Pastoral Ministry Practice #1
In John 17:4 Jesus refers to the work He has already accomplished.
I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
Suffering a sacrificial death and rising in power were not the only assignments given to Jesus. In John 17:6-13 He lists out the work He accomplished before going to the cross. These verses serve as an outline of the pastoral ministry of Jesus Christ. These verses set before us the four essential practices of pastoral ministry. What Jesus exampled in His ministry and reviews in prayer here before His Father are the essence of being a shepherd to the flock of God. The first essential work of pastoral ministry is given in 17:6 –
I manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world.
God’s name is not what He is called, but who He is. His name is what characterizes Him – it is His nature, His heart. God is holy. God hates sin like you hate sickness – you hate what it does to you. God hates what sin does to people. When Jesus said that He manifested the Name of His Father to those given Him, He meant that He had brought it into light, caused it to shine, and to illuminate others. He was saying,
Father, I showed them what You are like!
Jesus showed us the holiness and the love of God. This is the high calling of ministry. Your pastoral ministry is far more than explaining the Bible to people. Your ministry is not only declaring the written Word of God, it is demonstrating the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. The latter is the far more demanding work. Your week by week declaration of the written Word of God apart from an ongoing demonstration of the Living Word of God is a charade that others won’t put up with for very long. Nothing hardens the heart of men toward God and the church than declaration divorced from demonstration.
Moses had a revelation of God’s name, whereas Jesus is the revelation, the manifestation of God’s name. Moses spoke a word; Jesus is the Word. When Jesus manifested the name of the Father He didn’t take the disciples aside and whisper in their ear a new name for God. The manifestation Jesus speaks of isn’t information, but incarnation; it’s not what He said to them – it’s what He showed them. Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. His heart’s desire was to see God. Jesus told Philip that if he had seen Him, then he had seen the Father! In the person of Jesus, the nature and character of God – His name – could be seen. This has huge implications for what it means to be in ministry. Jesus said,
As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.
You have been sent to continue the pastoral mission and the ministry practices of Jesus. How He related to people sets the pattern for how you are to relate to people. Manifesting the name of God is the first thing mentioned by Jesus. And if you don’t manifest the name of God, if you don’t incarnate the character of the Lord, your life and ministry won’t pack much of a punch. Ministry is life touching life. But it is not ministry that bears life – it is life that bears life. And a life bereft of the name of God is not life-giving. Manifesting the name of the Father is strategic to any ministry seeking to make Christ known. This is true ministry. Your effectiveness and influence is made or broken here.
Jesus gave us a full revelation of God – not a theological explanation, but a living demonstration. This is the need of people in every generation. Thank God for theologians who can help us navigate through the rapids of theological explanation – who can help us to clearly understand the omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience of God and what they mean for today. And thank God for pastors and men and women of God in whom there is a depth of character – the name of God – being lived out day by day.
Can people see what God is like by being with you? Do you manifest the holiness of God and the love of God? Holiness is a separation from the pollution of the world and a separation to God – the opposite of which is carelessness. Love is pursuit of the hurting people of the world – the opposite of which is callousness. If you are careless of the call to purity and are callous toward the needs of people, you are falling short of how Jesus conducted Himself in the ministry given to Him. Many who will not darken the doors of our churches today trace their offense to the carelessness and the callousness of the ministry.
It was said of Napoleon that his personal presence on the battlefield gave the tactical advantage of an additional 10,000 men. His influence was so great, the confidence of his men was so swelled, that a victory seemed assured. The influence of a pastor who lives out the name of God is of incalculable value that will only be determined by eternity.