I sometimes wonder if Christians have a misunderstanding of how Jesus lived his daily life. They picture Jesus, a single man, choosing 12 young men and together they go tramping around the Israel countryside for three years sleeping under logs and bridges. For those who have a family, job, and home, an itinerate discipling ministry like Jesus’ is just not feasible. Often, this inability to really understand Jesus’ life becomes a personal justification for not making followers of Jesus.
I believe there is enough evidence from the Bible to conclude that Jesus lived his daily life not too differently from our own. A closer look at the gospels reveals that for most of His life Jesus lived in two towns, Nazareth and Capernaum. We are familiar with His boyhood home of Nazareth, but few realize that Jesus moved his residence to the town of Capernaum to base His new ministry as evidenced in Matthew and Mark:
Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. (Matthew 4:13)
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. (Mark 2:1)
Although we do not know the hometown of all of the twelve we do know that a few were from or near Capernaum and that all of the disciples were from the same province of Galilee. Mark and Matthew give some clues into the disciples’ origins in these passages:
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen, “Come, Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach… As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever and they told Jesus about her. (Mark 1:16, 21, 29)
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town (Capernaum)… As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me”, he told him, and Matthew got up and followed. (Matthew 9:1, 9)
It is important to understand that Jesus did not remove the disciples from their family, friends, neighbors and community to become his followers. In actuality they were made followers of Jesus in the midst of the community in which they lived. An example of this is Jesus having dinner with tax collects, sinners, and His disciples in Matthew’s house in Capernaum (Matthew 9:10)!
To further support this view I propose a look at the life of Peter. We know from Mark that Peter was married while a disciple of Jesus (Mark 1:29). I seriously doubt that Peter put his marriage aside for 30 months in order to trek around Israel to follow Jesus.
I recommend an evaluation of our ministry methods based on a rereading of the life of Jesus. Jesus was a real person, who lived in a real time and in a real place who came on earth to demonstrate for us how to make disciples in the context of our family, friends, and our hometown.
Here are a couple of closing observations:
- Jesus did provide a model that everyone (dads, moms, and singles) can emulate today.
- We need to re-read the ministry of Jesus through a hometown based discipling ministry.
- There is significance in the geographical location in which the Holy Spirit places me to make followers of Jesus.
When I was 18 years old, I knew God was calling me to ministry. In fact, I knew that he was calling me to ministry in my hometown.
There were a few years away for school and such, but now I have the deep satisfaction of being a light in the middle of the community I grew up in.
This morning I took my daughter to the diner. She likes to sit on the stools and drink hot chocolate. Well, the waitress pointed at her KidStuf T-Shirt, and said, “Hey, I was at that last night.” As it turns out, it was her first time ever coming to the church. She LOVED the production, and her son had a great time. We had a great conversation, and it sounds like she’s coming back. Cool stuff.
What made it even cooler was that I played football in High School with the owner of the diner, was childhood friends with the guy at the far end of the counter, and recognized and greeted others there.
Every time I hear a story about how someone just arrived at one of our events or programs, or better yet came to Christ, I listen to hear about the different people that invited, influenced, and contributed to them making that decision.
Ministry is all about relationships. And although I understand God calls people to all points, I’m thrilled at where He’s placed me. I can’t think of a single place where I could make a deeper, more meaningful impact than right in my hometown.
I agree with you! I believe in a discipling model we can change the world from anywhere. My responsibility is to make followers of Jesus wherever He places me and then the multiplication process kicks in as “yeast in dough” and the world is never the same. If one cannot make disciples in his hometown what makes us think he can make disciples on a mission field? As you said, “Ministry is all about relationships” and if one is not relational in his hometown how can he become relational just by moving to a different city or country?
It seems to me that many of ministry programs are a poor substitute for relational ministry because of our incompetence at love.