“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”Ephesians 4:11-12
Our primary role as ministry leaders is to equip people for works of service. What does it mean to equip people though? How do we do that? How did Jesus do that?
As gifted communicators, many ministry leaders would say they equip people for ministry through their preaching and teaching of the Word of God. They equip from the pulpit. They equip during the Sunday morning service or the weekly youth program.
Is the pulpit our most effective platform for equipping though? Maybe the answer to that can be found by simply asking if the people we’re preaching and teaching to are actually involved in the ministry of making disciples throughout the week. If they’re not, maybe it’s time we rethink equipping. How would you answer these seven basic equipping questions?
- Do our people know how to study the Bible on their own?
- Do our people know how to talk to God in prayer for longer than five minutes?
- Do our people regularly pray for their spiritually lost friends?
- Do our people even have any spiritually lost friends?
- Do our people know how to clearly communicate the gospel?
- Do our people know how to disciple a new believer?
- Do our people know their spiritual gifts and look for opportunities to use them?
As Jesus equipped His disciples to be and make disciples, He took a more hands on, relational approach. It’s something we call the BE WITH factor.
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”Mark 3:13-15
In Sonlife’s Leadership Multiplication Seminar and Knowing Him: 50 Day Study on the Life of Christ, we examine six “fishing trips” Jesus took His disciples on after challenging them to “fish for people.” These are all found in Luke’s Gospel, and they provide a picture of the hands on, learn as you go approach Jesus employed. In learning to fish for people, the disciples would learn to relate to different kinds of people in different kinds of settings with different kinds of needs. As fishermen, they had learned from their fathers where to fish, what time to fish, how to repair, prepare, cast, and draw in a net, and so much more. Their fathers didn’t train them to fish in a classroom. They learned on the boat, first by watching, and then by practicing.
Jesus was a carpenter. This too was a craft He learned from His step-father, Joseph. He learned about materials and tools. He learned basic techniques and foundational skills for building things. He probably even learned some basic business skills like negotiating wages and collecting payment for the work He did.
In addition to the 6 Fishing Trips, our Leadership Multiplication Seminar also considers 4 Ministry Tours and 5 Mission Trips that Jesus brought His disciples on to equip them for ministry. We’ll consider those events in upcoming blogs, but right now, let’s take a closer look at these fishing trips for Jesus’ fishers of people.
FISHING TRIP ONE / LUKE 4:31-37
After calling Andrew, Peter, James, and John to be fishers of people, Jesus joins them at their hometown synagogue to worship on the Sabbath. Jesus’ audience is Jewish, and they are the friends, neighbors, and family of His disciples living in Capernaum. While Jesus delivers a demon possessed man during the service, certainly something the disciples will be learning to do themselves, perhaps the more important lesson in this initial fishing trip is that ministry begins where you live. Care for your neighbors. Share Jesus with them.
FISHING TRIP TWO / LUKE 4:38-41
As I’m sure was their custom following the Sabbath service, Andrew and Peter headed back to the house for a wonderful, home cooked meal. Jesus was invited. Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever though. Jesus healed her, and she got up and prepared food for everyone. The disciples learned about the power of God available to heal those who are sick, and maybe more importantly, that ministry begins at home. Bring Jesus home with you. Introduce your family to the Savior.
FISHING TRIP THREE / LUKE 5:1-11
After the disciples up close exposure to Jesus’ healing and deliverance ministry, they then experience His amazing teaching ministry as He captivates such a large crowd on the shore of Galilee that He has to step into Peter’s boat to teach from the water. Not only do they experience Jesus’ powerful teaching and preaching, but they also experience His miraculous power as He has them cast their nets back in the water after a futile night of fishing, only to pull them up overflowing with fish that threatened to sink the boat. The disciples were learning about God’s power for ministry as well as God’s provision for ministry.
FISHING TRIP FOUR / LUKE 5:12-13
As the disciples join Jesus in ministry, they come across a social and spiritual outcast. How will Jesus respond to the leper? What will the disciples learn? Not only does Jesus come face-to-face with the man covered with leprosy, but He also speaks to him. And not only does Jesus speak to him, Jesus reaches out His hand and touches the leper. No one does this. But Jesus did. Jesus loved the leper. Jesus accepted the leper. Jesus healed the leper. In that moment, this man was healed physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. What a worldview altering act for the disciples to witness. Lepers matter to God. No one is beyond God’s reach.
FISHING TRIP FIVE / LUKE 5:17-26
Upon returning to Capernaum, a large crowd gathers at a house to hear Jesus teach. Many Pharisees are there, no doubt wanting to check out the new Rabbi and see if He was credible. Surely many others had come looking to be healed of some sickness or delivered of some demon. The house is so crowded, four friends climb up on the roof and dig a hole in it to lower their paralytic friend down in front of Jesus. His need was obvious to all. He was paralyzed. He couldn’t walk. But that wasn’t the need Jesus saw. Jesus forgave his sins. His spiritual need was greater than his physical need. It always is. To show compassion and God’s power, as well as His authority to forgive sins, Jesus then healed the paralytic. Jesus’ disciples would learn the importance of seeing and meeting spiritual needs in people’s lives, as well as the spiritual authority needed to minister to others.
FISHING TRIP SIX / LUKE 5:27-39
The final fishing trip we examine in our training is the call of Matthew and the subsequent banquet at Matthew’s house. Like the leper, Matthew too was a social outcast in Israel. He was a hated, corrupt tax collector profiting off Rome’s occupation of Israel. At Matthew’s house, Jesus dined with other tax collectors and sinners. Were these “sinners’ prostitutes? Tax collectors loved money and loved to party. Jesus went where the sinners were. Matthew had likely been a secret believer in Jesus for a long time, thinking he would never be accepted by Jesus because of his chosen profession. Through this encounter, the disciples would learn just how much lost people matter to God. No matter how sinful. No matter how revolting their lifestyle. Lost people matter to God.
I wonder what kind of questions the disciples had and what kind of conversations followed encounters like the one Jesus had with the leper, or the tax collectors and sinners, or driving out demons and forgiving sins?
We know the disciples were equipped though, because eventually we see them being sent out two by two to “proclaim the message… heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8)
Check back in next week as we look at 4 Ministry Tours Jesus brought the disciples on and how He used those tours to equip them as disciple-makers.