Summary: Christian ministry today is often elaborate, expensive, market-driven, and complicated. By contrast, the ministry of Jesus was simple, relatable, and reproducible in all nations and among all people throughout the world. What can we learn from the simplicity of Jesus’ supremely effective ministry?
2 Corinthians 11:2-3, KJV For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
• One of Satan’s primary goals is to lure us away from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” The devil loves it when we make Christian life and ministry complicated, and thereby confusing and even discouraging.
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
• Remember that God’s intent is that we receive Jesus Christ, God’s revelations, and all the things of God with simplicity and sincerity, like “little children.”
• That simplicity, then, should also characterize our ministries, as it did the ministry of Jesus Himself.
Matthew 8:19-20 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
• Not only did Jesus have no home, He also had no church building. Nor did the early Church have what we call “church buildings.” Archeological efforts have failed to find a specific New Testament “church building” dated in the first century.
• The Ephesian church is believed to have been the largest local church in the first century A.D. Yet in its early stages, the apostle Paul had the believers meet for two years in a (presumably) rented lecture hall owned by a man named Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10). The early-Church Christians' ministry did not focus on building church campuses.
Matthew 5:1-2 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Matthew 13:2-3 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables…
• Jesus’ “pulpit” was often a boat, or a mountainside, or the open plain, or wherever listeners could be found. Yet no greater sermons were ever preached!
• Compare that to some churches today, where the pastor in flowing robes mounts a staircase to an ornate pulpit that looks like the prow of a ship! A far cry from “…the simplicity that is in Christ.”
Mark 1:16-17 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
• Jesus’ transportation was His own two feet! At least once He “stepped up” and rode on a donkey. On a personal note, I always appreciated the down-to-earth lifestyle of my first pastor. Even though he led an influential church of 1,400 members, his cars were typically inexpensive models with lots of miles on them.
• I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong for a minister of the Gospel to have a nice car. I’m just reminding us of how Jesus ministered with such grace and power, despite having mostly to walk from place to place. The lack of modern conveniences did nothing to impair His ministry.
Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
• Praying on a mountainside. Jesus had no plush, carpeted prayer room with soft, piped-in music. He prayed in gardens and on mountainsides and in the desert.
• Some of the most anointed preservice prayer times I’ve ever experienced were in the 1970s, kneeling before metal benches in our church school’s gymnasium in Alaska. The visuals were bleak, but the presence of the Lord was strong and manifested as 300 or more believers lifted their voices in sincere prayer and praise to God.
Luke 22:25-27 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
• Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, never pursued being a prominent, famous minister. In fact, at times He would even instruct His followers not to make mention of some of the supernatural ministries He had done.
• Jesus never lost His servant’s heart. And He exhorted His followers to imitate Him in that regard. What a lesson for us — to “be among [people] as one who serves.”
Just think of the simplicity of Jesus’ ministry:
• He had no home church to finance him.
• He had nowhere to lay His head.
• He had places like hillsides and fishing boats for His pulpit.
• He had no “connections” among Judaism’s leaders.
• He traveled “foot class,” not first class.
• He used the hills, the desert, a garden, and the like for His prayer room.
• He taught with simple stories (parables) about birds, plants, seeds, etc., not with flowing rhetoric and artfully crafted messages.
• His ministry of healing was not preplanned. He simply healed people as He encountered them wherever He went.
• He had simple faith in His Fathers’ provision, unlike many of today’s high-powered, high-pressure financial appeals.
• He had the heart of a servant, versus an “I-am-leadership” mentality.
• He received a cross for all His labors, rather than this world’s esteem, favor, and adulation.
So what is the message in all this? Quite simply, that the ministry of Christ is an example for our ministries. He kept it simple. As a mature pastor once told me, “The main things of the Bible are very plain, and the plain things are the main things. If you are going to build a great church, you must make the basics beautiful.”
Jesus did not depend on externals. He needed no facilities, no equipment, no advertising, no “stuff.” Rather, His effectiveness in ministry sprang from a powerful Holy Spirit anointing … from the declaration of truth … from honoring God the Father … from relating to people with love — precisely the type of things that we, too, can do in ministering effectively for Jesus Christ.
In closing, let’s recall our opening verse: 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, KJV For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.