Showing posts with label prepare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prepare. Show all posts

05 May 2013

John the Baptist

Leaders in the church, Part 8
< To Egypt and back | Index | Jesus is tempted >

John the Baptist came to prepare the way. We can learn about the purpose and right mode of leading from John. Like him we are to prepare the way for Jesus, encouraging people to see their need of cleansing and purity. Like John we must go first and when Jesus comes we do whatever he tells us.

Headwaters of the JordanIn Matthew 3 we read about John the Baptist.

John was a relative of Jesus' and he came to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

He lived an unusual life out in the wilds, told anyone who would listen that they needed to turn away from every bad thing in their lives, and washed them in the River Jordan to make them pure.

He told the religious leaders that they should not make assumptions about their purity but must instead demonstrate it by producing good fruit in their lives. He explained that a greater one was coming and would separate the valuable crop from the worthless waste.

So when Jesus arrived and asked to be washed, John objected at first. When he did baptise Jesus the Spirit of the Most High rested on him and a voice said, 'This my Son whom I love, I'm very pleased with him'.

Leading people - So what is going on here, and what can we learn about leadership? John prepared the way and led people to a place where they were able to respond to Jesus. This should be the goal of everyone who leads. John's example shows us that we need to draw people from where they are now to a place where they can respond to Jesus and be made pure.

This is just as true for believers as it is for people who have not yet met Jesus. No matter how far we have come there is always the potential to take another step forward. If anyone wants to lead, that person should prepare the way for Jesus. Smooth the way, straighten out the lumps and bumps so that there will be fewer obstructions that might prevent a person coming closer into his presence.

It's not our place to do Jesus' work, it is our place to prepare people, to show them that they are not in a good place, to let them know that someone is coming who will sort out the good from the bad, the spiritually profitable from the unprofitable, the harvest from the waste.

Our job is to point to Jesus as the coming King and then to get out of the way so that everyone can hear and see the Light of the world for themselves. One of the most powerful ways we can do this is by becoming living examples, showing people the way and not merely telling them. This is the real meaning of the word 'leading', it's a matter of going ahead so others can follow.

Choosing or chosen? - John did not choose or select those who came in repentance and for washing. They chose and selected themselves. He baptised the humble folk and the distinguished leaders alike. Neither are we to pick and choose those we come into contact with, we must be willing to share the good news with anyone and everyone.

John did object to washing Jesus because he knew that he was already pure. But when it was clear that this was Jesus' purpose, John relented. Once again, John sets us a good example. If Jesus shows you clearly to do this or avoid that then you had better hear him and obey!

If anyone chooses to follow Jesus we must accept them joyfully and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

If we are to lead we must do it in utter humility just as John did. We don't dress in fine or important clothes, we have no position or authoritative power. We eat the lowliest of food and live in the simplest of homes.

We meet people where they are and we tell them that Jesus is for them and loves them and wants to know them and spend time with them. We bless them and we leave them in his capable hands. We pray for them, we visit them, we encourage and help them and the little seed of new life within them begins to grow and flourish.

Questions:

  • Do you think people learn more deeply from instructions or demonstrations?
  • Why? Justify your answer to the first question.
  • John used both words and actions. Can you identify examples in Matthew 3?
  • You can plant a seed and water it. But can you cause a seed to grow?

See also:


< To Egypt and back | Index | Jesus is tempted >

28 September 2010

THOUGHT - Preparing the ground

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

In the second part of the series we looked at how we obtain the seeds for the work of planting a church. But the phrase 'planting a church' is loaded with meaning from our past experiences. We'd better define it before we begin to apply it here.

Compost - a good soil improverWe've already decided that a church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church. So planting a church means setting in place a community where he is at the centre and his people gather around him. That gets the purpose and intention into clear focus.

The seeds are welcoming, open people who are already primed with life but are currently dormant. They may have been dormant for a long time or just for a short while. If we can provide them with the right environment these people will grow - just try and stop them! So we need to look at the environment in which these people (seeds of church) are living.

What we must not do is uproot them from their environment and move them into our environment. That is often what happens but it's a serious mistake. If we move them they may wither in the new environment where they are surrounded by people they don't know. Much wiser to spend time with them amongst their own friends, family, or workmates and try to modify that environment in helpful, encouraging ways. Jesus said that when we are welcomed we should remain there (Luke 10:7). I don't think that necessarily means living in someone's house (though sometimes it will), but it certainly means living in that person's circle instead of drawing them into your own.

Read Luke 10:1-16 and Matthew 10:5-14 carefully and make a note of other things you should do or not do. There's a lot to consider in those verses. Pray about the things you find there and your attitude to those things.

A gardener would assess the situation and so should we. The gardener might notice the soil was too dry, or choked by weeds, or poorly drained, or much too shallow. He would prepare it according to its need by watering it, hoeing out the weeds, adding sand or compost, or building up the level.

We need to be observant, wise, and discerning. We might notice that the 'seed' person isn't reading the Bible, doesn't understand prayer very well, or perhaps hasn't heard or understood Christ's message of good news. We might therefore need to begin a Bible study with them, discuss and model prayer with them, or share the gospel (the good news).

If our discernment is good and what we do is appropriate we will soon begin to see them living more and more abundantly, growing in grace and love and excitement. These are just examples of the kind of thing that may help to prepare the ground. Pray fervently about the seed and your efforts at preparing the soil. Practice listening to the Holy Spirit - he will show you what to do and say. (You might like to use or adapt some of the priciples of CO2, you might consider doing this with the person you are helping, or you could do it with one of your believing friends.)

Look for natural opportunities as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 4:26-40). Don't smother people with over-attention, give them breathing space to process what they have already absorbed.

Don't talk about doctrine or traditions or denominations. Focus as much as possible on revealing Christ to the person you are helping. There is so much in the New Testament - how he related to his followers and talked with them, the care and love he showed to those in need, his words on the hillside, Paul's abundant writings about love and other good things. You and the one you are helping will benefit by studying Jesus and spending time with him more than in any other way.

When the conditions are right and as time passes you will find signs of growth and it's likely the person will want to involve other friends or family. Encourage this - the seed is developing a root and a shoot and is already becoming a baby church without prompting from you! HalleluYah!

Next time we'll look at the details of planting the seed.

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

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