By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
A quick read through 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 core message for his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 3:17
From his baptism by John to his hand-selection and calling of the men who would be known as his disciples, Jesus is preparing all those who would believe in his message of good news to carry the kingdom of God to a needful world. He is modeling a form of leadership that is the embodiment of “Do I as do, and I will go before you and be with you as you do it.”
The women and men who followed Jesus closely, listening as he spoke, witnessed the working out of his kingdom message as he healed, fed, forgave, and brought conviction and hope to a world waiting for the Messiah. In the after moments of itinerant preaching done throughout the synagogues and villages, where he healed every disease and sickness he encountered and exhibited care and empathy toward the helpless and oppressed crowds he encountered as he journeyed, Jesus spoke these words :
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37
With this simple call to prayer, Jesus commends his disciples to the work of the ministry. He instructs them carefully in ten powerful layers of transformational leadership that he has modeled by example as he has walked out his ministry in their presence.
1. Equipped with Authority
The disciples became the first workers sent out into the “harvest field” commissioned to lead others to the coming kingdom of Jesus. Understanding what they would come up against as they went out into the world as his representatives, Jesus ensured that they were equipped as emissaries under his charge with authority that only he could give, to do the things that, up to that time, only he had done. He “gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” Matthew 10:1
Those who seek to lead others well in the church, business, or home must have a strong grasp of the knowledge that influence comes from being equipped with authority.
2. Clarity of Mission
“As you go preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.” 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 cast out demonic entities. Astoundingly powerful. Or perhaps, starkly dangerous. Wise Christian leadership has a strong foundation of clarity of mission. Jesus instructed the disciples about every facet of their mission prior to sending them out. He gave them the who, the how, the where, and the what of staying on mission as they went forth in leading people to his kingdom.
3. Fully Rely on God
“Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b
Though Jesus spoke these words in the context of sending his disciples out to heal, raise the dead, and drive out demons, he continues by instructing them on what they should pack as they head out to do great and mighty works. He tells them to take nothing. Absolutely nothing. No gold, no silver, not an extra outfit or second pair of shoes, or even the bag to carry them in “for the worker is worth his keep.” Matthew 10:10
Jesus is teaching the disciples two important concepts here. First, God is your provider and has been freely giving you the most important things, and second, you are being sent out as workers for his harvest, and he will continue to provide for you. He is calling them to a full-orbed faith in God as the all-sufficient provider.
4. Act in Wisdom
“As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it, if it is not, let your peace return to you.” Matthew 10:12-13
Specific instruction about how to conduct themselves wisely from town to town and home to home is given to these disciples as they are about to become itinerant preachers. Jesus encourages them to seek out people of worth to reside with, yet also allows for the significant possibility that they may not always be welcomed or heard. With this in mind, he offers a simple and calm response that reflects that their wisdom be based in love and not the anger of man.
5. Expect Difficulty
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” Matthew 10:16
Those that followed Jesus were Jews, well-versed in the words of the prophets as well as the history of the Israelites. The most common of Jewish men would have known the history of suffering that followed the prophets of old, as well as the difficulty and pain that was prophesied for the coming Messiah. To help them lead well, Jesus had to prepare his followers for the difficulties they would encounter due to following him.
6. Do Not Be Afraid
“So do not be afraid of them.” Matthew 10:26
Jesus spoke in specifics when it came to the types of difficulty that the disciples would face as they preached the gospel from town to town, to the point of telling them they would be hated on his behalf. 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 requires courage, and Jesus succinctly reminds his disciples that God will be with them and that reliance on him is how they will face suffering and fear.
7. Understand Your Worth
“You are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31
Jesus conferred dignity and worth on the lowliest and most broken of men and women throughout his ministry. He touched the dead and brought them to life, he kneeled in the dust with the woman caught in adultery, and he reclined at the table with the tax collector. Here the God-man taught the concepts of creation, value, and redemptive worth by his daily example in ministry. Jesus knowing who he was, called those who would eventually lead his church to a knowledge of their own worth, and the inherent value and dignity of others.
8. Be Satisfied in His Recognition
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32
Exampling Christ to a world that may choose not only to reject Jesus, but also those who align themselves with him can be a harsh and difficult path. Though the harvest may be plentiful, any good farmer can convey untold stories of the hardness of working in the field. Jesus has told of the troubles and fearful experiences those he sends out will face, and he wants to remind them of the fruit of the mission: to help others know and be known by God. He is telling his disciples, “I will talk about you to God.”
When all other rewards fade, to be recognized by the God of the universe and his Son is the one reward of lasting value.
9. 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 cause the good news of his coming kingdom to become an offense. Truth often brings division. In his letter to the Ephesian church, the apostle Paul notes that the struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Those who seek to lead others to Christ know that truth often brings division. They will seek to love others in wisdom and loving-kindness as much as possible.
10. Release Your Agenda
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake 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 sake of 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 instructed his disciples in the layers of leading others toward the kingdom of God, he encouraged them that the Spirit of God would be with them.
The final words in 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.
Stacey Monaco has been speaking and writing since her first unpublished children’s book in the fifth grade. Her journey as a writer has taken her from the depths of blue water exploration, to the simplicity of crafting words to encourage and educate in the areas of loss, legacy, leadership, and living life passionately with purpose. Stacey received her Masters Degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership from Talbot School of Theology, and has worked in many roles from slinging coffee to pastoring women. To find more on living the Christian life with intention, head over to her website at StaceyMonaco.com.