In my new book, Dirty God, I emphasize the humanity of Jesus’ life, the humanity of those he spent time with, and the inhumanity of the world we live in today.
Grace ties it all together.
I believe that having gotten grace from Jesus, Christians ought to be known – above everything else – as those who give grace to the world.
And grace is no clearer in the Bible than it is in Jesus’ own ministry, and it’s no clearer there than in the type of company he kept.
Jesus recruited brash, working class fishermen who were tough as nails (Peter, and co.). He intentionally invited a former tax collector (among the most hated people in the world), Matthew, and a member of a radical political party that believed in using terrorism to oust the Romans, Simon the Zealot.
Within this group of radicals, he also invited a frank realist named Philip (an accountant, always telling Jesus what he could NOT do with a few fish), and a guy with the spiritual gift of pessimism (Doubting Thomas). Then there was Peter’s little brother, Andrew, who – without a doubt – had serious issues from growing up in that bombastic shadow.
Oh, and don’t forget the thief (Judas) and the two jocks who were nicknamed, probably not affectionately, as the “sons of thunder” (James and John).
Can you imagine the personality conflicts on that team?
The leading Rabbis selected graduates from the Ivy League.
Jesus invited the folks who might have flunked Rabbinical school for sure, and some of them probably had.
They were tradesmen with calloused hands and farmer’s tans. They were tough like coal miners or steel workers. They had oil on their clothes and wore overalls and could arm-wrestle the best of ‘em, though they’d never lifted a dumbbell.
This, to me, is one of the most remarkable things about Jesus. He recruited everyday people to change history. It was commonsense to Jesus that normal people would be more apt to reach normal people, and his movement didn’t begin in the ivory tower. It began in the cul-de-sac.
Let’s face it.
Jesus picked people whom most of us would never choose to be on our staff, or on our elder board. This was an accident waiting to happen, and Jesus knew it from the beginning and he invited it.
I think we can learn from Jesus four practical tips about how he recruited and led this crazy group.
- Jesus intentionally selected a diverse team. This is the most obvious point, and what I’ve emphasized above. Jesus intentionally, sought out this group of people. He didn’t just run upon them, didn’t randomly select them, and he didn’t only take volunteers (in fact, you find him nearly persuading some of them). He knew the type of people he needed around him, and he went after them, where they were. He didn’t make them come to him.
- Jesus took responsibility for his team. Jesus told them, from the beginning, that he would make them fishers of men. Jesus selected people who might have been hard to lead, but he was willing to lead them. All through the Gospels we find example after example of Jesus teaching them, coaching them, scolding them, and being hands on in their personal development. Precisely because he knew what he was getting himself into, he knew what they needed to know. He leveraged their strengths, and coached them in their weaknesses.
- Jesus had patience with his team. I think this is one of the most remarkable things. At no point, do we have any sense that Jesus gives up on anyone. This is especially clear when it comes to how Jesus led Peter. Repeated failures were met by Jesus’ repeated patience. He knew that he was taking in a group that would require extra attention, and he was willing to give it to them. Because he did, they changed the world.
- Jesus saw his team where they could be, not where they were. Finally, and from the very beginning, Jesus saw the potential of his disciples, as individuals, and he led them in that direction whether they realized it, or not. It’s also interesting that Jesus didn’t treat them equitably. It’s obvious in the Gospels that he favored Peter, James, and John. It was clear that he saw in them a certain type of potential, and related to them in a certain type of way, that was different from the others. Jesus coached the individual members of his team to their highest, individual potential, and he knew the types of personalities he related to the best. He was an optimist from the beginning.
I wonder how our ministries would be different if our teams looked more like Jesus’ team?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.