Following the Jesus Model

handAnother well-known mission leader has fallen – confessing to moral failure. This blog is not the place to give name and details. Rather, it is a sobering time of reflection, and of reminding ourselves of the importance of being mission leaders who others can follow with confidence.

An important trait of an effective mission leader is that he be a model in life and practice to those who know him. An effective leader models the ideals he desires his followers to emulate. By his conduct he establishes the standard by which constituents, peers, and colleagues are expected to follow suit. By example he also establishes the pace and manner in which organizational goals are pursued. Through modeling the way, the mission leader sets the bar of excellence others are expected to reach.

Jesus, by way of his life and ministry, set the standard for how his message bearers are to conduct themselves while engaged in the task of carrying the Gospel to the world. His life became the impeccable model for everything: character, morals, ethical behavior and performance. By emulating his life, no messenger will ever need to question whether his conduct is consistent with the Gospel he proclaims. Nor will he ever be put to shame.

It is possible to look to Jesus as the prototype missionary that all of us should follow.[1] Following his lead in life and conduct should be every worker’s goal. Maybe that is the reason Adoniram Judson advocated that every missionary should spend at least two hours a day in communion with him.[2] You can’t follow someone you don’t know.

In John 20:21 the two conjunctions “As…so” show by comparison how message bearers can follow Jesus’ model in personal conduct and public ministry. The word “as” (kathos) means “in like manner.” The solemn teaching of Jesus is that his messengers are to manifest his life and character “in like manner” in their ministries as well. Just as Jesus manifested the character of God to the world, messengers are to bear that same kind of witness in life as they minister.

“As the Father…so I am sending you.” Consider fourteen statements Jesus made about himself during his lifetime that we as his servants should model in our personal mission:

As to:
Mission: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk.19:10)
“…so I am sending you.”

Motivation: “I work for the honor of the One who sent me (paraphrased).” (Jn.7:18)
“…so I am sending you.”

Objective: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn.10:10)
“…so I am sending you.”

Offer:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Mt.11:28)
“…so I am sending you.”

Focus:  “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (to repentance).” (Mt.9:13)
“…so I am sending you.”

Will:    “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (Jn.4:34)
“…so I am sending you.”

Relationships: “The Son of Man has come…as friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  (Lk.7:34)
“…so I am sending you.”

Teamwork: “And he appointed twelve so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.”   (Mark 3:14)
“…so I am sending you.”

Servanthood: “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve ….” (Mt.20:28)
“…so I am sending you.”

Personality: “…learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” (Mt.11:29)
“…so I am sending you.”

Approval: “…I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (Jn.8:29)
“…so I am sending you.”

Ownership: “…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt 8:20)
“…so I am sending you.”

Compassion: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36)
“…so I am sending you.”

Finishing well: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (Jn.17:4).
“…so I am sending you.”

Jesus deliberately made his mission the model of what ours ought to be. What he portrayed in life and practice his servants are to do as they go into the world. The model of Jesus is the rod by which all personal conduct and ministry activities are to be measured. We gain the right to speak based on the right life from which we speak. Our lifestyle is right if it is modeled after Christ’s. It is then that his servants are deemed worthy to proclaim the gospel.

A.W. Tozer once said, “The first priority of the church is not to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first priority of the church is to make it worthy to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.” May we be so worthy.

[1] In Hebrews 3:1 Jesus is called “the apostle.” An apostle is one who is sent on an official mission. He is in our terms, a missionary- the Latin equivalent and translation of the word apostle. Therefore, Jesus is himself called a missionary in the New Testament.

[2] Adoniram Judson, To The Golden Shore, p.465.

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