By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
FIRST OF EIGHT PARTS
“The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.” — Mark 1:14-15
Jesus as an organizer
Our Biblical basis for our reflections is the whole Gospel of Mark. According to New Testament scholars, this is the first Gospel written, and it focuses on the ministry of Jesus. There are several titles accorded to Jesus Christ our Lord that we could see in this Gospel, like teacher, healer, and miracle worker. But there is one title that would best describe Jesus’ ministry, but never mentioned in the Gospel at all, and that is: Jesus is an organizer.
Although the word “organizing” is never used in the Scripture, the whole of Jesus’ work is actually organizing work in terms of our present terminologies. Needless to say, our ministry as church workers should be patterned after that of Jesus’ own ministry. And if Jesus Christ our Lord did organizing work, then we must also do organizing work.
However, for some church people, organizing is a very bad word. I discovered this in one of our National Convocations held at Silliman University wherein I was invited to give inputs. Someone from Mindanao raised questions as to why their pastors are doing organizing work. Apparently, they would associate organizing work with those with leftist political ideology. But no, we are doing organizing work as Jesus did not for any political ideology but for the Kingdom of God.
Let us therefore look into the organizing work of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, and draw out from there some basic principles we could use for our own church community organizing work.
Why did Jesus organize
Now, why did Jesus organize? At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus Christ our Lord spells out that his mission is to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. Soon after his cousin, John the Baptist, was imprisoned, he came to Galilee to preach the good news. He said, “The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.” (Mk. 1:14-15).
Since his message of God’s Kingdom is new, the means to convey this message must also be new. This means that this message has to find a medium, even an organizational expression. And for those who will join the organization it would mean a new perspective. Jesus Christ our Lord entrusts and shares the message of the Kingdom through these people who will go through the process. In so doing, he will be able to build and broaden the community.
This rationale for organizing work is not entirely new in the sense that there are already established standards and accepted methods of organizing in the context of the society of his day. This means Jesus does not operate in an organizational vacuum. He has the option to choose any of the traditional means, and thus ensure the fulfillment of his goals. But Jesus somehow disregarded the norms of his society.
Among his disciples, the traditional mold of organizations and practices are already deeply embedded like in the case of James and his brother John, who hold on to a specific concept of leadership and greatness. They projected the practices that are socially, politically and culturally acceptable as extending even to the coming Kingdom that Jesus is proclaiming. And so, they came to Jesus one day and asked him if they could sit beside him when he would establish the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk. 10:35-45).
Their view of leadership gives preference and holds in esteem the powerful, the strong, the rich, the elite and the selected few who control power and has access to privileges. The disciples thought that this is also the essence of leadership in the Kingdom of God. Since they are privileged to be among the chosen ones of Jesus for discipleship, they perceive that they are thus entitled to be accorded esteem and position.
But to the surprise of his disciples, and not without going through an arduous struggle and process, Jesus put forth a new understanding of what the implications of the Kingdom of God means for their lives. He said to them, “If one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all.”
Jesus Christ our Lord is not only critical of existing forms and methods of organizing, he confronts and challenges them and by his own examples illustrates both the intent, the content and methodology of organizing in the context of the good news of God’s Kingdom.
The underlying features of his organizing work and organization can be summarized in this manner: He highlights a simple basic approach by bringing people together who believes in the good news and accepts God’s Kingdom. Then, he looks at each person and sees in each one the potentials of becoming believers or followers who can be developed for leadership. After that, he chooses for the typical and sometimes controversial persons to be members of his group. He is willing to trust these types of people even if it would mean starting with crude and unpolished persons.
In the new and emerging community of God’s Kingdom, Jesus initiates values and attitudes that symbolize new modes of leadership in organizing, like concern for people, selflessness, and service in behalf of others. Jesus Christ our Lord emphasizes not just the status or position, but the potentials and capabilities to perform the roles of serving and enabling others. # nordis.net
Continued next week