Throughout the book of Matthew we have seen Jesus in action as He leads by example while teaching and training the disciples. It was important that the disciples did not overlook how Jesus responded to the needs of the people around him. In the same way, readers today must be conscious of the example Jesus set in caring for the physical needs of those around us. Stories like the healing of the leper, the centurion’s boy, Jairus’ daughter and the healing of two blind men give us evidence of his authority and a practical picture of “practicing what he preaches” in order to train his disciples.
When we think about building and managing ministry teams we often look for tools that help us as we grow into an effective team. As Jesus teaches his disciples as well as the people around him through the use of parables, he is able to preach to a diverse audience. We begin to understand both the simplicities and complexities of the messages that are written through the words in each of the parables. Why did Jesus choose to speak in parables to the crowds and then only in private explain their deeper meaning to the disciples? Even the disciples asked this question of Jesus and he answers them by saying the people have not experienced the depths of the knowledge of the kingdom of God that they have. Giving the people a simple and clear picture was the only way they could begin to comprehend the complexities of the gospel message.
Matthew Henry in his commentary makes this note: “The nearer we draw to Christ, and the more we converse with him, the better acquainted we shall be with gospel mysteries.” The tools we need as leaders are right in front of us, built into the words written in scripture. In order for us to grow and draw nearer to Christ as Matthew Henry states, we must be conversing with him, spending time in his word and spending time in prayer asking for direction and understanding. The disciples had Jesus to lean on and learn from; today we have his written word that gives us direction and understanding according to his will.
When we read about Jesus sending out the Apostles in Matthew chapter 10 we can pull from the text some important principles for effective leadership and lessons for building and managing our teams.
#1 – Priority and focus. Jesus had commanded them “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus had given them a clear message as to what the priority of this first mission was. I have been in situations where leaders have not communicated a clear priority or focus for a task and the often we can be left wondering what it is we are to be doing. Without this specific plan or objective our efforts sometimes seem lost or our time is wasted. We as leaders must have a clear understanding ourselves of what we are trying to accomplish otherwise those who we lead will be left floundering.
#2 – Expectations. “Go to the lost sheep… heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.”(v.8) Those are very specific expectations, I personally work well within these parameters, give me the job, give me the expectations (details) and away I go. As we grow our ministry teams and groups I do feel that a clear picture and clear communication of our expectations is critical. Without expectations, without goals we can easily become lost and confused.
#3 – Discernment & Stewardship. “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave” (v.11). “ If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”(v14) Two very important principles that help us understand that we need to be careful who we associate with, not allowing ourselves to become trapped and distracted from our intended mission. As the Apostles went from town to town it was there responsibility to be good stewards of their time and resources, just as we need to be today.
#4 – Perseverance. “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (v.22). We will face troubles and adversity when we lead but knowing that when we put our hope and trust in God we will be able to stand firm till the end. We as leaders need to be a model of perseverance to those around us; we need to be examples of the truth found in this verse.
Each of these principles and others found in this passage translate well into our lives today. Even as we lead today we can run into some of the “roadblocks” that the Apostles did. I am thankful for the freedoms we have in our country today that allows us to lead and be a church that can reach out into our community.