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December 1, 2011

How Did Jesus Teach?

The answer helps me keep my ambition in check



Recently, a friend shared a conversation she’d had with another woman in leadership. “All she talked about is how no one will support her preaching, and how she’s having a hard time getting ordained. Not once did she talk about serving, or call, or God’s direction.”

Ambition isn’t unique to women. Men strive to get ahead just like we do. But within women’s leadership circles, I’m noticing a troubling trend: In our rally cry to gain a place in the pulpit, we may be losing something else—our heart for servanthood.

I’m as pro-woman as they come. I believe the church would benefit from more women teaching in larger venues. But as I look at the “glory” of being “in the spotlight”—for both men and women—I have to ask myself, How did Jesus teach?

Jesus taught one woman at the well what it means to have living water. He taught a small group of disciples what it meant to follow him. And he also taught a large crowd how to be blessed in this life. We’re just as likely to receive wisdom from Jesus’ teaching when he ate a meal with his disciples as when he stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah. The answer to the question, How did Jesus teach? is that he taught in a wide variety of venues, and always with a heart to serve his listeners, no matter how big or small the crowd. And he did it even in the midst of having people not “support” his preaching, as my friend bemoaned about her own situation.

If Jesus lived, loved, and taught primarily through relationships rather than in the synagogue, then all of us already have opportunities to teach, even without a pulpit. Plus, Scripture makes it clear that God cares first and foremost about the state of our hearts—our character. If we’ve been called to teach, we’re held to a higher standard: “Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

I know what it is to yearn for greater influence. But I also know that it’s a slippery slope to believe that my greatest effectiveness comes by teaching at center stage. The best thing I can do is take the role I’ve been given and work at it with all my heart—to earn my place of leadership without promoting a hidden agenda of self-ambition. I must leverage the influence I do have, and rejoice when it moves the kingdom forward, knowing that my “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58) regardless of whether I preached the sermon myself or contributed to the discussion in a staff meeting with a pastor the week before. And I can pursue my calling, understanding as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:6, that as I humble myself, under God’s mighty hand, he will lift me up in due time. Then my influence builds because of my reputation of servanthood, not my loud cries to be noticed.

Nicole Unice is a contributing editor for GiftedforLeadership.com, and she works in Family and Student Ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA.

Related Tags: gender, gender roles, humility, leader, leaders, leadership, ministry, Preaching

Comments

I couldn't agree more, this is troubling how the whole message of the gospel is being overshadowed by the need for self glory. No longer is our preaching (men and women) patterned after Jesus who is our Lord. Sometimes I do wonder,how did we get here? The answer is always found in the flesh, our sinful nature. The flesh always forgets that that which it has has been given by grace, when we loose sight of this fact, when we cease seeking to please the Father as our Lord Jesus did then we miss the whole point of the gospel. Our influence lies in reflecting the Father and we can only do that when we preach like Jesus did.

what wonderful insights. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Nicole, so well said. Thank you for the challenge!

Hello Nicole,

A very needful topic you have hit upon. I am a 56 year old minister way out here in Sunny Ca. reluctantly responding to this aricle. In this light I must say that there are some things a younger person will find along their ministry trail.
At the risk of sounding as though I have "arrived", I simply want to share my life's experience concerning this area. Being saved at the tender age of 16, I had no Bible knowledge whatsoever. But I had some men in my church I knew I wanted to emulate. I was directed to the Bible verse that if a person desired the office of a bishop (teacher/resposibility etc.) they desired a good thing. Hey, I qualified for that as I had that desire. I have no desire to go into detail though I am sure it might be of help to those coming up through the ranks of their local church or are feeling unused in their gift. With that in mind I will skip to about age 35 when as an associate pastor I spoke in error to a gathering of people. The meeting was concluded, a brother corrected me in love but you see, there was no taking it back. James speaks of being judged by what we teach. If this doesn't cause we who have a gift of teaching/preaching to quake in our pulpit what will? These are very very serious things we are about yet to walk in joy as we have been selected for a marvelous work. In conclusion, if any of us are in love with the gift we have or the position that has been granted us by God Himself and have let the love of the give wain. We are setting ourselves up for a very difficult time in our future.

In our society, we typically think of leaders as being in positions of being served rather than serving don't we? I hear alot of leaders publicly making humble statements of serving others but their actions oftentimes exhibit pride rather than humility or servitude. Servanthood is Jesushood. Thanks for the reminder!

My humble opinion is that Jesus teaches to follow him, by doing his will and not ours, and way we will deny ourselves and become one in the body of Christ. God bless

The desire for attention and to be recognized has no place in ministry. Those who hear our teaching and preaching should recognize Jesus, otherwise we have wasted our time. What we need in ministers is a big dose of HUMILITY.

Great article Nicole! I am a lead pastor at a church we planted 4 years ago alongside my husband. We teach as a duo each week. To be honest, I did NOT want the job. Public speaking was WAY down on my desires list. But obedience drove me to do it, and we are growing and changing lives on a big scale. Now I love what I do. But my point is that I love it simply because it is what God called me to do, and not because of the task or the position itself. As a lead pastor, we will NOT promote people if we see that their main drive if position. We recently had to remove a leader that had great potential, because it was all about the position and lost a heart for the church as a whole. My advice.... serve whole heartedly and let God promote you. Believe me.... when you serve as unto God, and not unto promotion, your leaders will notice!

Great article Nicole! I am a lead pastor at a church we planted 4 years ago alongside my husband. We teach as a duo each week. To be honest, I did NOT want the job. Public speaking was WAY down on my desires list. But obedience drove me to do it, and we are growing and changing lives on a big scale. Now I love what I do. But my point is that I love it simply because it is what God called me to do, and not because of the task or the position itself. As a lead pastor, we will NOT promote people if we see that their main drive is position. We recently had to remove a leader that had great potential and talent, because it was all about the position and had lost a heart for the church as a whole. My advice.... serve whole heartedly and let God promote you. Believe me.... when you serve as unto God, and not unto promotion, your leaders will notice! And most importantly, so will God.

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