This article originally appeared on tonycooke.org, October 2014.
As a young Bible school student, I heard Brother Hagin emphasize three major aspects of Jesus’ ministry that are mentioned in Matthew 9:35. “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” Brother Hagin would enumerate them, and we would often recite the concise summary with him: “Jesus went about teaching, preaching, and healing.”
Knowing that we, too, were called to do the works of Jesus (John 14:12), I, and probably hundreds of other young, zealous students, anticipated the day when we would graduate, and being filled with the Word and the Spirit, would launch out to shake and change the world through teaching, preaching, and healing. In more recent times, I’ve compared notes with others who went to school around the time I did, and it appears that most of us felt we were going to save humanity single-handedly by our dynamic messages and powerful anointing.
With all due respect to the vital role of teaching, preaching, and healing, my peers and I were in for a big surprise. While we saw positive results, none of us ended up single-handedly saving the world through our “great ministries.” It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but it was. In reflecting on my journey, I realize that Brother Hagin also taught the verses that follow Matthew 9:35, but I was guilty of a mistake made by many—I only focused on the part of the verse that I wanted to hear, and ignored or greatly downplayed the surrounding verses. It would be years before the connected verses would sink in, enabling me to have a deeper (and more realistic) picture of what ministry is really all about.
No doubt that Jesus’ teaching and preaching were powerful. It was said of Jesus (John 7:46), “No man ever spoke like this Man!” While different ministers today have different levels of grace and anointing upon them, Jesus had the Spirit without measure (John 4:34). In addition to the conviction and enlightenment that came through His teaching and preaching, we also know that there were many powerful demonstrations as Jesus healed “every sickness and disease among the people.” My subconscious assumption (or presumption), then, was that wherever Jesus ministered, everyone would have been propelled into a carefree state of utopia and everyone would be perpetually happy, every marriage healthy, every person victorious, etc. But is that what happened after Jesus had ministered in all these cities and villages? The very next verse clarifies this matter.
Matthew 9:36 (AMP)
36 When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd.
Could that be true? After Jesus had taught, preached, and healed, He still saw people who were bewildered, harassed, distressed, dejected, and helpless. I wonder what kind of shape the people were in before He ministered to them? Did Jesus help them through His ministry? Absolutely! Were there still needs among the people? Most clearly. As vital and foundational as teaching, preaching, and healing are, Jesus recognized a missing piece of the puzzle. He saw the people as sheep without a shepherd.
Teaching and preaching is crucial, but people need more than a teaching or revival center. The ministering of God’s healing power is essential, but people need more than a healing class or a prayer line. Jesus stated that the people were in need of a shepherd. Rightly so, we think of the pastoral office—those men and women who are called to lead, feed, and guide congregations—those who fit the characteristics Jesus outlined in John 10, who call the sheep by name, who continue with the flock, etc. These provide ongoing care, discipleship, and ministry to God’s people. Thank God for pastors!
When I resigned from the church where I served as an assistant pastor from 1980-83, I was surprised by the nature of the “thank you’s” I received from the congregation. Even though I worked very hard at developing the teaching gift, I don’t recall people expressing thanks for any sermons, Bible lessons, or teaching series. Instead, people thanked me for the times I sat with them during a loved one’s surgery, when I helped them with funeral arrangements for a family member who had passed away, or for encouraging and comforting individuals when they had faced various crises of life.
To this day, I greatly value teaching, preaching, and healing, but I’ve learned to additionally appreciate the personal touch that comes through pastoral care. I’ve also come to believe there are people who don’t necessarily stand in the pastoral office, but who function very proficiently in loving and caring for others “pastorally.” These might be people who are great encouragers, who operate strongly in what Paul calls “mercy” in Romans 12:8, or who exercise what is referred to as “hospitality” in various places throughout the New Testament. When we see saints loving and encouraging others so beautifully, we are reminded that God did not intend for one single person (The Pastor) to do all of the caring within a given congregation.
The quickest way for a congregation to burn out their pastor is to expect him (or her) to do all of the encouraging, all of the comforting, all of the praying for people. Perhaps this is why we have all the “one another” Scriptures in the New Testament telling believers to do these things mutually amongst themselves. Certainly we need recognized leaders, and nothing I’m saying is meant to take away from the significance of the pastoral office. I’m simply saying that pastors weren’t meant to simply do all of the loving, caring, and encouraging, but pastors are given to equip the saints so that all the saints can do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16).
This may help us understand what Jesus said next in Matthew 9:37-38, right after He acknowledge the absolute necessity of shepherds. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
So what does multi-dimensional ministry look like?
- It starts with a strong foundation of teaching, preaching, and healing. The ministry of the Word and the Spirit are essential. Building upon that foundation, we see the vital need for effective pastoral ministry. This can involve both individuals who stand in the pastoral office, and it can also be extended and expressed through people who work under the supervision of ministry leaders, expressing the love and care of God to people in need.
- Multi-dimensional ministry culminates when there is a multiplication of laborers (as Jesus directed). One person was never intended to carry the full weight of ministry, but with a multiplication of laborers and strong leaders, the varied needs and demands of ministry can be met through many working together to fulfill the plan and purpose of God.
- I’ve learned that one person can’t do it all, but if the Word and Spirit are preeminent, and if people are cared for through nurturing, caring relationships, and if there is a multiplication of laborers, there is no limit to what the Body of Christ can accomplish.
Remember that what God desires to accomplish through His Body is more diverse than what one person alone can facilitate; it takes all of us working together. I like what Rick Warren said about this: “Healthy, lasting church growth is multidimensional. My definition of a growing church has five facets. Every church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry, and larger through evangelism.”