Minister by doing

Religious leaders get hung up in theological ideological debates, Jesus did not.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:1-5

Or…

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.Mark 3:1-6

Or…

At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:35-51

The list of examples goes on and on in the Gospels accounts. Once you start to look for it you see it in nearly every story about Jesus. Religious leaders of Jesus’ day approached everything with a lens of theology and ideology. Meanwhile, Jesus went about His Father’s business.

The same is true today. Religious people tend to care far more about “who, what, how, when, and why” than they do about living out their Father’s business. O, that we would be different. That today’s leaders would reject the meaninglessness of theological debate for the sake of theological debate and wrecklessly serve the needs of the people.

Morning prayer

Lord Jesus, allow me to be a man who lives like you. Let me see my ministry through your eyes and not the eyes of a religious person. Keep me from stupid debates about who, what, how, when, and why. Instead, help me to define this day around my Father’s business. Amen.


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12 responses to “Minister by doing”

  1. Tim Avatar

    I agree with the heart of this post, Adam – serve vs. argue. But there’s something keeping me from being totally sold on it. It sounds to me like you’re saying that “doing theology” and “doing the Father’s business” are mutually exclusive things, and I don’t think that’s the case.

  2. adam mclane Avatar

    Seems like you may be arguing with the passage, Tim. I don’t know your situation. But it’s tough to argue with Jesus’ words, here. He didn’t care for theological discussion when there was ministry to do.

  3. Paul Sheneman Avatar

    Great post Adam. You wrote it in such a way that people can only comment if they agree with you. Otherwise they become an illustration of your point. Genius setup!

  4. Matt Avatar
    Matt

    Hey Adam, “first time long time.” I gotta side with Tim here and I don’t think it has to do with taking issue with the biblical passage. Jesus is actually making some pretty “heady” theological statements in the texts you cite. And of course we need to keep them in their overall narrative context where the Gospels are making quite the theological claim.

    I guess this is all to say (and to back up Tim) that we can do the Father’s business as we are concerned about doctrinal content. In fact, you might say being concerned about doctrinal content is very much a part of the Father’s business. The end of Matthew’s Gospel comes to mind for me. The disciples are sent to baptize all nations (without exception–another big statement of theology), and teach all those baptized the content of the faith (“everything I have commanded you”).

    The road to emmaus Jesus opens the scriptures and delves into some serious doctrinal/theological content concerning who He is (how the scriptures witness to Him). So I think it’s tough to make a statement that Jesus was unequivocally not interested in doctrine/theology and just concerned with going about the Father’s business. You can’t disconnect the mission from what it’s grounded in.

  5. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    I think if you say that Jesus never argued theology, you best not read the Gospel of John. What Matt says is true, the mission goes forward, but if it’s grounded in “whatever I wont argue it” well then I don’t think we would have the New Testament.

  6. adam mclane Avatar

    Paul/Matt/Chris- first, thanks for continuing this discussion.

    I’ll provide some context and you can decide my level of heresy. 🙂

    As I spend time in God’s word, meditating on the Gospels, and asking God to reveal to me what I should be doing… this is what so often and clearly comes up that I can’t get away from:
    James 1: 22-25 – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

    So for me, when I get hung up in what Paul calls in 2 Tim 2:23 “foolish and stupid arguments” I’m convicted that I’m just wasting my time.

    Sitting around and arguing theology over Twitter/Facebook/blog posts isn’t doing God one bit of good with my life.

    It’s with that lens that I look at these passages above and a whole pile of others like it. The religious people of Jesus’ day constantly tried to bate Jesus into pointless theological musings. “Jesus, what do you think about ____?” And consistently he answered their questions…. with rebuke, anger, frustration…. AND ACTION. This wasn’t “happy Jesus” who sat on a rock and debated soteriology… this was annoyed Jesus because he only had 3 years and he didn’t want to waste it with people who just liked to talk about God instead of doing God’s work.

    So this is my own conviction. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE engaging with ministry folks from around the globe on Twitter/Facebook/blogs. But ultimately I have to weigh that specific calling God has placed on me to minister to youth workers online… against a general calling on all believers to love my neighbors, serve the poor, and actively live out the Gospels in my daily life.

    All that to say… my own conviction is to avoid mindless chatter about the latest thing religious people are bantering about to focus more of my energy on my Father’s business.

    I don’t ever want to be judged as a guy with perfect theology who did nothing. And, not to cast judgement because I’m no better, I see a lot of that going on.

  7. Matt Avatar
    Matt

    Thanks for the swift reply, Adam! I guess the angle I am coming from see’s no real reason to separate the mission from the message. The mission exists because of the message. I think about the ecumenical councils which battled heresies bc (and you’re no heretic) those false teachings actually affected pastoral ministry in a big way.

    Have you ever read St. Gregory the Greats Pastoral Care Companion? I think that little tome points to exactly the kind of thing I mean when I say to hold the tension between having a subjective reality of faith and defending the faith (or practice and doctrine). The two were made for each other, in a fallen world we hang onto the tension (isn’t that life!)

  8. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    Yeah, I mean if the issue is meaningless things, then forget it. But indeed, the mission and the ministry stick together. Just so Christ is clearly confesses. Jesus’ battles with the leaders was over His identity. Christ corrected them. Jesus is the issue, and yes we should “get it right about him” while moving forward all the time.It’s both/and.

  9. Tim Avatar

    Yeah, it’s the either/or-ness that bothers me. We don’t have to choose between having good theology or doing something. We can, and should, have both. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      See, that’s the thing. There is an assumption that if you don’t spend a lot of time talking theology with other religious people than you must have bad theology. When I see people endlessly talking theology that has no legs… I know that theology is just their hobby.

      The point isn’t that you should never think about theology. It’s that you have to be disciplined and recognize when theological discussion, debate, and banter is just a distraction from your job to minister to people.

      How many people didn’t hear the gospel message because 10k pastors wasted 2 weeks of their life debating Rob Bells book on blogs and Twitter? And how many more wasted time this week fretting over if they felt guilty about Osama Bin Laden’s death instead of helping people deal with death in their own neighborhood?

      This is what religious people do… They avoid work by talking theology. And the passages above share Jesus’ emotions when confronted with this same thing.

  10. Ryan Scott Avatar

    I agree and disagree. I get caught up in foolish arguments all the time and then usually wish I hadn’t. I had to delete my facebook post on Bin Laden today after it became the hottest little thread on the net. However, the context of theological battle is the issue.

    Paul said contend for the faith. Paul argued with plenty of people of theology. It made him so mad when people wouldn’t listen that he started another church next door to the church on one occasion. Absolute truth is worth fighting for, even verbally. If it involves a soul in confusion, mark the wolves and the false doctrine.

    However, if it’s just arguing, like I do sometimes with evolutionists (AGH, I really have to mature one of these days.) it’s just wasted time casting pearls before swine…. sometimes I may even be the swine.

  11. Chris Avatar
    Chris

    Adam said : “How many people didn’t hear the gospel message because 10k pastors wasted 2 weeks of their life debating Rob Bells book on blogs and Twitter? And how many more wasted time this week fretting over if they felt guilty about Osama Bin Laden’s death instead of helping people deal with death in their own neighborhood?

    This is what religious people do… They avoid work by talking theology. And the passages above share Jesus’ emotions when confronted with this same thing.”

    I agree stop writing these ridiculous blogs and get out there 😉 …………..

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