A number of men have shaped my approach to ministry. Kent Hughes modeled what it meant to be a hard working pastor. He demonstrated a commitment to balance explanation and application in his sermons, explaining what the Scriptures meant as well as how they worked in real life. Bruce Wilkinson taught me how to teach for lifechange. His 7 Laws of the Learner and Teaching with Style video series marked how I teach the Scriptures. John Hoover demonstrated a philosophy of ministry that included reaching the world. My heart is broader because of him. Tim Jack modeled the importance of living with intentionality. I am forever marked by his question, “Are we really equipping people or are we just keeping them busy?”
Needless to say, Jesus Christ has also shaped my philosophy of ministry. In Mark 7:31-37, Jesus modeled the elements of effective ministry. In healing the deaf man, Jesus demonstrated that effective ministry requires prayer, compassion, personal involvement, and a bold proclamation of the gospel.
Verses 31-32 reveal that Jesus went out of his way to minister to Gentiles. In the preceding passage (24-30), Jesus left Galilee and traveled 40 miles northwest to the city of Tyre. Now, he journeys 20 miles north to Sidon before taking the long way back to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Decapolis (10 Cities). It would be the equivalent of traveling from New York City to Boston by way of Chicago. Some commentators estimate he spent eight months in Gentile territory. If nothing else, it demonstrates that Gentiles were always part of God’s plan.
Arriving in the new region, people bring a deaf man to Jesus. As a result of his deafness and speech impediment, the man was probably isolated. Chances are he was not educated or able to read. Despite his disability, he had caring friends who begged Jesus to heal him.
Jesus met the man at his point of need and communicated in a way he could understand (33-35). Using symbolic gestures, he put his fingers in the man’s ears indicating he would receive his hearing. Touching the man’s tongue, Jesus indicated his speech would return. Looking up to heaven, Jesus demonstrated his dependence on God through prayer. His sigh revealed Jesus’ compassion for the man’s deep need. The man was healed instantaneously and completely.
Jesus told the man not to say anything about the miracle (36-37). However, anyone who has been touched by God and his Son cannot keep silent about it.
Effective ministry requires prayer. We need to pray. We need to pray with others and for others. We need to pray for family, neighbors, coworkers, missionaries, and friends. We should pray risky prayers that can only be answered by God. We need to ask God, “Where do you want me to serve?” We should have some impossible requests and people on our list that require God’s power to answer.
Effective ministry requires compassion. Ask God to break your heart with the things that break his heart. Strive to see the world through the Father’s eyes. If God prompts you to give or serve, don’t resist a generous impulse.
Effective ministry requires personal involvement. You cannot impact people from a distance. Ministry is a contact sport. You have to step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. While you cannot do everything, you must do something. Be willing to adapt and change in order to meet needs. If you are won’t leave your comfortable seat on the sidelines, then stop criticizing those who are in the arena.
Effective ministry requires a bold proclamation of the gospel. Each one of us should be able to share our testimony in 2-3 minutes. We should be able to clearly and confidently share our faith. If you can’t, then work at developing the knowledge, skills, and confidence to do so.
Effective ministry requires prayer, compassion, personal involvement, and a bold proclamation of the gospel.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 10, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.