Tuesday, May 01, 2012

192. Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation Part 3

So far, in the last two posts on Apostolic Ministry and Team Formation (part 1, part 2) we have looked at Acts 1 and 2 for indicators about the importance of unity for teams that are doing frontier work. Roughly speaking, the 11 apostles had the same vision, values, vehicles and vocabulary...the three generative building blocks of any culture. In order to keep this level of unity, they could not just add anyone to the team. the new team member needed to have alignment with those 4 V's. unity in these four areas were critical for the viability of the team and its missional venture.

So where did they get this idea of unity from? Is it something they crafted on their own, or are they imitating the strategy of their original leader, Jesus?

Ironically enough, Jesus modeled and taught this concept of unity to them at the very beginning of His own ministry. In Mark 3, Jesus goes up to a mountain and invites 12 disciples to join Him as a team. After he chooses them, he goes with them into a nearby house to get their grub on. The crowds sniff Jesus out once again and interrupt their meal together.

Jesus' family catches wind that that He has selected 12 disciples to form a special group, and they say, literally, "he has lost his mind!" His family starts treking up to Capernaum, but before they make it to the house where Jesus and the 12 are staying, the Pharisees show up and claim He is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus gives a discourse on unity exposing the fallacy of their accusation. Once His family arrives, some of the people in the house alert Jesus that his family is standing out side. After they traveled all that way, you would think Jesus would give them an ear...but he doesn't. Instead, he looks around at those in the house with him and essentially says "This is my family."

There are two things I want to pay attention to in this section of scripture that I think throw some light on how Jesus provided a model to the 12, from the very beginning, that unity is important for team members who are doing pioneering work.

1. Chemistry: Notice how Mark says that Jesus called to Him "those He himself wanted." This means Jesus chose people whom He had a personal preference for. The basic gist here, I think, is that Jesus liked the guys He chose. He wanted to be around them, and they wanted to be around Him. This is really important when it comes to teams doing frontier ministry together. There needs to be a certain level of chemistry between the leader and the team, as well as the team members themselves. Jesus chose two sets of brothers you know (Peter & Andrew, James & John.)  This should say something to us about the need for personal connections among the team members.

2. Location: This is more subtle, but I think it is key to the interpretation of the text. Mark says in 3:19 that the discourse on unity and the teaching on extended-family all takes place in a house. Now this would be peripheral to me if I didn't know that the word for "house" in the text is "oikos"....the N.T. word for what we would call an extended family of anywhere from 12- 70 people (12 being in the incubation phase.) Jesus teaching on unity is taking place in a physical structure (house) where the relational structure of oikos, extended-family, orbits. This plays into the next observation.

3. Entities: Jesus mentions 3 entities that can not stand if they are divided: kingdom, house, individual (Satan.) If we are looking at scale here, kingdom is macro, house is "meso" and the leader would be micro, in this setting it is Satan. At the very base level, the leader has to have unity within themselves. As James would allude to, he can not be a double minded man who is, by default,  unstable in all his ways. The leader of the oikos provides the point of reference around which the oikos/household can unify. A collection of oikos/households can eventually grow into a "kingdom."

4. Extended family: Jesus essentially says that his family is comprised of those who are seeking the kingdom. What a great thing to establish in the beginning of his ministry, right at the forefront of selecting his team to be with him and travel around with him. Jesus frames the nature of the community that is beginning to coalesce around him as an extended family/oikos/household.

Isn't it interesting that Jesus chose 12 guys to function as a team and the very first "sermon" he gives is on unity, followed by a description of the community as extended family, and it is taking place in a house (oikos).....hmmmm....I cant help but connect the dots here myself. Unity, Team, Oikos, House...it all adds up to a strategical moment for Jesus to, in his typical creative fashion, kill several birds with one stone. Both the location and the content of what Jesus says combine to give a graphic portrayal of what Jesus is expecting from his new team and how he understands the nature of their relationships with him and each other. They need to function like a household, like an extended family with a level of unity that can resist the pressures of the adversary.  

It is not by accident that Mark, in the composition of his gospel, affords literary proximity to Jesus' teaching on unity and the extended family with Jesus' selection of the 12...it is literally in the same textual block of his gospel. (It precedes his next teaching block of the parables on the kingdom in Mark 4.) As the first gospel, Mark is looking to resource the discipleship and mission of the early Jesus movement. In one chapter, he does what all story tellers do: he compresses multiple themes into one story that provides a dense survey of necessarily principles related to discipleship, mission, teams and extended family/oikos.

Jesus knew what he was doing, and so did Mark as he recorded it. We have here, in Mark 3, the founding event that would later resource the 12 as they dealt with team issues and the need for unity at the beginning of the venture. Like every good leader, Jesus began with the end in mind. he did things in such a way that his followers could look back on their experience and draw valuable principles to help them move into the future.

Well, this concludes my thoughts thus far on the need for unity in apostolic bands launching out to do pioneering work. The frontier is not easy. It is filled with challenge and adversity. Don't go into the frontier with just anybody. Go there with people you have chemistry with, people who have a sense of unity and alignment around the Four V's of vision, values, vocabulary and vehicles. Covenant together around these four things and lean on that covenant to get you through hard times. It is the "oneness" of covenant that makes kingdom work possible.

No comments: