scripture and to your pastor to equip you to learn how to shepherd each other in community. The more we do this, the healthier the church will become and the watching world will look in and see our tight-knit-deep-love for one another and desire what we have and they will start asking questions (1 Peter 3:15).