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Recruiting and Training for Ministry: The Jesus Model

It is important to consider the way Jesus recruited, trained and empowered His disciples for ministry. Anderson (1979) tells us, “There is only one ministry – it is the ministry of Christ. All other ministry is rooted in this ministry . . .” (p. 137). Ministry does not end with the ascension of Christ because Jesus prayed, “As thou sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). Our success in ministry is dependent upon heeding to His words, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

Recruitment for Ministry

Spirituality and educational qualifications are major determining factors in recruiting personnel for ministry today. Jesus used a different measure. To the lowly fishermen He commanded, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). He has the ability to mould people and to help them reach their potential. White (1940) puts it this way, “God takes men as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service . . . They are not chosen because they are perfect” (p. 294).

Jeremiah clarifies it further, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5). The text implies that God has a purpose for every human being that He creates. However, His purpose comes to play only if people choose to follow His will.

When He called the twelve they were unlearned but He worked with them until they were qualified. White (1940) continues, “All the disciples had serious faults when Jesus called them to His service . . . They continued to the end . . . to learn the lessons of His life. By beholding Christ, they became transformed in character.” (pp. 295-296).

Training for Ministry

The most powerful textbook that Jesus used in training His disciples was His own life. After training them He gave them a “graduation speech” at the last supper table. He said to them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). Jesus ‘walked the talk’ (Templar, 2003).

Jesus chose His disciples from different walks of life and trained them for service. The education was so thorough that, “When the disciples came forth from the Savior’s training, they were no longer ignorant and uncultured. They had become like Him in mind and character, and men took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus” (White, 1940, p.250). In His school practical lessons were the order of the day. The disciples participated in organizing the people, distributing food (John 6), leading the sick to the Great Physician and sometimes He authorized them to heal the sick (Matt 10). Only after giving them appropriate training was He able to say, “Go and make disciples . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20).

Empowering for Ministry

Jesus called, trained and empowered His disciples in work-related abilities before He commissioned them to go and preach the gospel. The empowerment process motivated them and gave them confidence to do the work. In the following paragraphs I want to examine some of the areas in which Jesus empowered the disciples.

Empower Through Education

As iron sharpens iron, Jesus trained sinful human beings and used them to reach humanity. White (1940) asserts, “But these obscure disciples had obtained an education in the highest of all schools. They had sat at the feet of Him who spoke as never man spake” (p. 251). From the school of Christ they learnt public speaking, healing ministry, chairing meetings, cross cultural ministry, writing skills and many other disciplines. In three years they were transformed from ordinary citizens to extraordinary and refined scholars of the scriptures. All this was attributed to their having spent time with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Empower Through the Holy Spirit

Acts 1:8 tells us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” A few days after this promise was given the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and they were able to speak in tongues (Acts 2:4), to baptize thousands of new believers (verse 41) and to heal the sick (Acts 5:15-16). Jesus warned them that they were going to be persecuted because of His name but the Holy Spirit would never leave them alone.

Empower Through Self-worth

Hoehl (2008) makes the following observation, “Jesus empowered His disciples in John 21:1-25 by building their confidence and enhancing their sense of self-efficacy.” Three times He asked Peter whether he loved Him and three times He “empowers Peter by reinstating him after his denial of Jesus. As Peter affirms his love for Him, Jesus assigns him greater responsibility in advancing God’s kingdom on earth” (p.15). He continues to say that this “demonstrates Jesus’ desire to give His disciples opportunities to be successful and build their ministerial confidence and self-efficacy” (p. 15).

Jesus went against the tradition of the day when He as a religious teacher chose Matthew a publican to be among the 12. Matthew’s self-worth was restored by the words of Jesus, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13). Hoehl (2008) advises, “Contemporary leaders can benefit from Jesus’ example of developing His disciples’ sense of confidence and self-efficacy” (p. 15)

Empower Through Equipping

Before Jesus left His disciples He promised, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12). He gave them a feel of what they were capable of doing when empowered by the Holy Spirit. He called the 12 together and gave them authority to preach and to, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matt 10:7-8).

At Pentecost they were given the ability to speak in other tongues (Acts 2:4). In 1 Cor 12 Paul talks about different spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to each one as He sees fit. As part of training Jesus empowered His disciples by equipping them with appropriate gifts for service. Hoehl (2008) adds, “Today’s leaders can certainly implement Jesus’ example to equip, encourage, and support their followers” (p. 16).

Empower Through Prayer

Jesus empowered His disciples by giving them the gift of prayer. His ministry on earth was driven by prayer. He started and ended it with prayer (Matt. 4, John 17). It was His custom to go out “Very early in the morning . . . to a solitary place where He prayed.” (Mark 1:35) for Himself, for His disciples and for the church (John 17).

It was while praying that He was transfigured (Luke 9:28-29). When asked why His disciples failed to heal a boy who had an evil spirit He remarked, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark. 9:29). Prayer is a legacy which Jesus left with His disciples. He promised, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt 21:22).

Jesus and the Family

Jesus had strong family ties. He spent about 30 years confined to a family and three years in His public ministry as if to underline how much value He places in family life. He taught His disciples to address God as “Our Father in Heaven” (Matt 6:9). After He ascended to Heaven the disciples came together to pray along with His mother, and brothers (Acts 1:14). James His brother became the leader of the early church (Acts 15:13). Paul identifies Him as our brother (Heb 2:17) whom we can approach with confidence (Heb 4:16). In Rev 1:5 Jesus calls Himself “the firstborn from the dead.” He goes on to encourage His followers to be faithful and to look forward to a crown of life” (Rev2:10).

Such assurance is necessary to help today’s spiritual leaders to know that the One who has called them is willing to sustain them through all the challenges of ministry. Further, this teaches contemporary leaders to develop strong family ties, to regard fellow workers as brothers and sisters and to be actively involved in their spiritual formation.

Paminus Machamire is a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Africa -Indian Ocean Division

This article is excerpted from A Project Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree Doctor of Ministry by Paminus Machamire June, 2010

White, E. G. The desire of ages. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940.

Templar, R. The rules of work. London: Pearson Education, 2003. 

Hoehl, S. (2008). Empowering by Jesus: A Research Proposal for an Exploration of Jesus’ Empowerment

Approach in John 21: 1-25. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, 2(2), 5-16.
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