Not long after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River (photo left), He called 12 as His “disciples.” Those chosen were not going to be simply followers or “groupies.” Choosing them was an intentional, strategic move on Jesus’ part.
For Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry, those men were His ministry team. While they traveled around, He taught and mentored them. In between ministering to large crowds, Jesus poured Himself into these 12 men. He had a long-term mission for these men, a mission that would continue after He ascended into Heaven.
Those disciples were able to observe Jesus up close as He modeled teaching, preaching and holistic ministry. Each Sabbath He attended synagogue services with them. He encouraged them. He scolded them. He talked to these 12 men about relationships. He prayed for them. He posed questions to help them process His teachings. He answered their questions.
Those 12 men received in-service, on-the-job training from Jesus. He gave them responsibilities. He sent them out two by two and then de-briefed them when they returned. He cast a vision for the future, a future when He would no longer be physically present with them.
A bit of a structure even emerged in the little band. Three of them became a sort of “executive council.” The group had a treasurer. Three event-filled years passed and not long before His Ascension, Jesus told those 12 men, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). And so they went, taking the gospel beyond the borders of Israel and pushing toward the ends of the known world.
Global missionaries need to follow Jesus’ example of strategic team building. Indeed, Jesus’ example shaped the strategy the Apostle Paul employed in his church-planting work across the northern rim of the Mediterranean Sea.
To be sure, we missionaries feel a burden to proclaim the gospel to as many lost people as possible. We also want to call believers to a life of holiness. However, if we want to follow Jesus’ example, shouldn’t we become strategic team builders? Shouldn’t missionaries follow Jesus’ pattern and put together discipleship and church planting teams to carry forward the work long after expatriate missionaries have re-deployed elsewhere?