You know where you want to go but the possible roads to get there are innumerable. Where is the best place to start? Philosophy, strategy, targeted marketing, quality programming, numerical goals and benchmarks. All of those are beneficial… but they aren’t the beginning. If you want a ministry that looks like Jesus looked, you’ll want to start where he started. 

Jesus was here not to build up his power or launch a big ministry or a particular style of ministry. By his own account, he was here to reach and save people who needed hope. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45. That’s a significant paradigm change for most ministries. It’s about pouring out and giving away.

Start where Jesus did

start where Jesus did

Too often we start with a church building and want to fill it. We start with a budget and want to meet it. We start with a plan and want to achieve it. But Jesus started in the harvest. He went out to the people, engaged with them, loved them, lived with them and served alongside them. And perhaps most importantly, he modeled the behaviors and attitudes he wanted to see in them. 

4 Ways to Do Ministry Like Jesus

1. Look to the harvest

Jesus wasn’t gearing his ministry toward the religious, the reached, the Pharisees. He wasn’t worried about meeting their needs or about alienating them with his teachings. But whose needs did he want to meet? Those of the lost, the thirsty, the diseased, the poor, the helpless, the directionless. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 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 9:36-38). 

2. Engage with unbelievers

To reach those sheep without a shepherd, Jesus didn’t ask that they come to where he was. He went to where they were—to the streets, the wells, the weddings, the meeting places outside the temple gates. He went to parties thrown by tax collectors and he talked with prostitutes, touched lepers, and healed beggars. Jesus was no ivory tower shepherd. He went where the people were and he engaged with them on their own turf.  

3. Serve and live alongside others

Yet Jesus didn’t do all of that alone. He lived with, ate with, worked with, and traveled with his twelve disciples and some women. “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1-3). Ministry—even ministry led by Jesus—is much better done in community.

4. Model kingdom values

As those who traveled with Jesus experienced him in his day-to-day life, watched his interactions, observed his healings, and listened to his teaching, they were then better positioned to emulate what they saw in him. What did they see modeled? Grace for sinners. Love for all of humanity. Anger at injustice. Reliance on the Father in prayer. Courage in the face of the unknown. Humility from even the Messiah himself. 

Where will you start?

Consider yourself and your current ministry through this lens. How much of your time is spent working with those already reached? To what degree are you here to serve? How much of your time is spent in the harvest, where Jesus did his ministry? Pray and consider what changes you might want to make in how you allocate your ministry time. You’ll need to model what you want to see. 

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20


The Discipleship Difference * lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step toward God.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash