Missionaries as strategic team builders

Missionary ministry that reflects Christ

Not long after Jesus's baptism in the Jordan River, He called twelve men as His "disciples." Those chosen were not going to be simply followers or "groupies." Choosing them was an intentional, strategic move on Jesus' part.

Those men were Jesus' ministry team for His three years of earthly ministry. While they traveled around together, He taught and mentored them. In between ministering to large crowds, Jesus poured Himself into these twelve men. He had a long-term mission for them that would continue after He ascended into Heaven.

Those disciples observed Jesus up close as He modeled teaching, preaching, and holistic ministry. Each Sabbath, He attended synagogue services with them. He encouraged them. He scolded them. He talked to these twelve about relationships. He prayed for them. He posed questions to help them process His teachings. He answered their questions.

Those twelve received in-service, on-the-job training from Jesus. He gave them responsibilities. He sent them out two by two and then de-briefed them when they returned. He cast a vision for the future when He would no longer be physically or visibly present with them.

A bit of a structure even emerged in the little band. Three of them became a sort of "executive council." The group had a treasurer. Three event-filled years passed and not long before His Ascension, Jesus told those twelve men, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). And so they went, taking the gospel beyond the borders of Israel and pushing toward the ends of the known world.

Global missionaries need to follow Jesus' example of strategic team building. Indeed, Jesus' example shaped the strategy that the Apostle Paul employed in his church-planting work across the northern rim of the Mediterranean Sea.

To be sure, we missionaries feel a burden to proclaim the gospel to as many lost people as possible. We also want to call believers to a life of holiness. However, if we want to follow Jesus' example, shouldn't we become strategic team builders? Shouldn't missionaries follow Jesus' pattern and put together discipleship and church-planting teams to carry forward the work long after expatriate missionaries have been redeployed elsewhere?

Discussion questions

  1. Why can it be said that Jesus' intentional and strategic approach to building a ministry team set an example for global missionaries?
  2. How did Jesus use in-service, on-the-job training to prepare his disciples for their future mission work?
  3. Are there lessons to be learned from the structure that emerged within Jesus' ministry team, with three of the twelve men becoming an "executive council" and the group having a treasurer?
  4. What does Jesus' example say to us about the importance of missionaries being strategic team builders to ensure the future of the ministry long after they have been redeployed elsewhere?
  5. How might following Jesus' example of team building contribute to the long-term success of missionary efforts, particularly in the area of church planting and discipleship?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

This 500-word mini-essay on Christlike attitudes and actions that need to be present in cross-cultural missionary service is one of a dozen articles in the "missionary ministry that reflects Christ" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine produced by the Church of the Nazarene.

Afterword

Jesus selected twelve disciples as hus ministry team members, He provided them with in-service, on-the-job training during his earthly ministry. He personally mentored them as they engaged in holistic ministry. The group even had some structure with three disciples forming an "executive council" and another one being the treasurer. Jesus' commissioning of these disciples before his ascension underscores the importance of strategic team building for long-term impact. Missionaries are encouraged to emulate Jesus' approach of the in-service development of ministry leaders for now and on into the future.

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