A quick read of the first nine chapters of Matthew offers a synoptic overview of the life of Jesus from his genealogy and birth to the introduction and application of the central message of his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. Matthew 3:17
From his baptism by John to his manual selection and calling of the men who would be known as his disciples, Jesus is preparing all who will believe his message of good news to bring the kingdom of God to a world in need. He models a form of leadership that is the embodiment of “Do as I do, and I will pass before you and be with you while you do it.”
The women and men who followed Jesus closely, listening as he spoke, witnessed the shaping of his kingdom message as he healed, nurtured, forgave and brought conviction and hope to a world waiting for the Messiah. In the moments following the itinerant preaching done in synagogues and villages, where he healed every sickness and disease he encountered and showed care and empathy for the helpless and downtrodden crowds that encountered on his journey, Jesus spoke these words:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest field. Matthew 9:37
With this simple call to prayer, Jesus recommends his disciples to the work of the ministry. He carefully instructs them in ten powerful layers of transformational leadership which he modeled by example as he left his ministry in their presence.
1. Equipped with authority
The disciples became the first workers sent into the “harvest field” responsible for leading others to the coming kingdom of Jesus. Understanding what they would encounter when they went out into the world as his representatives, Jesus ensured that they were equipped as emissaries under his charge with an authority that only he could give, to do the things that , up to that time he alone had done. He “gave them power to cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease and infirmity.” Matthew 10:1
Those who seek to lead others well in church, business, or home must have a firm understanding that influence comes from being endowed with authority.
2. Clarity of mission
“As you go to preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 10:7
It is monumental to consider the authority that Jesus passed into the hands of his disciples as he prepared to send them out into the world. Think of the results of being able to heal and drive out demonic entities. Incredibly powerful. Or maybe, extremely dangerous. Wise Christian leadership has a solid foundation of mission clarity. Jesus instructed the disciples on every facet of their mission before sending them out. He gave them the who, the how, the where, and the what to stay on a mission as they set out to lead people to his kingdom.
3. Rely entirely on God
“You received for free, give for free.” Matthew 10:8b
Although Jesus spoke these words in the context of sending his disciples out to heal, raise the dead and cast out demons, he goes on to tell them what they must take away as they head to great and mighty works. He tells them not to take anything. Absolutely nothing. No gold, no money, no extra outfit or second pair of shoes, not even the bag to carry them “because the worker is worth his time”. Matthew 10:10
Jesus is teaching the disciples two important concepts here. First, God is your provider and has given you the most important things for free, and second, you are sent as laborers for his harvest, and he will continue to provide for you. He calls them to total faith in God as an all-sufficient provider.
4. Act wisely
“As you enter the house, greet her. If the home is worthy, may your peace rest there, if not, may your peace be yours. Matthew 10:12-13
Specific instructions on how to conduct themselves wisely from city to city and from house to house are given to these disciples as they are about to become itinerant preachers. Jesus encourages them to seek out worthy people to reside with, while considering the significant possibility that they may not always be welcomed or heard. With that in mind, he offers a simple, calm answer that reflects that their wisdom must be based on love, not man’s anger.
5. Expect difficulties
“I send you as sheep among wolves.” Matthew 10:16
Those who followed Jesus were Jews, well acquainted with the words of the prophets as well as the history of the Israelites. The commonest of Jewish men would have known the story of the suffering that followed the prophets of old, and the difficulty and pain that was prophesied for the coming of the Messiah. To help them lead well, Jesus had to prepare his disciples for the challenges they would face in following him.
6. Do not be afraid
“So don’t be afraid of them.” Matthew 10:26
Jesus spoke in detail about the kinds of difficulties the disciples would face as they preached the gospel from city to city, to the point of telling them that they would be hated in his name. He reminded them that God would be with them as they spoke, telling them, “it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:20
Leadership takes courage, and Jesus succinctly reminds his followers that God will be with them and that it is by relying on him that they will face pain and fear.
7. Understand your worth
“You are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31
Jesus bestowed dignity and worth on the humblest and most broken men and women throughout his ministry. He touched the dead and raised them to life, knelt in the dust with the woman caught in adultery, and sat down to table with the tax collector. Here the God-man taught the concepts of creation, value, and redeeming value through his daily example in ministry. Jesus, knowing who he was, called those who would eventually lead his church to know their own worth, and the inherent worth and dignity of others.
8. Be satisfied with his recognition
“Whoever recognizes me before men, I will recognize him also before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32
Setting the example of Christ to a world that can choose not only to reject Jesus, but also those who align themselves with him can be a hard and difficult path. Although the harvest may be bountiful, any good farmer can tell untold stories of the hard work in the fields. Jesus spoke of the difficulties and frightening experiences that those he sends will face, and he wants to remind them of the fruit of mission: to help others know and be known by God. He said to his disciples, “I will tell God about you.
When all other rewards fade, to be recognized by the God of the universe and his Son is the only reward of lasting value.
9. The truth often brings division
“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
Jesus is clear that his message will divide households and nations. Although his call is to love the least, the methods and motives of sinful mankind make the glad tidings of his coming kingdom an offense. The truth often brings division. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul notes that the wrestling is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Those who seek to lead others to Christ know that the truth often brings division. They will seek to love others wisely and lovingly as much as possible.
10. Free your schedule
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). These words are the very essence of what it means to release our own agenda and find our life for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the answer to every prayer of “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. As he taught his followers how to lead others to the kingdom of God, he encouraged them to have the Spirit of God be with them.
The last words of his instructions to his disciples were simple and profound: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. .” Matthew 10:42
Refreshingly simple. Thy will be done.
Photo credit: ©LightWorkers
Stacey Monaco has been speaking and writing since her first unpublished children’s book in fifth grade. Her journey as a writer has taken her from the depths of exploring blue water to the simplicity of writing words to encourage and educate in the areas of loss, legacy, leadership and life. passionate with a purpose. Stacey received her Masters in Christian Ministry and Leadership from the Talbot School of Theology and has held many roles, from coffee making to women’s ministry. To learn more about Christian Living with Intention, visit her website at StaceyMonaco.com.