Some thoughts God’s nature and on the processes Jesus used: Part 1

Let’s start recognising that God is at work in every person, calling them to God-self in Christ Jesus, then we have the real starting point of what a disciple-making (and the more theologically used word, ‘missional’) Church really is. When we look carefully at the God of Scripture we find ourselves observing the One who loves all people, seeks them all including the lost and broken, and calls all people to follow Jesus. This is part of what is called Prevenient Grace. When we do this we start to understand the heart of mission.

In Ephesians, Paul seems to give a progression of the gifts. Ephesians 4:11–13 (NIV84): ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ The progressive equations seems to be: Apostolic – prophetic – evangelistic – pastoral – teaching.

Alan HirschAlan Hirsch states: ‘Without apostolic ministry the rest of the APEPT (Apostolic – prophetic – evangelistic – pastoral – teaching), ministries have no practical reference point and therefore lack legitimacy. As such the apostolic creates the primary field of NT ministry and is crucial to the recovery of missional church.’ (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 158)

Scripture shows us that God is the original, primary and authentic apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. We will primarily focus on the first three in this article.

Firstly, we note that God, in Jesus, is the original, primary and authentic apostle. If apostle means ‘the sent one’, and Jesus was sent by the Father, then Jesus is the primary apostle. The apostolic nature of Jesus is evident in that he enters the context and lives amongst the people for 30 years as one of them. It is from that context that he starts his mission. Mark 1: 9-11 says: At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”’[1] This is incarnation, God with us. His ministry starts with knowing who he is, that he is from God and that he is on God’s mission.

The second thing we note is that Jesus is the original, primary and authentic prophet. The first thing Jesus did when he started his public ministry when speaking publicly is he announces is the good news of the nearness of the Kingdom of God! Mark 1:15: ‘… Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”’[2] Jesus is that nearness of God! This is the role of the prophet.

The third thing we note is that Jesus is also the original, primary and authentic evangelist. What Jesus did next was to call people into a deep, personal relationship with God through following him. Mark 1: 17-18:Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.’[3] The call to relationship is God with us calls us to be with him! The immediacy of God’s personal presence evokes our response, us with God!

Let me briefly go on to show how Jesus’ ministry embodied all of the fivefold ministries including pastor and teacher. In this see some form of progression, where Jesus then formed a special kind of community (fellowship) of ‘the called and sent people’ where he then taught and discipled them. This special community is formed around Jesus as a Communitas, which is a distinct from community. Communitas ‘involves adventures and movement, and it describes that unique experience of togetherness that really happens only amongst a group of people inspired by the vision of a better world actually attempting to do something about it’[4] Then there is the role and gifting of the teacher which is key to disciple making, as Jesus instructs us in the great commission. These are addressed in many other articles and books written by far better equipped people, so I will not address them here.

If we are to follow Jesus and learn from Jesus and do things as Jesus did them. ‘Not only is our purpose defined by the person and work of Jesus, but our methodology as well… It is Christ who determines our purpose and mission in the world, and then our mission must drive our search for modes of being-in-the-world.’[5] The call is to make disciples as Jesus did. Let’s do it his way: Going as we are sent; announcing God’s nearness, and offering a personal relationship with God and then going onto form communities around God’s mission and through obedience to Christ’s teaching.

[1] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mk 1:9–11). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[2] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mk 1:14–15). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[3] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Mk 1:17–18). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[4] Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 278

[5] Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 143