Missionary prep: Jesus style

I have been involved in preparing cross-cultural Christian workers since 1995. Previously to that I have spent three years preparing to become a cross-cultural Christian worker. So much of this process, both in me and in other, was not so much knowledge but attitude.

Jesus spent 30 years preparing himself for ministry before he burst on the scene in Galilee. Just prior to that scene-bursting moment, he is prepared in three distinct ways. Firstly, Jesus consciously identifies with humanity. Luke 3 has Jesus coming to John the Baptist to be baptised. Baptism in those days was not–as we Baptists mistake–a witness to our conversion but rather more a rite of passage, announcing that you have left one community and are joining another. It is about identifying with a community. Jesus says that he wants to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matt 3.15) by identifying himself with sinful humanity, which he did ultimately on the cross.

If we want to follow Jesus as a model for mission, then we need to identify with the people we will be working with. We cannot stand aloof from them we need to begin to feel things that they feel, to think like they do, care for the things they care about. This is the first stage of the attempt to contextualise ourselves to the people. We need to see things through their eyes.

Jesus is further prepared for his mission in that he is assured of his identity. Again in Luke 3 Jesus hears the voice from heaven assuring him that he is God’s son and God is pleased with him. Luke goes further to show the importance of Jesus’ identity in the genealogy. Whereas Matthew starts with Abraham (Matt 1:2-16) and moves forward to Jesus, Luke begins with Jesus and goes right back to God (Luke 3:21-38). Jesus was facilitated in his mission by a firm knowledge of his identity. He was going to need it!

Immediately after Jesus’ baptism and Luke tells us of the genealogy, Jesus is led into the desert to be tested. The first thing the uses to test Jesus is questioning his identity. “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus was able to repel these attacks because he knew his own identity.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the whole issue of our identity in cross-cultural work. I don’t need to say much more here, only to add, knowing our identity is following Jesus into mission. See also Luke 4.1; Mark 1.12-13 & Matt 4.1.

Finally Jesus was prepared for his mission by the Holy Spirit descending upon him (Luke 3.22; Matt 3.16; Mark 1.11). The importance of the Spirit in mission should go without saying but so often missiologies miss the role of the Spirit. Jesus needed constant communion with the Father through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Luke is the gospel writer who most emphasises the role of the Spirit both in the gospel and in Acts.

Incidentally each of the commissions in the gospels and Acts, the Holy Spirit is mentioned. In Matthew, Jesus promises his presence (implicitly in the Spirit) (Matt 28:20); Mark says that miraculous signs will accompany the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 16:17-18). In Luke Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to send the Spirit (Luke 24:48). In Acts, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be witnesses after the Spirit comes (Acts 1:8).  In John, Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

We need as cross-cultural missionaries to keep being filled with the Holy Spirit. If Jesus himself needed the Spirit’s ministry so do we.

Tomorrow we will see how Jesus models lifestyle to us.