Past Sunday, I gave an exposition from Matthew 10:5-15, titled “Principles for An Effective Ministry.” At the onset, I challenged our folks, why not read and study what Scripture says about an effective ministry than spending time and money on the latest Madison Avenue approach to church-growth? I hope the following message finds you affirming what the Bible says, more so than the latest fads.
PRINCIPLES FOR AN EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
For the purpose of giving you a bird’s-eye-view of chapter 10, I have divided this chapter into three sections: 1) vv. 1-15 deals with instructions for the twelve apostles; 2) vv. 16-23 deals with instructions for the future disciples; and 3) vv. 24-42 deals with instructions for the present disciples. Since our text for this evening covers the first fifteen verses of chapter 10, you now know what we are about to deal with. And if there is one word that describes how our text fits into the surrounding context, it is the word transition. Let me explain what I mean.
Up to chapter 10 in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has been doing ministry all by himself though he had many people followed him and even had his twelve disciples. Having displayed several convincing proofs of his power all throughout chapters 8 and 9, here at the beginning of chapter 10 Jesus is now appointing his ministry responsibilities to his twelve disciples.
In the Greek text verse 1 begins with the conjunction word kai, which is translated into English as “and” in which ESV, KJV, NAS, and NKJ all have included the word at the beginning (unfortunately, not the NAU nor NIV). The fact that chapter 10 begins with conjunction means that there is a connection between the onset of this chapter with the previous chapter, namely the last two verses of Chapter 9. In other words, having said to his disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, this is the transition in which Jesus has now called and gave his disciples the authority for them to carry out some of the ministry responsibilities.
And I believe that has very important implication here. Please keep in mind that before Jesus gave the Twelve the ministry responsibilities, they were like others who have listened to his teachings and witnessed his powers. In other words, before they were chosen to become the Twelve, they were part of the large crowds. And there is an important principle here, that is, before someone takes on ministry responsibilities, such person needs to be a learner first and foremost. In other words, before these men became the authority figures, namely the twelve apostles, they were first twelve disciples – the learners, the followers. In other words, you cannot lead others if you cannot follow first. You cannot teach others unless you are a student first. Hence what we see here at the beginning of chapter 10 is the transition from the disciples to the apostles. Notice in verse 1 the term disciples is used, but in verse 2 the term is now the apostles.
Since our text deals with specific instructions for the twelve apostles, you and I cannot read this and think that those specific instructions are for us today. For instance, verse 5 would not be applicable for us. Such specific instruction was for the twelve apostles, not for us. Instead, in Matthew 28 Jesus commanded “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” That itself is an example of transition – from specific target group (namely the Jews) to universal target group (people of all nations).
Also, verse 8 would not be applicable for us today since such commands were specifically addressed to the twelve apostles. This is also true of verse 1. Nowhere in the letters to churches, do we find both implicit and explicit commands to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, or cast out demons.
Now, to understand what I just said so far will save you from hermeneutical errors that lead to all sorts of erroneous applications.
So then, how shall we approach this section that is largely descriptive of prescriptive to the Twelve? Better yet, does this section offer anything for us today? My response is, yes, this section does offer something for us today since all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. What this section does offer to us are general principles though the specifics prescriptions are for the twelve apostles. Hence we approach this section to see if we can extract some valuable principles, and I’m happy to say that there are several valuable principles that pertain to effective ministry. And wouldn’t you agree that Jesus knows something about ministry?
Instead of reading latest books or attending the latest seminars on church growth or effective ministry, why not read and pay attention to what Jesus commanded? Hence, from the text before us, I want to point out six principles for effective ministry.
1. An effective ministry clearly understands the call from Christ.
This is certainly true of starting a church or a ministry. You cannot start a church or a ministry simply because you want to or you like to. The question is, have you been called? And such calling I’m referring to is not based on mere subjective feelings but objective truths, namely the Bible. So once again, the question is, have you been called? Did you hear the call of Christ? And I don’t mean that to be some esoteric and mystical call, but a clear and strong conviction from the Bible. I’m referring to a type of conviction that is so strong that if you don’t obey it, your conscious would not rest. It is the type of conviction that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” It is the type of biblical conviction that cannot be ignored or silenced.
As I look back on how Sovereign GraceBibleChurch got started, I have to say that most of the founding members simply responded to what the word of God already states. For instance, 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, which reads:
- NAU 1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
Another call of God that many of the founding members heard loud and clear were from 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, which reads:
- NAU 2 Corinthians 6:14Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
To be part of a so-called church that chooses to ignore unrepentant sins that were publicly known and refuse to discipline such members, prompted no choice but for me and some to make the exodus. And out of much tears and pains, Sovereign GraceBibleChurch was born.
We are not, by any means, unique. Church history shows us that there have been many individuals and churches who had to make some very hard choices, for the sake of the purity of the gospel and church, and ultimately, for the glory of God. It is a sin to divide a body of Christ over preferential issues. And it is equally a sin to ignore sins for the sake of having false peace.
The beginning of Matthew 10 makes it very clear that the twelve apostles were clearly called by Christ to take on some ministry responsibilities.
2. An effective ministry has a biblical accountability to its leader.
For the Twelve, they were directly and personally accountable to Christ. That’s a no-brainer from the text. But what happened when Christ ascended to heaven and physically no longer available on earth? How did the early church keep their ministries accountable?
As many of you recall from Acts 6 the early church faced an issue concerning one particular group of widows that were being neglected. So how did the church resolve this problem? The apostles appointed seven men who would serve in food distributions so that the apostles would focus instead on prayer and the ministry of the word. That is to say, the seven men who were appointed to serve in food-distributions were directly accountable to the oversight of the apostles. The issue was not that the apostles could not serve in food distributions. I’m sure if they had time, they would. But they had to keep the main thing the main in prioritizing, namely, to devote themselves to the ministry of prayer and word.
Now, what happens when we no longer have the office of the apostles in the church? How does the church keep their ministries accountable? The answer is simple. One who has called to lead and shepherd the flock of God are none other than pastors, who are the spiritual elders in the church. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, one of the qualifications for elders is that “he must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),” which implies that one of the biblical duties for an elder is to manage the church. The verb there for manage is to be a leader or to have authority over. Hence, it is a job for pastors or elders to be leaders and to have authority over the local flock of God. In fact, that is why many of our English translations have rightfully translated 1 Timothy 3:1 as “the office of overseer.”
All that is to say, no ministry stands on its own. No ministry functions as its own. There is no such thing called maverick ministry that is independent from the direct oversight of the elders of a local church. Almost everything you read both in the OT and NT are seen through the context of the community of the redeemed. That is why we as Sovereign GraceBibleChurch, we take ministry accountability very seriously.
3. An effective ministry puts their members as priority over others.
If there is one incentive to join and become a member to a local church, it is this reality – that is, members within a local body takes the priority over non-members. A case in point – verses 5 and 6. Please keep in mind once again that I am pointing out a principle, not a specific command from Christ to the apostles.
Here Jesus commanded his apostles to minister to a specific group, namely, the lost sheep of the house of Israel and not to the Gentiles. This speaks of the priority and exclusivity. This is because in God’s redemptive history, the people of Israel were God’s chosen covenant people. And such covenant goes back to Genesis 12:1-3, which reads:
- NAU Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
This continues in Genesis 17, which states:
- NAU Genesis 17:2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
And this is the reason why there is the record of genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, to show that Jesus Christ came through the genealogy of Abraham. Hence the people of Israel had a tremendous privilege. It is from their ethnic lineage the Savior would come. That is why you often hear Christianity is referred to as “Judeo-Christianity” because God’s redemptive history does not begin in the NT, but all the way back to Genesis. And this is what theologians refer to a theology of continuity in reference to God’s redemptive history.
So the people of Israel had a tremendous privilege and responsibility to live as God’s covenant people to all the pagans around them. Not only had they had the privilege of having the Messiah come through them, but also according to Romans 3:2, they were entrusted with the oracles of God, namely the Bible, God’s special revelation. In fact, in John 4:22 Jesus said that salvation is from the Jews.
Because they were God’s chosen covenant people, the gospel was given its first priority to them. In fact, Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” That is why we see here in our text, Jesus commanded his apostles to go to the house of Israel, instead of the Gentiles.
But when the nation of Israel have refused to repent of their idolatrous and other sins, and rejected the gospel and Jesus as their Messiah, God in his form of judgment have blinded their eyes to the truths, and has extended such privilege to the Gentiles. That is why Jesus commanded to his disciples at the end of Matthew 28 to go out into all the world and make disciples. Furthermore, right before Jesus ascended to heaven, what did he command his disciples to do in Acts 1? According to Acts 1:4, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. And in Acts 1:7 he promised that they would be his witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and to all the parts of the world. All that is to say, an effective ministry puts their local members priority over others. That is why here at Sovereign GraceBibleChurch, we put premium on church membership, and commitment and priority of the local church.
Exegetically, all the “one another” passages in the NT are written in the context of a local church – e.g., love one another, pray for one another, forgive one another, prefer one another, etc. Hence, what better reason for you to join a Bible-driven church and become a member where you have the privilege to experience these one another passages at a God-ward environment?
4. An effective ministry boldly proclaims the message of God.
A case in point – verse 7. And this has twofold applications. First, to have an effective ministry there has to be bold proclamation. Jesus said, “As you go, preach.” In Greek this verb is imperative, a command, not a suggestion. Hence, here is a divine mandate to preach. In fact, this is the only time where such mandate to preach is found in Matthew’s Gospel. But does that mean that such mandate is only for the apostles? The answer is absolutely not, because Paul later commands Timothy and all the pastors to preach.
- NAU 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
All that is to say, the divine mandate to preach does not end with the apostles but to all pastors. In other words, all those who are called to preach today actually follow the apostolic heritage in that we must unapologetically and boldly preach.
But as many of you know, this awesome call to preach did not originate with the apostles. In other words, if those who are called to preach today actually follow the apostolic heritage, whom did the apostles follow to preach? The answer is none other than the one who called them to preach, namely, Jesus. In fact, what was the message that Jesus preached when he started his ministry? According Matthew 4:17, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You see, the apostolic message they preached is identical to that of their Master.
Now, let’s go a little further. If those who preach today follow the succession of the apostolic heritage, and apostles follow the succession of their Master, whom did Jesus follow? Let me give you a hint. Before Jesus began his ministry, who paved the way? Answer? John the Baptist. And what was the message he preached? According to Matthew 3, it was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As you can see, the message that the apostles preached, Jesus preached, and John the Baptist preached were identical. There is continuity of the same message.
Now, let’s go even a little further. If those who are called to preach today follow the succession of the apostolic mandate, and if the apostles followed the succession of Jesus, and Jesus followed the succession of John the Baptist, whom did John the Baptist follow? Answer? The prophets of the OT. And what was their message that they preached? Repent or perish. All that is to say, there is continuity of the same message by the messengers of the same God-ordained means, namely, the preachers. The prophets of the OT were preachers. John the Baptist was a preacher. Jesus was the master preacher. The apostles were preachers. And those who are called to preach must be preachers. Hence, the only manner or means in which God speaks to his people are through preachers. That is to say, God did not raise puppet-teams, drama teams, or rock bands to carryout the prophetic ministry. Nor did God raise psychologists or psychotherapists to carryout the prophetic ministry. If that is the case, then God would have raised those people a long time ago to replace the preachers. Again, you cannot ignore the continuity of God’s redemptive means through the ministry of preaching from the OT to NT.
As I mentioned earlier, verse 7 has twofold applications. First, to have an effective ministry there has to be bold proclamation, namely through the ministry of preaching. Now, here is the second part of the twofold applications – to have an effective ministry you must be clear about the message of God. It is one thing to realize the importance of preaching, but if you are not clear about the message of God, that is another whole issue. So here is the question – did Jesus give a clear message for the apostles to preach? If so, what was it? That answer is also found in verse 7 isn’t it? As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As I pointed out earlier, from the prophets in the OT to John the Baptist, to Jesus, to the apostles, and finally, to those who are called to preach today, there is continuity in the message of God. And if that is the case, then how come such message is not heard from those who are supposedly called to preach? Did the message of God change? I don’t think so. The problem is not that God changed his message. The problem is that so-called messengers are careless about clarity and accuracy of the message.
In the olden days, king’s heralds were to give the king’s exact message to his people – nothing added and nothing deleted. But if there was any editing of the king’s message on the heralds part, that was considered treason and easily received death penalty.
Let me ask you a quick self-test. Since you are called as a Christian to proclaim God’s message to the peoples of all nations, how would you unpack the message in verse 7? Better yet, are you clear about this message? Are you aware of some of its implications? For instance, there is definitely a need to explain the difference between the kingdom of heaven from an earthly kingdom. Also, kingdom implies that there is a king. And who is this king?
Moreover, kingdom implies that there are people or citizens of this kingdom. And who are these people of this kingdom? Better yet, who is allowed to be in this kingdom? And how can I get in? Also, what happens when I am not in this kingdom? Why the kingdom of heaven near and what does that mean?
As you can see, although the message is only seven words, there are several important implications that you have to be clear about. If not, not only you would be misled but you would also mislead others to erroneous views of the kingdom, the king, the kingdom citizens, the entrance to the kingdom, which are all different aspects of the gospel, which is the message of God.
5. An effective ministry is worthy of its members support.
A case in point – end of verse 10 “the worker is worthy of his support.”
No ministry can stand its own. Without the support of its members, it is impossible for ministry to exist. That is why here at Sovereign GraceBibleChurch, every member is aware of his/her covenantal relationship with rest of the members of this church by seeking to best support the church. And some of the ways in which you and I can best support this church is by:
- To faithfully attend the church’s worship services,
- To diligently guard the sound truths,
- To pray fervently,
- To generously give financially and faithfully,
- To actively pursue personal holiness,
- To respectfully follow the leadership, just to name a few.
What Jesus says here does not stop here. Paul continues with the same principle in 1 Timothy 5:
- NAU 1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
One of the reasons people who are supportive of a biblical church/ministry is because they themselves are biblical. To say it negatively, the people who are not supportive of a biblical church/ministry is because they themselves are not biblical. The biblically-oriented people understand and appreciate the value of doing all things (meaning, living your life to the fullest) as a result of proper exegesis of Scripture. That is a truest sense of what it means to be Bible-based. To say, you believe the Bible does not mean anything. There are many people who say that they believe the Bible, but they neither understand what it says nor what it means. Hence, biblically-oriented people constantly strive to know what the Bible says and what it means, so that they would live properly – all for the glory of God.
According to our Lord Jesus, he implies from verses 11 to 14 that those who support such ministry would be receptive to the word of God and its teachings. And that is no-brainer, right? It only makes sense that only biblically-oriented people would be receptive to the word of God and its teachings. Conversely, Jesus also clearly states that there would be people in your city or town (or even in the assembly of a local church) who would clearly reject the word and its teachings.
6. An effective ministry is not afraid to make a hard choice when it calls for, including a judgment call.
In this world and even amongst professing Christians, we will always face the two extremes. One is a group that will never make any judgment call because they have a warped view that any type of judging is wrong. So you have one extreme of the two. The other group is simply trigger happy. They are just eager to make any judgment without hearing all the facts or collecting all the data. They are quick to speak but slow to hear. As you know both views and practices are to be avoided.
Having said that, where the majority of professing Christians are guilty today is not that they make quick judgments, but that they don’t make any judgment at all. To be more specific, there is absence or avoid of calling sin as sin and fail to deal with it biblically.
Jesus clearly warned his apostles that as they go and preach the message of repentance and of the coming kingdom, many would not warmly receive the message or the messengers. And when that happens, he commanded them in verse 14 “shake the dust off your feet,” which is euphemism for forget about them and move on. On this regard listen to a pastoral advice from Pastor John MacArthur, one of the chief expositors of our day:
God does not call his servants to minister only where the gospel is immediately and eagerly received. Many fields of service are extremely resistant to the gospel. But the focus of ministry in any area or circumstance should be on those people who are most receptive. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are promised satisfaction (Matt. 5:6), and the faithful minister should give of himself fully and freely in feeding them God’s Word. God’s mandate is that the gospel should be preached first to those who want it most. They not only are the most deserving but the ones most likely to believe and to win still others to Himself.
What Jesus says here is simply the reiteration of what Jesus said back in Matthew 7:6 in the context of not to judge self-righteously but do judge righteously when he said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” The point is, how are you going to know who the dogs are if you don’t make some judgment call?
It is true that when the people of Israel rejected the call to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, the feet of those who preached the good-news changed the directions of their feet to the Gentiles, which we today are an evidence of.
As you’ve heard there are six principles for an effective ministry:
- An effective ministry understands the call from Christ.
- An effective ministry has a biblical accountability to its leader.
- An effective ministry puts their members as priority over others.
- An effective ministry boldly proclaims the message of God.
- An effective ministry is worthy of its members support.
- An effective ministry is not afraid to make a hard choice when it calls for, including a judgment call.
I pray that all of us strive for not just any ministry, but effective ministry that is Bible-driven, all for the glory of God!