Thursday, September 29, 2016

Evaluating a Ministry, Part 3

This series is designed to help us determine some characteristics of how ministries are often evaluated and how they might better be. The primary focus is on Mark 8, and last week, I provided a look at a likely evaluation on behalf of the Pharisees. (You can view the post here.) The Pharisees were definitely interested observers, but they had a definite agenda as well. This week, we will look at the perspective of the disciples who were called to witness and do, yet had little understanding by this point in the story.

The Disciples

Mark 8 is the pivotal chapter in this account of the gospel. The disciples have witnessed many miracles, heard Jesus teaching, but still struggle to understand. Before I continue, let me be clear that in this post, when I use the word disciples, I am concerned with the Twelve, not the seventy or more that followed Jesus. The same principles may apply to all of Jesus' followers then, but they definitely include the Twelve so I will restrict my usage to the men named in Mark 3.16-18 (and similar lists found elsewhere in the gospels and Acts – which are similar, though some list have different names due to nicknames and such).

In Mark 3, Jesus appoints the twelve whom He also calls apostles (v. 14). The word appoints is the Greek word poieo which generally means “to make.” This is an important word and will be discussed more in Part 5 of this series. For now, it will suffice to see what Jesus appointed them to do. Mark 3.14-15 says they were called to “be with him” and to be sent out “to preach and have authority to cast out demons.”

By the time these followers were called, some of them had already witnessed several miracles (cf Mark 1.31-34; 1.41; 2.11; and 3.5). Subsequently, all were present to see many more miracles including calming a storm (Mark 4.35-41), raising a girl from the dead (Mark 5.39-43, only a few went with Jesus in this instance), feeding five thousand men (Mark 6.35-44) and walking on water (Mark 6.45-52). Unbelievably, Mark 6.52 says their hearts were hardened after witnessing these miracles.

The Confusion
Based on the preceding paragraph, it is evident they were often with Jesus (Mark 3.14). But they had also been sent out to preach and cast out demons (Mark 6.7-13), and did so successfully! However, the feeding in Chapter 8 brings hostility and then evidence of a lack of understanding. The disciples were confused (at best) about Jesus feeding these people. “These” seems to be a derogatory reference here as Jesus was with the Gentiles. Like the Pharisees, it was perfectly acceptable for Jesus to feed the Jews (Chapter 6), but not these people.” After Jesus rebukes them for a lack of understanding (Mark 8.14-21), we get a glimpse that their understanding is beginning to change.

Perspective: Why this man helps Gentiles is beyond us, but we cannot deny His power!
Evaluation: Outstanding“You are the Christ!” (i.e. “We are going to be victorious!”)

(I am placing myself in the minds of the disciples, as I see it, for the perspective and evaluation – both here and below.)

This perspective and evaluation may represent the thought process in Mark 8.27-30. The others consider Jesus to be a great prophet, but they know Him even better. The problem isn’t that they don’t know Him better, it is how they understand what they think they know. Jesus is more than a prophet...He is Messiah. And, if that is true, then it is time to rise up and overthrow the oppression (Rome) and restore Israel. But Jesus came to be raised up in order to overthrow the oppression of sin (not Rome). He told the disciples He must suffer, be rejected and die (and be raised again.) This did not compute in the minds of these twelve men, so just after The Great Confession comes the The Great Rebuke.

Perspective: You are Messiah! What is all this nonsense about having to suffer and die.
Evaluation: Failure“You must not understand what being Messiah really means. You have the power to do anything. So do it. We will help you.”

Jesus begins to clarify what He means, but again, that is His perspective and so we must wait for how that piece fits into our evaluation puzzle (post 5). For now, let us look at the point of this post and draw a conclusion or two from it.

The Point
The disciples had a calling. Their calling was to follow Christ (“Follow Me”). Their appointment as disciples/apostles was to be with Him and to go for Him. By being with Jesus they would not only learn what to do, but why it was important to do it. By going for Him, they would learn to prove themselves capable of extending Jesus ministry when He would no longer be with them. But that was the problem. They did not have a big enough perspective to see a time when He would be gone.

The problem with the Pharisees last week was they had an agenda – particularly to discredit and even destroy Jesus (Mark 3.6). The disciples issue was their lack of understanding the process of Jesus. Again, we can boil this down to a simple “Be with Me so you can go for Me” (Mark 3.14-15). But as they began to better discover who Jesus really was, they wanted to go with Him – to rule in His Kingdom  (cf Mark 9.33-37; Acts 1.6). However, Jesus knew they had more to learn before they would be ready for their true purpose – to reach the nations with His message (Acts 1.8).

The Conclusion

We all have people who will seek to evaluate our ministries with reasonable intent, but with a lack of understanding. That summarizes the issue for the disciples. They knew what the general expectations were for the Messiah, and Jesus did not deny their conclusion that He was Messiah. However, He did change the focus to the Son of Man (Mark 8.31) to reveal a larger perspective for them to absorb.

How does this apply to us? People within our own ministry setting will often have a perspective of what the full job entails, but they will only have a part of the picture. We may not need to rebuke them as harshly as Jesus rebuked Peter, but we should take the time to help them see the larger picture. After all, each of us are just like the disciples in the sense that we don’t see the full picture of what God has for us or our ministries. As we help others gain a greater perspective, we prepare them for greater ministry opportunities, including perhaps extending what we have already begun. Like Jesus, we must remember that one day we will not be doing what we are currently doing and thus we should be preparing the next generation of leaders to be ready to take over when necessary. So, who are you asking to “be with you and go for you” so that they might be ready to step in, or move on, to great things when the timing is right?

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