Shepherd’s Care: Person

In Jesus’ invitation to his first apostles in Mark 1:17, he says simply, “follow me.”  Jesus is the Gospel.  He is the Good News.  The Christian life, in general, and the life of ordained ministry in particular is all about being related to him.

President Timothy Tennent of Asbury Theological Seminary recently reminded us in a sermon that the Incarnation is not only about revealing who God is, it is also about revealing who we are. The Word became flesh (John 1:14), and in his humanity, Jesus is showing us what God intended for our lives to look like.  Consequently, when we follow him, we find ourselves becoming more and more the people we were made to be and long to be.  Jesus is the source of our authenticity.

He is also the source of our ministry.  We are Jesus’ apprentices.  We watch him carefully, and then we pray for grace and guidance to practice ministry in congruence with his example.  We discover what he believed to be his message, and we see how he delivered it.  As we follow him, we see how he related to friends and enemies—how he renewed himself time and again—how he faced his own death, etc. etc.

Consequently, the word Christlikeness is the single-best word for understanding both the nature of our life and our ministry.  It is unfortunate that the early Christians so quickly began to follow others, often dividing themselves into camps (e.g. “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Paul”).  It is even more unfortunate that after two thousand years we have not learned better, so we continue to do the same.  We want to preach like some “celebrity pastor” or build our church like some “effective minister.”

All the while Jesus stands and speaks the same two words to us that he spoke to the first apostles, “follow me.”  There’s a lifetime of learning by simply doing that.  An old hymn captures the message, even though it was not written with preachers in mind, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

It is very important in the course of our ministry to ask ourselves, “whom am I following?”  For we will always end up where that person takes us.  And we will, in turn, lead others to the place where we have been taken.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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