He never organized a Bible study, sought out a mission trip, or served in a leadership position at the local synagogue.
Jesus’ ministry was strategically organic. Unceasingly intentional. But not always planned. It was about the God-is-here opportunities, like teachable moments. In a way it was often surprising, especially for the disciples as ministry happened under their noses and they were trying to wrap their heads around it.
They go off to get some food and Jesus starts a conversation with a woman no good Jew ever talks to while sitting at a well. Yet He transforms a village because He took an unorchestrated moment, spoke Truth into it, and offered far more than words. More than the food the disciples brought back.
He’s talking to people crammed in a house and some friends cut a hole in the roof to get their paralyzed friend through the craziness. Those friends were convinced this Jesus would heal him. The mission trip came to Him and offered a gift far greater than healing. Forgiveness. Plus healing — so bonus!
And those 5000+ people who followed Jesus to hillsides without bringing lunch but too absorbed to want to leave. Psalms about God’s spacious places came alive as He fed them. Not just Scripture in that green sanctuary, but a few loaves and fishes multiplied to become this incredible, living picture of a God whose compassion meets needs.
The ministry of Jesus was not to “do” but to be available. He was always, fully awake to the God-present opportunities rather than distracted by the busy agendas and stuff of this world. Jesus in nearly every gospel story of ministry is simply responding to the deep yet silent longing for something real, the brokenness before Him, and the vastness of humanity’s frailty with the intentionality of moving every life He encounters toward Himself, toward His Father, and toward the gift of coming Home.
Jesus shifted all this for me several years ago in a life-wrecking moment that literally took me out of all “ministry” for a fairly long season. One that was finally quiet enough to transform my Christian identity into something far deeper, my understanding of “approved” ministry, which had begun to define my identity, into something more powerful and authentic. When the dust had settled and I was beginning to be ready for the next leg on the journey, His voice was clear in that re-defining moment: do the thing I place before you to do. Nothing more. Nothing less. All the fetters of must-do busyness fell from my shoulders. The Martha in me could take on the Mary heart to simply sit at His feet because He was there. That’s the simplicity of life and ministry: be where He is, and love on whoever is in that little circle in ways that let God do the “doing.“
Thanks to a conversation with a friend about a year ago wrestling with the same “accepted,” therefore expected formats of ministry, of Christian identity, I was reminded of that. Refreshed. For I do again lead Bible studies and serve at the local church and hope to one day again go on a mission trip. There are incredible blessings in all those things. But those things aren’t Life or identity or ministry. Doing the thing He places before me keeps me listening to Him and looking for God-is-here moments. Those daily choices to love well and to be available in the unexpected encounters and the everyday relationships.